Earlier this month, Corporate Insight attended the 2022 AHIP Consumer Experience & Digital Health Forum in Nashville, Tennessee. Industry leaders, innovators, solution providers and health payers discussed the current and future digital healthcare space, sparking new perspectives and better understandings of how various players are working to provide a seamless and more inclusive experience for patients and providers alike.

This image shows the welcome sign at the AHIP 2022 conference

Significant Room for Improvement in the Digital Experience Exists

Speakers at the 2022 AHIP Health Forum highlighted the need for a more streamlined care journey for patients and members throughout the forum, particularly through various needs in digital healthcare experiences. Several speakers referenced the advanced digitalization seen in the financial services industry—like having a centralized app that stores all of the user’s financial information. Industry leaders also pointed to Google Maps as an example of a digital solution that can guide patients from start to finish, noting the need for something similar in healthcare that shows users nearby providers and resources.

Several panel discussions mentioned disparities in healthcare, citing WiFi deserts, concerns around trust and affordability, and lack of smartphones as barriers to access. One firm, Welldoc, circumvents these issues with solutions that work both online and offline, an important factor in getting BlueStar, its medical device for diabetes treatment, approved by the FDA. Healthcare organizations are also creating metrics to understand the digital literacy of consumers and then invest in improving it, especially for at-risk populations. While digital inequity is a broad spectrum, it is important for digital solutions to feel familiar to consumers. Moreover, firms need to optimize digital for what people are on the app or tool for, as Roshan Navagamuwa, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer at CVS Health, says.

This image shows a panel at the 2022 AHIP conference

Many providers and systems still rely on physical mail and fax for communication. Instead of incentivizing patients, the focus lies in incentivizing players in the system to switch to digital methods. Patients who have multiple health conditions may face care fragmentation, as they see multiple providers and have medical records housed at various locations. Teladoc Health takes a step in providing more cohesive care by allowing health plans to get health records for members who use its virtual care services.

Telehealth and Virtual Care Remain Top Payer Priorities despite Continuous Reduction in Usage

Telehealth usage in the U.S. reached its peak at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020 and has declined since, although it remains higher than its pre-pandemic days. Virtual-first plans are also no longer new to the industry or considered a differentiator. Despite this, virtual care is still a top priority in the healthcare industry. With the new hybrid care model that has emerged from the pandemic, in which patients rotate between attending in-person and virtual appointments, payers and providers should prepare for this being a new method of longitudinal care.

Providers praised virtual care for allowing multiple physicians to gather and discuss a patient’s health with the patient. This is something that would not be possible if care was in-person only. Patients would see each specialist one at a time. Telehealth can also increase health literacy. For example, Boston Children’s Hospital offers a global virtual second opinion program that helps educate patients about treatment options, allowing them to make the best-informed decision possible. Health insurers can be more involved in the digital landscape by understanding how virtual care can reach patients who may not otherwise have access to such care.

This image shows another panel at the AHIP conference

Similar Trends Emerge across Mental Health Care and Chronic Disease Management

Multiple speakers and sessions spoke to the importance of caring for mental/behavioral health and chronic diseases, noting the overlap between the two. For example, some mental health conditions may be caused or worsened by chronic diseases. Speakers mentioned that such care is not one size fit all and requires personalization as patients may have complex family history or simply respond differently to treatments for both mental health and chronic conditions.

Another prevalent theme was helping patients prior to a diagnosis, such as treating prediabetics before they become diabetic or providing cancer patients support before they develop depression. Steps taken in this direction include:

  • Teladoc Health providing virtual one-on-one coaching from social workers and psychologists to help handle the burden of care
  • Aetna rolling out programs that help prevent suicide among adolescents and young adults

This image shows a mental health panel at AHIP

As Paul Markovich, CEO of Blue Shield of California, says, the industry needs to simplify, digitize and automate. He points out the importance in making sure consumers are using tools digitally the way they are intended, especially as the healthcare industry continues to shift toward and adopt more digital-facing solutions.

We look forward to tracking the latest trends and innovations at more conferences later this year. Read more about the healthcare space on our Insights page. And learn more about CI’s research services here.

Stephanie Chan

Stephanie Chan is an Analyst on CI's healthcare team.