Focusing on Consumers: A Key to Better Outcomes

Individuals can play a critical role in controlling medical risk. But for this to happen successfully, we have to ensure that health management programs feel relevant to the people who use them. Traditional models have centered around the programs, not the people. The program supplier dictates not just the program content, such as diabetes management, but also the mode and timing of outreach. Generally this means that coaches determine when they “cold call” individuals – and what they talk about on the phone. We need to move to a consumer-centric model, in which engagement happens at each person’s convenience and coaches are empowered to first address that person’s immediate and primary concerns.

Miles Snowden, MD, MPH, CEBS Chief Medical Officer, OptumHealth

Miles Snowden, MD, MPH, CEBS
Chief Medical Officer, OptumHealth

What happens when we put people at the center of these programs? Our experience shows that we are much more successful in engaging them to make better health decisions. When we invite people to contact us for whatever health need they have, whenever they want, we find that nearly three-quarters of callers are primarily looking for help in accessing care providers. As we help with this immediate need, we learn more about these callers and find that more than a quarter of them are at high risk for future unfavorable medical events – exactly the type of people we were cold calling unsuccessfully in the program-centric model. When served in our consumer-centric model, these high-risk individuals are 80 percent more likely to enroll and engage in our health improvement programs.

In other words, when population health management services truly focus on individuals, we are more able to identify the right people for support and ultimately serve the right people with health improvement programs. This is a critical lesson that can help us in our efforts to make the health system work better for everyone.

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