Tuesday, Oct 24, 2023

Thank You Benefits Leaders: You Are Technology Champions

Daniel PerezCo-Founder & CEO, Hinge Health


As the co-founder of a health-tech company that helps millions of people who suffer from musculoskeletal (MSK) pain, I talk a lot about the promise of digital innovation to bring change to a fragmented and frustrating care system. While I firmly believe in that promise, I also know that technology alone is not going to transform health care.

How people use technology is going to transform health care. 

Despite the billions of dollars that have been invested in digital health companies, technology has failed to deliver for health care.

Let’s take a look at why that is, and how benefits leaders, consultants, and health plan professionals are champions at the forefront of driving change.

Technology Hasn’t Lowered Costs

If we look at the triple aim—cost, experience, and outcomes—the record on technology and healthcare is mixed. If any one of those components is missing, we’re going to fail.

Unlike other industries, technology has not lowered costs in health care. 

If you look at the cost of televisions since 1950, the price of a television has dropped about 6% every year. You compound that across 70-plus years, and the price per square inch of a television has dropped by over 99%.

Healthcare costs are once-again predicted to rise by as much as 6% according to recent surveys from Mercer and others. 

Another obstacle? The rigid and prescriptive reimbursement system in which CPT codes basically tell providers how to do their jobs. In MSK care, for instance, a CPT code might read: “30-minute initial evaluation with a physical therapist.” That means it dictates the length of the visit, the type of evaluation, and who needs to deliver it. It's paying for actions, not outcomes.

So if software and hardware could deliver that same outcome in 10 minutes, it's not going to get paid for.

Healthcare Experiences Remain Inconsistent

In every other industry, technology has been able to power a consistent experience. It's technology that means a Chevrolet that rolls off of a plant in Ontario or South Korea or Bogota is built to similar quality expectations as a Chevy that rolls off a plant in Detroit.

But if you see a doctor for your back pain in Milwaukee or Manhattan or Missoula, you're going to get three different experiences—and likely three different care plans. In fact, if you go to the same clinic in Manhattan on a Monday versus Tuesday, you're probably going to get two different care plans as well.

Equitable Outcomes Are Still Out of Reach

Technology has undoubtedly improved outcomes in health care. A century ago, we couldn't peer into the human body without cutting it open. Now we have advanced imaging. A century ago, most of us died from infectious diseases. Antibiotics have changed that. 

But where technology hasn't delivered is ensuring equitable outcome distribution in health care.

One reason: Policy changes are often needed to ensure access to that technology—and the pace of policy development always lags the pace of technology such that only some get to benefit from it.

A lot of healthcare technologists and innovators are developing new delivery models that could improve outcomes, that could reduce costs, that could create a great, consistent experience, but many people aren't getting access to them. 

Leveraging Technology Toward the Triple Aim

But I wouldn't have spent eight years leading a digital health company if I didn't believe in 

technology's potential to help us recreate a new healthcare system.

Technology can lower costs in health care, but that will require automating expensive tasks delivered by expensive providers, along with payment and policy reform.

Technology can create a consistent, unified experience that remains deeply personalized. We see that every time we open Spotify or Netflix. We know what we're going to get, and yet it's deeply personalized to us.

But making that sort of leap into health care is going to require that innovators are willing to take on every step of a member's care journey, including those steps that cannot yet be solved by software and connected hardware alone. For digital healthcare companies, that means thoughtfully weaving in in-person care when needed.

Technology can lead to equitable outcomes, but not without some help. As I’ve said, the existing reimbursement regime is the biggest barrier to innovation in health care and the biggest barrier to ensuring the successful deployment of new delivery models.

You Are the True Technology Innovators

The real drivers of change are the benefits leaders, consultants, and health plan professionals. You're often the first ones to adopt these technologies, ensuring equitable access to them. And you're the ones often pressing the guardians of the status quo within your own organizations to adopt new technologies and new delivery models.

I always like to remind my team that the innovators who kicked off the digital MSK revolution weren't some investors in Silicon Valley. It was two benefits leaders at Vail Resorts in Colorado, Hinge Health’s first customers. They had 10,000 plan members and about $22 million in MSK spend. They needed a solution and they weren’t going to wait for others to make the first move.

Like them, each of you is making healthcare decisions on behalf of thousands, if not millions of members who need better health outcomes now.

You're the ones who are evaluating early-stage ideas. And you're the ones who are able to unlock the biggest barrier to innovation in health care, which is often reimbursement, giving new innovations a chance to succeed.

At Hinge Health, our vision is to transform how pain is treated and connect every body with the care they need. 

With the help of over 1,500 change-making customers, we are well on our way to ensuring technology will make good on its promise to transform health care. 

For that, I thank you.


Learn more about how Hinge Health is inspiring people to improve their health through the power of movement.

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