Bank on the fact that CDHC is here to stay

August 1, 2005

As healthcare costs continue to spiral, the search for solutions is reaching a frantic pace. My experiences over the years have led me to believe that while Consumer- Directed Healthcare (CDHC) has entered the mainstream lexicon, it is far from understood.

As healthcare costs continue to spiral, the search for solutions is reaching a frantic pace. My experiences over the years have led me to believe that while Consumer- Directed Healthcare (CDHC) has entered the mainstream lexicon, it is far from understood.

The purpose of this and future columns, which will appear in MANAGED HEALTHCARE EXECUTIVE, is to bring healthcare executives up to speed on what CDHC is and isn't, what it can and can't achieve, and why you need to know more about it.

Some facts about the growth of CDHC:

The first thing healthcare executives need to do when they research CDHC options is to think of it as a completely new business model that focuses on the consumer. Thinking of HSAs, health reimbursement accounts (HRAs), flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and other high-deductible health plans in the same terms as HMOs and PPOs will only lead to frustration and, ultimately, failure. Consumer-driven health requires business transformation, shifting the focus to respond to and serve a member's needs as a consumer.

Further, while healthcare costs are a primary driver for the push to CDHC, money is not the answer. No financial incentive, attractive as it might be, will effectively teach people how to use their healthcare spending accounts. Only patience and education can accomplish that, which means easier-to-understand tools will need to be developed and made widely available.

The connection with the member starts before the point of sale. Health plans will need tools for enrollment that help the members understand the decisions they are making. Cost calculators and tools that explain the various cash accounts will be critical factors for success.

Things to consider:

New, member-centric, Web-based technologies will be key to success. Consumers are not incompetent, just inexperienced. Once they understand their role, members will:

Achieving any one of the above would constitute a significant improvement in the healthcare system; taken as a whole, they amount to an industry transformation.

In future installments, I'll outline key success factors and what steps health plans can take today to be prepared for the future of CDHC.

Kathy McAleer, a veteran in the rapidly growing field of Consumer-Directed Healthcare, is vice president of operations for QCSI's MyHealthBank product line.