Friday, September 30, 2011

Embracing Innovation in Health Care…We’re All Turning Over a New Leaf

On Tuesday, UnitedHealthcare of Pennsylvania was proud to join the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce in presenting "Embracing Innovation in Health Care to Help Your Business Grow Healthy." The meeting’s keynote presenter -- our own Jeff Alter -- offered attendees a unique perspective combining his role as national CEO for UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual and one of the company’s first executives “on the ground” when we entered the market more than eight years ago.

Jeff and the other panelists were there to talk about innovation but as I walked back from The Downtown Club contemplating the coming of fall, I realized that the overriding message each was imparting was about change – more specifically, that the constant change taking place in health care today is a good thing, provided we embrace it. It’s a great time to be in the health care business because we are in a position to affect positive, meaningful change if we collectively focus on simplifying the health care system for consumers, focusing on high quality, cost-effective evidence-based care and enabling Americans to live healthier lives.

This week’s program reinforced for me some key principles about change:

1) Thriving in a constantly changing environment requires embracing innovation;
2) Attitude plays an integral role in innovation; and
3) A positive can-do attitude needs to be shared by everyone.

Happily, the health care industry already has created a strong foundation on all three. Technology and other innovations like DocGPS and other consumer health apps, eSync, Premium Designation and “episode of care” treatment cost estimators demonstrate that innovation practically applied can help support consumers and businesses as they make more informed decision about health care. As for attitude, from physicians and hospital CEOs, to brokers, consultants and members, we share one goal – to improve the health of our communities – and are building partnerships to make that happen.

How can businesses leverage all this? What should you be doing to now to prepare for changes that will come as health care reform continues to roll out?

• Embrace consumerism. The next phase of innovation in health care truly centers around the consumer so everyone along the health care continuum must share information, simplify processes, and provide affordable health care coverage options so consumers can access health services in a more thoughtful way as each works to live a healthier life.

• Advance connectivity. Health insurers, physicians and hospitals, brokers and health educators have lots of information on health care costs, quality care, wellness initiatives and other programs that can make businesses and consumers smarter purchasers of health care – and hopefully more healthy. Innovative solutions utilizing innovative technology must be created so that access to knowledge is tailored to an individual’s needs so it becomes part of a health-conscious lifestyle.

In wrapping, Jeff challenged businesses to raise their collective voices to ensure that the needs of our economic drivers are being heard. Since the health care reform debate started in earnest in 2009, the business community has been relatively quiet. But it will be in the workplace – armed with tools from insurers, physicians, brokers and others in health care – where innovative solutions and ongoing education will have the greatest impact in driving down health care costs, enabling individuals to live healthier lives and addressing the long-term economic health and prosperity of businesses in the commonwealth and across the country.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I Don't Do It Alone - And That's OK

Last week, while millions flocked to movie theaters to see Hollywood’s interpretation of a career woman trying to balance the often-times competing demands of work and family in “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” I was addressing the same topic in a more reality-based setting at a meeting of professional women in downtown Philadelphia. While we were all at different stages in our personal and professionals lives, we were seeking answers to the same questions. “How do I make my life what I want it to be?” “How do I ‘stay present’ in a frantic world?” “How do I set boundaries and priorities – and stick to them?”

I want to thank the Philadelphia Business Journal and its publisher Lyn Kremer, for hosting this wonderful event – and for the selection of venue. It seemed so appropriate to be talking about this topic at this place given that the present – and first female – president of the Union League Club, Joan Carter, was also a speaker.

As a full-time working mother of three sons, I ask myself the same questions our speakers and attendees were, and none of us claimed to have all the answers. But I do know this. Trying to balance your work and personal lives is a dynamic process requiring life-long adjustment, and you can’t do it alone.

My “aha” moment happened in a parking lot. Needing to work late, as I transferred my first two boys from my car to my husband’s, I received a wonderful chocolate pudding-mixed-with-goldfish crackers kiss from my six-year old. I asked myself “What am I doing?”

As sweet (literally and figuratively) as that kiss was, I thought, this craziness is not how it is supposed to be. After that, my husband and I decided that he would be a stay-at-home dad – and he is great! And, as a result, I was able to build my consulting work, and we were able to have our third child.

It was that experience, along with other changes I’ve implemented and mistakes I’ve made that have helped me keep work from overturning the “life boat." I'd like to share with you some key elements that have made my life-career balance possible.

Be intentional. Frequently ask yourself – “am I going in the right direction to make my life the way I want it to be?” If not, changes are in order.

