Bruce Broussard speaking with microphone

Population Health Colloquium: Humana CEO says health-care system changing – for the better

By Ellen Nason

Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard told a recent gathering of health-care leaders at the 14th Population Health Colloquium in Philadelphia that he sees a great opportunity for them to make an impact on society’s largest issue – health-care costs and the health and well-being of the U.S. population.

“You pick up a lot of newspapers today and there is so much negativity going on in health care, and I have a different perspective,” said Broussard. “We can have a great impact in the future of health care.”

The system is changing – for the better, he said. It must improve because health-care costs are already burdening society, and the U.S. population is aging, its health deteriorating.

Broussard emphasized that one of the most important elements in fostering positive change is to change the focus from simply treating symptoms to improving individuals’ health.

“Health is hard because life is easy,” he said. He explained that most Americans have adopted a lifestyle in which there is less daily exercise and greater consumption of food that is quick and convenient but high in fat and calories. Instead of taking the 10,000 daily steps needed for optimal health, most people walk only about 2,500 steps in normal day-to-day activities.

One way to incentivize healthier behavior is to reward those who take that extra step or take time to prepare healthful meals, Broussard said. An example of that is the HumanaVitality program, which rewards healthy behaviors by awarding points that can be used to purchase consumer goods. Humana’s own associates have proven that this type of incentive can lead to better health, which is its own reward. The health costs of Humana associates who are actively engaged in the program are 12 percent lower than those who are unengaged.

This is one example of how Humana is working to measurably improve the communities it serves by making it easier for people to achieve their best health, Broussard said. It is an essential element in making improvements in the system.

“We need to turn the system inside out and focus on the consumer, the individual,” he said.

Broussard used Humana’s chronic care programs as another example of putting the focus on improving health rather than simply treating a symptom. He said the program uses analytics to develop insights that translate into actions that not only reduce hospital admissions and overall costs, but help those with chronic conditions improve their overall health and well-being.

“We ask them questions, such as ‘are you walking, do you have a caregiver’ – to help us understand the individual and their needs,” said Broussard. That enables Humana to provide the help and support each individual may need, whether it is personalized coaching, a caregiver (virtual or face-to-face), nutrition advice, remote monitoring or bringing in community partners to ensure they have transportation, food or a wheelchair ramp at their home.

These programs and community partnerships are not only good for the individual but for society as a whole, he added.

He concluded by saying no single company or entity will find the solution. Only by working together through strong partnerships will we make permanent positive change.

The three-day Population Health Colloquium, sponsored by the Jefferson School of Population Health, was held Monday-Wednesday, March 17-19.

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