- A simple, 4-piece “toolkit” that can save lives in the workplace, or anyplace.
- A transformative approach for lowering community health care costs and improving patient care.
- A place for reimagining what is possible in health care and designing breakthrough solutions, like the virtual reality goggles for hospital patients an inventor displayed at the HUBweek forum we sponsored, above.
These are just a few of the ways our corporate innovation team has engaged our workforce in using human-centered design thinking to help encourage new ideas and solutions to important business challenges.
“At Blue Cross, innovation happens everywhere, and it can range from incremental improvements specific to health insurance business operations, to pushing the boundaries of how we think about health and health care for consumers.”
Chief Strategy Officer (on right)
Innovation: Our opioid overdose toolkit
In the half-dozen years since our company brought together doctors, nurses, pharmacists, pain management specialists and addiction experts to help design our groundbreaking prescription pain medication safety program, the number of opioid medication prescriptions filled for our commercially insured members has fallen by 50 percent – the largest reduction among Blue Cross plans nationwide. At the same time, we have invested heavily in improving education, treatment and recovery options for our members.
However, opioid overdose deaths remain a public health crisis, fueled by the increase in the illicit use of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Many of those deaths could have been prevented with the overdose-reversing drug naloxone, commonly prescribed as Narcan.
Last spring, Dr. Ken Duckworth, our senior medical director of behavioral health, approached our innovation team with a challenge: How could we help make Narcan more readily available? Along with Julianne Bride from our product team, they began an accelerated six-month process of designing, developing and testing what became an “opioid overdose toolkit.”
“The people we talked to about the idea wanted a way to help someone who is overdosing in their moment of need and they wanted a place to go for information and resources. We came up with a series of prototypes that were tested with public health response teams and people in recovery, and we made revisions based on their feedback. They didn’t think it should look like a first-aid kit, for example, and they wanted it to be simple and accessible.”
Dr. Ken Duckworth, (on left)
Senior Medical Director of Behavioral Health
The final result: two nasal spray doses of Narcan in a pouch along with a surgical mask, gloves and instructions on how to administer the drug. Hundreds of the kits have gone out to a select group of Massachusetts workplaces, including our own, as part of a pilot program. Employers can provide the kits to their workers to prevent overdoses on the job, in the community and in their own homes. We also arrange for an expert in naloxone to work with participating employers to train employees in Narcan administration. And we set up an online Opioid Resource Center with information on family support, medication safety, pain management and opioid use disorder treatment care options, including medication-assisted treatment.
“We aim to raise awareness that Narcan is a tool you can get at your pharmacy, it’s easy to learn how to use, and it can’t harm people even if it’s administered to someone who is not on opioids,” said Duckworth. “It’s my hope that more employer involvement can create a new front in the battle to end the epidemic, reducing stigma and potentially saving lives.”
Innovation: Value-based hospital payment
Early in 2018, our senior leaders began considering how we could build on the success of the value-based payment system we launched with Massachusetts physician groups in 2009. To quickly explore the challenge and potential new directions, our innovation team led a small, cross-functional group that worked intensively over the course of a week to assess stakeholders’ needs, define the problem, brainstorm new ideas and solutions, design a prototype and test it with real users.
By collaborating with hospitals, specialists and doctors and using the innovation team’s methodology, we were able to quickly test multiple models and develop a first-of-its-kind hospital payment arrangement in just eight weeks. Under this new program, piloted with South Shore Health System, participating hospitals will be rewarded for improving patient care in their communities while controlling health care spending.
Innovation: HUBweek and our innovation center
Boston’s HUBweek is a regional festival of ideas that brings together some of the most creative and inventive minds in art, science and technology. The 2018 event, held in October, was the biggest ever, and Blue Cross was the exclusive health care partner. At HUBweek’s Ideas Dome, which we co-sponsored, enthusiastic audiences heard a wide range of presenters’ personal stories about triumphing over significant health issues, and celebrated the diversity of thought required to drive change in our complicated health care system.
We also previewed our planned innovation center at HUBweek, using two converted shipping containers, above, as a display space, and testing potential programming with the public. When the innovation center opens in 2019, it will be designed to spark the creation of new products, services and experiences. And it will give Blue Cross a place to engage consumers, clinicians, nonprofits and emerging companies in imagining and co-creating new solutions to existing and future challenges in health care.
As part of our company’s commitment to healthy living and environmental sustainability, BLUEbikes was HUBweek's transportation sponsor.