8 Ways UnitedHealthcare Engages Patients

Payers' access to large amounts of data and their access to patients provide an opportunity for engaging patients in their care, according to a report in Health Affairs.

The report includes eight ways UnitedHealthcare is engaging patients, which have led to improved outcomes and lower costs:

1. Notifying patients and physicians of gaps in care. UnitedHealthcare mines data to identify gaps in care and send patients and their physicians messages about these gaps. Consumers and physicians who receive these messages closed 64 percent more gaps in medical management and 30 percent more gaps in missed therapy compared with a control group over three months, according to the report.

2. Sending smartphone reminders. UnitedHealthcare implemented a program to send pregnant women and new mothers reminders about prenatal and well-child visits to their smartphones.

3. Providing treatment decision support. UnitedHealthcare and sister company Optum developed treatment decision support programs in nine clinical areas to help patients and employers make healthcare decisions. A 2009 study of 4,225 patients in the program found 25 percent chose a more conservative, evidence-based treatment than was initially chosen, resulting in an average savings per treatment of more than $11,000, according to the report.

4. Providing physician-specific cost and quality information. UnitedHealth Premium Designation provides consumers cost and quality data on more than 240,000 physicians.

5. Providing a procedure-specific cost estimator. A "health-cost estimator" on UnitedHealthcare's consumer web portal provides quality and financial information for specific procedures and episodes.

6. Displaying high-value networks. UnitedHealthcare shows high-value networks of physicians and hospitals that have better quality, cost or both. Benefit designs incentivize consumers to choose these providers.

7. Offering community-based programs. UnitedHealth Group collaborates with the YMCA on a weight management program that has successfully reduced participants' weight and improved health-related quality of life, according to the report.

8. Incentivizing employees. UnitedHealth Group employees have the opportunity to earn points for healthy behavior that translate to premium cost reductions. In addition to improvements in employees' health, from 2008 to 2011, UnitedHealth Group saved approximately $107 million in lower employee healthcare costs compared with industry averages, according to the report.

More Articles on Patient Engagement:

Supporting ACO Success with Meaningful Patient Engagement
Study: The Positive Impact of Narrative Health Blogs on Patient Behavior
Study: Patient Access to EHRs Leads to Better Engagement, Experience

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