By Richard Asinof
By Richard Asinof
When Optum, a division of UnitedHealth Group that oversees Connextions, the company that is contracted to run the contact center for HealthSourceRI, could not find the time to prepare responses for a five-questions feature before Oct. 1, saying that they were too busy preparing for opening of the new health insurance marketplace, a suggestion was made to interview Nick Martin instead.
Martin is the vice president of innovation and research & development for UnitedHealth Group, the parent of UnitedHealthcare. When it comes to development of new consumer tools in the health insurance market, he has his finger on the app, so to speak. Providence Business News asked Martin to share his views of the coming innovations in health IT.
PBN: How has the Rhode Island market responded to the new health IT products introduced by UnitedHealthcare, such as Health4Me and myHealthcare Cost Estimator?
MARTIN: The response in Rhode Island, as well as nationwide, has been tremendous. We know people want tools that simplify the health care system and enable them to navigate it conveniently and effectively.
Our mobile app, Health4Me, puts the health system at people’s fingertips, enabling them to search for nearby health care providers, check current account balances, and even comparison shop for treatments and procedures based on both cost and quality.
As consumers take greater ownership for their health care decisions, it is crucial that carriers make available tools and services that are both intuitive and easy-to-use.
PBN: What other kinds of consumer health IT products are in the developmental pipeline?
MARTIN: UnitedHealthcare is currently developing an array of consumer health IT tools and services. Out most recent announcement, known as myClaims Manager, enables people to manage their health-related finances from one place online, as well as pay medical providers with a credit card, debit card, health savings account, or bank account.
We are the first national health insurer to enable an online bill-payment capability that is integrated with the member’s claim history. In the future, we will continue to bring new enhancements that improve the lives of the more than 40 million members we serve nationwide.
For instance, we are developing a physical therapy prototype that will enable people to use home video game consoles to complete physical therapy training sessions. These enhancements will help improve health outcomes and more effectively manage health care costs.
PBN: How do the new kinds of products fit in with the patient-centered medical home model?
MARTIN: The goal with this model, as well as other similar ones such as Accountable Care Organizations, like the ones we formed this year in Rhode Island with Lifespan and Coastal, is to help transform how health care is delivered, paid for and rewarded.
And technology can play a big part in improving the coordination of care among providers, helping to ensure the right care is provided at the right time.
Already, more than $20 billion of UnitedHealthcare’s reimbursements to hospitals, physicians and ancillary care providers are paid through contracts that link a portion of the reimbursement to quality and cost-efficiency measures.
We expect that number to increase to $50 billion by 2017 as more care providers join the transition to models that reward quality and value-based health care.
PBN: Will UnitedHealthcare consider developing its own “calculator” geared to the HealthSourceRI market?
MARTIN: UnitedHealthcare has helped solve the medical price transparency problem in Rhode Island with myHealthcare Cost Estimator, a cost calculator that helps consumers navigate the health care system by providing cost, quality and education resources all in one easy-to-use online and mobile service.
Our myHealthcare Cost Estimator, which is available at www.myuhc.com and through the Health4Me app, provides cost estimates based on actual physician and hospital rates for hundreds of the most common medical procedures and services.
PBN: Are there any specific health IT innovative products that are planned to address population health outcomes?
MARTIN: Yes. UnitedHealthcare is currently developing a propriety system that uses data and geographic differences to help identify existing and emerging health issues in local communities with the goal of improving health outcomes.
The potential applications for this system are extensive, from public policy decisions to how retailers stock their store shelves. By aggregating and analyzing vast amounts of data, and sifting through it to connect the dots in a way that is meaningful for consumers, we can help residents in Rhode Island and nationwide live healthier lives.