The health insurer recently launched its Emerging Solutions' platform.
Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Massachusetts recently introduced its Emerging Solutions platform to help curate and manage the market in terms of identifying leading solutions to integrate into its customer base to help control employee health outcomes.1
In a sense, BCBS is picking those leaders of digital health solution companies that are targeting specific disease states, such as chronic disease management platforms for diabetes, in order to help offer novel means of addressing long-term management of traditional health services. Some of the new solutions mentioned in the insurer's news release are:
"We've heard from many of our employer customers that they are looking for new ways to help their employees with specific challenges including diabetes, pre-diabetes, and maternity ... Emerging Solutions can address these needs ... We have a unique opportunity to continuously see the newest technological advancements in health and select those that will best benefit our members," Debbie Williams, senior vice president of sales and account service, said in a statement.
So, why is this a big deal? Many digital health companies have been struggling to make it big. Some companies that sell products, for instance, are trying to get patients to buy their products. But with some of these devices costing several hundred dollars, it really limits the base of consumers that could have access. There have been many criticisms of the digital-health space by those who point out that the whole concept is predicated on a higher socioeconomic market that can actually afford this but may also already have resources, such as health care services, that puts them in a healthy population already. Thus, those who perhaps could benefit most may not be able to afford it. So, what is the answer? These companies' end goal is to be involved with an insurance or pharmaceutical company that would cover the costs of the products and get them to a broader patient base. The same goes for companies that sell a service, such as Linvongo and Omada, where their service is targeted toward patients with chronic conditions, but the catch is that the service requires a fee or monthly service commitment that may dissuade users from enrolling. With an insurance company covering that cost, they can then recruit more patients.
What BCBS is doing, in the grand scheme of things, is paving the way for the next generation of success and for the digital health space. This is what companies have been clamoring for, and having BCBS up the ante and do this may help encourage others.
BCPC does plan to add and change over time, as other companies demonstrate what their products can do.
But this is key: There will be more pressure to demonstrate the impact of the service. This means clinical data validation and patient utilization. It could be argued that as insurance companies and others enter the digital-health arena, we will exit the "Wild West" period of companies championing products and services that have no evidence. Instead, companies will champion that they are being used by large companies to get into the patient space. Those that seek to stand alone will have a tough time.
Meanwhile, pharmacists must consider their role in all this. There are a number of digital-health startups that are trying to disrupt the pharmacy sector and have the pharmacy as the focal point of their services. Taking that into consideration, we could start to see such products and services being sold or delivered more frequently in the community health pharmacy environment or integrated with medication use. Take diabetes management, for instance, where many of these services are combining data from SMBG measurements and medication dosing. It may turn into something that pharmacists are called upon to understand as patients look to tie all their data together for their care.
1. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts launches portfolio of digital health solutions [news release]. Boston, MA: April 2, 2018. prnewswire.com/news-releases/blue-cross-blue-shield-of-massachusetts-launches-portfolio-of-digital-health-solutions-300622601.html. Accessed April 19, 2018.
2. Livongo. livongo.com. Accessed April 19, 2018.
3. Omada. omadahealth.com/. Accessed April 19, 2018.
4. Ovia Health. oviahealth.com/. Accessed April 19, 2018.