Transforming health, one connection at a time

We have all heard the horror stories of insurance companies denying lifesaving care to individuals, dropping policies when members undergo expensive treatments, or raising premiums to a level that the average individual or small employer can no longer afford. I despised these overbloated, faceless entities deciding what anyone’s healthcare should consist of – that’s the job of the physician, in consultation with the patient.

I finally came across some positive news about one Pennsylvania-based insurance provider — HealthAmerica.

Here’s part of the press release:

HealthAmerica Joins with CaféWell as First Health Insurer in Market to Use Full Social-Media Platform —

HealthAmerica announced today the expansion of its social networking community devoted solely to the health and well-being of its members through a relationship with CaféWell. CaféWell is a social media company changing the way millions of people manage their health by making it easy, productive and rewarding. This union is the first of its kind in Pennsylvania, pioneering HealthAmerica in social media within the health insurance industry.

This is a smart, meaningful way to merge social media and wellness. Users  control their privacy settings so they can be completely anonymous, or choose which personal information to share. Chats with bona fide medical experts are confidential and informative. Networking with other individuals allows members to share experiences, compare notes, and gain peer support.
HealthAmerica says the initiative is part of their mission to promote healthy behaviors and foster a mindset of wellness.  CafeWell has been in pilot phase until now, but will roll out to all HealthAmerica members beginning September 1. There’s also a mobile app that provides health information, member connections, recipes, and other wellness content.
Sites such as PatientsLikeMe have been connecting individuals with similar health issues for some time. However, a company spokesperson said this is the first initiative of its kind in HealthAmerica’s home state of Pennsylvania and has established the insurer as a social media pioneer within the insurance industry.  They may be right – a quick check of some other major competitor web sites, including AetnaUnitedHealthcare, and  Kaiser Permanente, show nothing similar.
If health insurance companies are going to use social media effectively, then their Twitter streams, Facebook pages, discussion groups, and YouTube videos must be more than glorified sales and marketing brochures. Unfortunately, all you have to do is click around to see that this is the sad standard. It’s easy to talk about patient empowerment and cutting costs. What’s harder is  listening to customers, promoting interaction and peer support, providing opportunities to have questions answered in real time, and truly fostering a culture of wellness among members. It seems at least one insurer is getting it right.

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