Friday, May 25, 2012

Turn and Face the Change

We celebrated Innovation Day at UnitedHealthcare this week. Each year, we all get together to share the company’s innovations and discuss where we can go next. When you mention innovation in health care, I suspect what comes to mind for most people is technological advances in surgery, clinical trials, different types of cancer treatment, etc. Hardly anyone I know thinks of innovation in terms of health insurance, yet insurance companies have been a catalyst for transformative changes that make health care more accessible, cost efficient and a higher quality, not only for patients but the entire health care industry.

Although I have lived through innovation for years at UnitedHealthcare, whenever we gather to review our most recent innovations I am amazed.

Recent UnitedHealthcare innovations to health insurance include our Health4Me mobile app which gives consumers instant access to their critical health information wherever they are and is free for all UnitedHealthcare members. Health4Me makes it easier for anyone with an iPhone to manage their health care.

Back in 2010, we introduced the NowClinic, an Internet site where consumers can log on to connect with a doctor. The cost of the “visit” – only $45. Currently in 22 states, the NowClinic has expanded to Rite Aid stores – including ones in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Patients now have the option to go into the store for a teleconsultation with a doctor. Such store-based options keep staffing costs low and increase convenience for consumers.

Our recent partnership with Comcast on the NOT ME diabetes prevention reality video-on-demand series grew out of a shared vision of a healthier America. While it may seem a bit “out of the box” and counterintuitive (the notion that you can watch a video-on-demand series from your couch and ultimately eliminate the onset of diabetes), NOT ME is a prime example of how new approaches are leading to simpler, more responsive, less costly healthcare.

In all these examples, innovation drove change and filled the need for a new way to deal with existing health care issues while raising the quality of care. Be it a new online tool or a reality-TV based health initiative, another similarity in the innovations we introduced is that they all help consumers take greater control of their health and health care spending. By giving consumers more information, we empower them to make better decisions about their health care.

One thing we like to say at UnitedHealthcare is, “better information, better decisions, better health.” There can be no doubt that information drives innovation, which gives a national company with the enormous number-crunching capability of UnitedHealthcare opportunities to develop and implement positive changes to the healthcare experience. Check us out at

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sometimes, We All Need to Let Ourselves be Kids

This Mother’s Day, the first-ever Kids for the Cure: UnitedHealthcare Dash to Make a Difference was held at the Susan G. Komen Philadelphia Race for the Cure. From the lead-off parade to holding the finish-line tape for all ten heats, I had the opportunity… the privilege… to be a part  of it all.

If you read my April 24th blog, you have an idea of the visions the Komen Philadelphia Affiliate and UnitedHealthcare had as we developed this special event.  Those visions were certainly brought to fruition… as I knew they would be. Going into the Dash day, I knew those youngsters, aged 3-12, would touch my heart. However, one thing I didn’t see coming was a life-long lesson that 300 boys and girls “dashing to make a difference” taught me in all of 30 minute’s time.

I know most of you reading this are career-driven professionals. From the first step you took on your chosen professional path – dating back to high school – it’s been ingrained in you to strive to lead, not follow. Never make a decision unless it is an informed decision. Never act until you weigh the pros and cons, and think through all possible outcomes. These are the golden rules of success in work and in life.

Or, so I thought. Then on May 13th, 300 children said to me, “No, Sue, not always.” The Dash started in the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Funfest Tent on the Race site. A drumline led the children from the tent to the Dash site, while parents cheered encouragement. The majority of kids didn’t know exactly where they were going – but they anticipated something great on the other end. Most of them, even at such a young age, knew they were doing something to help fight the disease that struck mom, grandmom, their teacher, aunt or friend’s mom – although they didn’t know exactly how. They never met those drummers leading the parade, nor the other children walking in front of them – but they trusted them to lead the way. They didn’t push to get to the head of the line… they were all having fun and it was good enough for them simply to sense that whatever they were doing, it was important.

At the Dash site, more lessons presented themselves. I watched parents direct their children to the volunteer holding the sign displaying the appropriate age. The children, trusting mom and dad unconditionally and seeing another friendly face surrounded by kids like them, joined their designated group. I held the finish-line tape, looking down the 40-yard grass alley at dozens of eager faces all wanting to get to me and the medal awaiting them. Not one of them was weighing the “risks”… to them, there weren’t any.

Each time that horn blew to start a heat… the feeling was inexplicable to see those children on their way. I assure you, they weren’t analyzing the best strategy to get to their goal. Many of them, especially the younger ones, weren’t even concerned about coming in first. Their only “objective” was to get to the finish line… their only strategy was to run their hardest and do their best.

Certainly, I’m not suggesting important life decisions should be made without careful consideration, or that we should always be content to follow. But we all do need to find opportunities in life when we can enrich ourselves by following, instead of concerning ourselves with becoming the leader… when we can simply let go of “so much thinking” and be satisfied with knowing we’re doing our best… when we can have a little, safe fun.  All these things make for a happier, healthier life – at ANY age.

Sue Schick cheers on young "Kids for the Cure" in the UnitedHealthcare Dash to Make a Difference