A Resolution for the New Year
Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Whether you did or not, there is one good thing about resolutions: they force us to take a step back and think long-term about the future.
By Kevin Conlin, Chief Executive Officer & President
Thinking long term is a critical skill – in life and in business – and is something that is sorely needed today in the healthcare field.
For too long, our industry has been burdened by short-term thinking. Rather than investing in long-term outcomes, we pay by transactions – the number of procedures or doctor visits. Instead of addressing the behavior that contributes to poor health, we are satisfied with treating the resulting disease.
Thinking long term is one of our priorities at Horizon BCBSNJ. It helps, of course, that we’ve been around for more than 85 years – so we understand the value of the long game. More important, our core mission – as the only New Jersey-based health plan with a deep heritage of not-for-profit service – is to improve the health of all our 3.8 million members.
But what if we and our partners could do more? What exactly would a long-term perspective on healthcare look like?
So, if I could make a New Year’s resolution for the entire healthcare field, it would be this: let’s put an end to short-termism and get serious about taking a long-term view of healthcare.
For employers, it would mean understanding and supporting their employees in adopting healthy lifestyles. Over time, small changes in basic habits – eating right and exercising more – can have a big impact on an individual’s health. At Horizon BCBSNJ, we are helping by providing technologies and tools that assist employees in managing their health like 24/7 advice from a health professional or the ability to schedule a doctor’s appointment from our website or app.
For healthcare providers, it would mean continuing to partner with insurers to move from traditional fee-for-service models of healthcare delivery to value-based models. I’m happy to say that 70 percent of primary care doctors in our network and thousands of specialists all across New Jersey are already collaborating with Horizon to expand this kind of care and put the focus on providing patients with the right care, in the right place, at the right time. Together, we have proven that we can improve the quality of the outcomes – fewer hospital admissions or readmissions, better rates of preventive screenings and more effective management of chronic conditions - and actually lower the overall cost of care.
For regulators, it would mean passing laws and regulations that strengthen our healthcare system and encourage the kinds of changes that make the system work for patients, employers and everyone who pays for healthcare. A great example is the recent work of the State Legislature and our Governor in stabilizing the healthcare marketplace so that more people have access to quality, affordable health insurance. We applaud their efforts.
But while all these actions are signs of progress, we need to do much more to achieve our triple aim: improve quality, affordability, and the customer experience.
So, we are digging deep and collaborating closely with partners to address the fundamental behaviors that are the root cause of many costly health issues. For example, we’ve partnered with RWJ Barnabas and local social service providers to launch a community-based program in Newark to attack social barriers to health – a program that has both improved health outcomes and cut the total cost of care by 25 percent for the members who participated. We’ve introduced a peer support service using personalized telehealth technology for individuals and family members struggling with substance abuse. And we’ve just rolled out an app that allows members to manage their health care accounts, chat with a nurse and connect with a doctor via a tele-link all from the palm of their hand.
All these actions are in keeping with our mission “to empower our members to achieve their best health.” But none of them would have been possible without the willingness to look beyond the immediate benefits and invest for the long term.
As we enter 2019, all of us at Horizon BCBSNJ are resolved to maintain that focus – to keep our eye on the ultimate prize: improved quality, lower costs and a better healthcare experience for all our members.
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