Is the right information really enough to engage consumers?

May 1, 2007

Today, healthcare payers and providers endlessly wrestle with three alligators-rising costs, inconsistent quality, and the uninsured. These alligators seem to grow larger and stronger with every passing year.

Today, healthcare payers and providers endlessly wrestle with three alligators-rising costs, inconsistent quality, and the uninsured. These alligators seem to grow larger and stronger with every passing year.

Granted, consumers need far better information than they have today to make value-based decisions, but better information alone won't drain the swamp. That's because, in the context of reducing disease prevalence, information itself is only valuable to the extent that it enables sustainable behavior changes among consumers.

We need to first recognize that self-service portals must begin to adapt to consumers' daily life, their preferences, and their online interactions. Health plans and providers, instead of passively waiting for consumers to adapt their lifestyles to member service portals, need to exploit a new generation of direct-to-consumer channels and software agents that will, digitally, go where consumers go.

Second, health plans and providers will need to activate consumers to change their health habits by equipping consumers with personal health enablement software to promote incremental behavior changes in the direction of better self-management and better health habits. Personal health enablement software will need to:

Draining the healthcare swamp will require more than just providing consumers information, it will also require an industrywide effort to equip them with personal technologies that adapt to their daily digital experiences.

Dennis Schmuland, MD, MF, FAAFP, is National Director, Health Plan Industry Solutions, Microsoft Corporation.