Humana’s vision and values on display at SXSW

Two Humana innovation leaders spoke recently at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, offering insights on improving the care experience and giving startups a “prescription” for success. SXSW is a leading innovation conference focused on changing the world through digital media, technology and creativity. The conference brings people together from different domains around the world to share inspiration and ideas and to forge new relationships.

Chris Kay, Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer, was featured on a panel titled “It’s Like Uber for Healthcare.”

He shared the stage with Lauren Steingold from Uber, John Brownstein from Harvard Medical School, and David Schwartz, MD, from West Cancer Center.

The panelists discussed how to collectively reduce friction and improve the care experience. Doing so requires understanding barriers to health, including access to healthcare and transportation. Panelists tackled the question of “what would an on-demand, have-it-your-way approach of ‘Uber for healthcare’ look like?”

While Uber is a marketplace for excess supply, healthcare has not historically had this problem. A key barrier in the delivery of healthcare is mobility.

Thus, transportation is a social determinant of health. “People who cannot get a ride to the doctor are likely to not have transportation to visit loved ones,” Chris said. According to the AARP Foundation, a subjective feeling of loneliness correlates with a 26 percent increased risk of death. Combined with the fact that more than 8 million adults aged 50 and older are affected by isolation, it becomes apparent that this issue deserves more attention.

In the mid-20th century, the healthcare system was designed around patients with acute conditions. The world has changed since then. Chronic conditions require longitudinal care, which requires physicians to build relationships with their patients. Dr. Schwartz referenced studies showing that the No. 1 predictor of health outcomes correlates with an inability to identify a physician. “If there is no relationship between a provider and patient, there is no health care,” he said.

“How can we use the on-demand economy to activate patients after being discharged from the hospital so they can stay home and heal?” – Chris Kay

Fortunately, the current trend in business is toward customer-centricity. Better understanding health consumers’ needs results in extending healthcare systems out to those who need it (i.e. meeting them where they are). One way this shows up is in care moving into the home. This can be anything from doctors and care managers making home visits to mobile phlebotomy and prescription delivery — and even meal delivery.

Another important development toward meeting consumer needs is leveraging technology to predict acute events. For example, connected health monitoring devices provide real-time data to a patient’s care team. This enables the kind of integrated care coordination that helps keep people healthier and avoids hospital visits.

Chris asked the audience and his fellow panelists, “How can we use the on-demand economy to activate patients after being discharged from the hospital so they can stay home and heal?” He recommended intervening at key moments of influence, such as when the patient leaves a hospital and returns home. When the care plan changes and new medications are prescribed, it is a good time to conduct a medication reconciliation as a partnership between the pharmacist, physician, care manager and patient, he said.

The patient’s journey is changing, but there is a tendency to think only about interactions with clinicians. Chris reminded the group that “the customer journey doesn’t start at the point of pickup, it starts at the point of wake up.” With the self-service model offered by companies like Uber and Lyft, health consumers are able to take control of shaping their experience.

Companies and culture

Busy Burr, Vice President of Innovation and Head of Humana Health Ventures, delivered a talk titled “The Prescription for a Healthy Startup.”

Busy’s talk — targeted primarily at those engaged in startups and venture investing — drew parallels between personal health and the health of a business. “Like a trained athlete, the edge that drives success is about much more than mechanics and skills–the edge comes from who you are and what you believe in and the legacy you want to create,” she said.

“What does it mean to bring love to the work you do every day?” – Busy Burr

She urged members of the audience to be mindful of their broader impact. “I believe that small companies — with their energy to create, to build — have a huge impact on our country and its culture,” she said. It’s not what you build but how you build it that impacts the world. Busy likewise encouraged hopeful innovators to think big and build small. “Set a bold goal, a clarity of mission, then break it into small, doable, urgent steps that mark real progress.”

The companies that succeed explore partnerships in new ways by focusing on learning. “Move the conversation beyond the transaction, the sale, and to one of co-learning, innovating—building something cool together.” Learning also enables businesses to co-evolve with their market. Any bold, ambitious innovation must connect to empathy, she said.

Much of Busy’s talk was focused on what she calls “whole-hearted leadership.” She asked the audience, “What does it mean to bring love to the work you every day?”

You must be a leader regardless of your title, she said. You are the CEO of your own heart, after all.

“Stay mindful that you are building something bigger than yourselves,” she said. “Let’s be the ones who make a positive impact, who add a little more love and laughter to the world, who add a little more heart and soul. Find your compass. That will give you the edge to help you push through the hard, challenging stuff along the way.”

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