Leading the discussion in times of change

By Jennifer Danielson, President, Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah
September 22, 2016
Speaker at Business Conference and Presentation

Complacency is something all of us in business need to resist. If things are going smoothly, the temptation is to leave well enough alone – to keep our heads down, keep quiet and generally “enjoy the ride.” But in my experience, there’s never a case to be made for disengaging. In harried times or in the increasingly rare “calm before the storm,” it’s crucial to always be out there – to be leading the charge and leading the discussion. I think that’s especially important in the world of health care.

Federal policy changes have dramatically reshaped the way health care is delivered and paid for. More change is on the horizon. But rather than battening down the hatches and hoping to ride out the storm, I’m proud to report Regence is standing up and speaking out about the positive changes we’ve made and anticipate making in the near-term as we double-down on our drive to deliver creative health care solutions where they’re most needed.

Planning for difficult times

One area where Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah has been particularly active is in the area of serious illness support – a field of medicine that’s frequently referred to as palliative care. When someone is diagnosed with something truly serious, the traditional approach has been to focus on the disease – on “what’s the matter with you?” We at Regence believe the better approach is to focus on “what matters to you?” In response, we’re developed and made available to our members the most all-encompassing palliative care benefit in Utah and, indeed, the nation. Our approach begins with supported advance care planning discussions with those who matter most to us in life. It continues through care coordination, home health, behavioral health, caregiver support and other specialized member services.

I’ve had the opportunity to speak on this subject to groups here in Utah as have others on my leadership team. Most recently, Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah’s Executive Medical Director, Dr. Mark Hiatt, participated in a panel discussion on all matters related to end-of-life care at the second annual Utah Healthcare Solutions Summit. And late last year, our foundation brought The Conversation Project to Utah.

Driving transparency and more

Speaking of bringing new solutions to Utahns and the broader regional and national health care marketplaces, we long ago joined discussions about the need for greater cost transparency in health care. But more than just talk, we decided to do something about the problem. Roughly eight years ago, an internal team came together to develop a health care shopping tool. They continued to refine it until it reached a point where it was ready to be shared with a much bigger market – beyond those insured by Regence. HealthSparq was born and its transparency tool now serves more than 70 million Americans.

Building on that success, we’ve developed a new tool to help both physicians and their patients hold productive conversations about prescription drug choices. This tool enables informed decision-making by both sides of the doctor-patient relationship by clearly presenting information about common drug classes – not only comparative costs, but also how drugs compare on effectiveness.

Sharing our experience

Because we believe so strongly that health care is a team sport, we’re out there – doing what we can to lead and shape discussions on what’s working and what’s not, and where we believe innovation can provide important solutions.

Our leaders have spoken to a variety of business groups as well as committees and task forces of the Utah Legislature.

When in doubt, talk it out

What these examples tell me is that now is NOT the time to ignore the challenges facing health care in our state and nation. What they do make clear is that pushing for creative solutions is more important now than ever, and that open discussions and idea-sharing will go a long way toward enabling creation of the kind of “people-focused” health care system we all want.