Be honest. I was so busy trying to be Wonder Woman that I wasn’t being true to myself or anyone else. Remember, you don’t have all the answers and you can’t do it all – and that’s okay. Create a set of realistic priorities against which you compare all opportunities. At UnitedHealthcare, we call this our “Blue Chip Test” – whatever we have planned must stand up against this, or we don’t do it.

Be present. Take a few minutes before the end of each work day to quiet your mind, and just focus on breathing, counting backwards from 10. Then, when it’s time to go home, you’ll truly be present for your family. As part of our corporate culture at UnitedHealthcare, we ask our employees to be “Be Here Now,” requiring that individuals shut off cell phones, pagers, laptops and iPads to be mentally, as well as physically, present at meetings. And we encourage employees to apply such boundaries in their personal lives too.

It's hard to prescribe what "balance" is to each person. The solutions that worked for me may not be right for someone who gets her greatest joy and satisfaction from working 24/7. The most important thing is to find fulfilling work where flexibility is welcome. Don't be afraid to talk to your manager, your spouse and your children about your needs, and keep the conversation going about expectations of everyone involved in your life.

My best advice is to make whatever you define as balance work for you. What have you done to find your balance?

            - Kenneth Frieson, Photographic & Media Arts

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ride 2 Recovery

This past Sunday, we remembered those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 and paid tribute to the many who helped in the days, months and years following that tragic day to reflect and rebuild.

In the days following 9/11, we turned to one another – family, friends, co-workers and even strangers – seeking comfort and drawing strength – to make some sense of this tragedy and begin recovering and rebuilding. We also were reminded about the many rights and privileges we so often take for granted.

Over the last decade, thousands of our servicemen and women have fought to protect and defend these freedoms from those who wish to take them away. Often they have returned home with devastating physical and emotional injuries. As part of the healing process, many of them have turned to cycling through an organization called Ride 2 Recovery.

Riding specially modified bikes, whether hand cycles, recumbents or tandems has proven to be a catalyst in healing physical and emotional injuries. I am proud to say that UnitedHealthcare is helping support their rehabilitation. For the second consecutive year, it is our great honor to be the presenting sponsor of Ride 2 Recovery events, most recently the 9/11 Challenge.

On Sunday morning under a hazy sky, more than 350 injured veterans and their families, friends and supporters, including 9/11 survivors and first responders, pushed off from Liberty State Park for a 540-mile, eight-day journey. The cyclists rode into Philadelphia on Monday afternoon and my team and I were so honored to join these brave men and women for an evening dinner cruise. I felt humbled talking to them and hearing their stories. Many told me that they were grateful for the support we provided to the Ride 2 Recovery but it is we who are most thankful.

The riders left Tuesday morning from the steps of the Art Museum – many of them stopping for a quick photo in front of the Rocky statue – before heading off to Lancaster. Today – Friday, September 16 – the riders will stop for a ceremony at the United Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., and on Sunday, September 18, arrive at the final destination -- the Pentagon. While they will celebrate having completed this ride, they also will remember their fallen comrades and reflect on the journey will all have taken over the last decade.

Throughout the ride, these cyclists face uphill battles, but through camaraderie and spirit, they will push through to the end. This shared determination reminds us that we gather strength from each other, and that connection to community is good for the mind, body and soul.

To all first responders and those in the military who continue to demonstrate bravery and self-sacrifice every day to keep America safe – a profound thanks.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Welcome Back

Don't you think the first day of school is really like the first day of the year? A sharp Number Two pencil. New school shoes. A spring in your step. A renewed commitment to work hard and do well following a summer of rest and relaxation.

I feel the same way about business post-Labor Day... except we at UnitedHealthcare of Pennsylvania did not take a break this summer.

While you haven’t heard from me a lot over the last several months, we’ve been busy here at UnitedHealthcare. We've updated our product portfolio to include a broader array of high-quality, affordable health benefits options, enhanced our wellness programs, and expanded our network of hospitals, and physicians and other health care providers.

As with your lives, fall promises to be just as busy.

We’re excited to welcome our corporate executives to Philadelphia this fall to speak at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce in September and the Forum of Executive Women in October. We will be recognizing leaders throughout our own region through events like the Philadelphia Business Journal's “Innovation in Healthcare" awards and Philadelphia Magazine's "Healthiest Workplace” competition. And, stay tuned for the return of "Healthcare Lane," our mega healthcare expo, which is coming to Center City Philadelphia in November.

Finally, be on the look-out for UnitedHealthcare’s "Grow Healthy" advertising campaign launching on billboards, radio and buses near you... just in time for back-to-school.

I look forward to reconnecting with all of you and will be here every Thursday, sharing insights into what is going on here at UnitedHealthcare across the Commonwealth and what we are thinking about for the future.

Welcome back and have a great fall!