Digital Health

Using Digital Health to Improve Member Well-Being

By Cindy Bjorkquist, Director, Health and Well-Being Programs, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

Each person’s medical care journey is uniquely affected by their life story and general perception, which includes social, emotional, community and financial factors. With this in mind, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s integrated portfolio of well-being programs supports more than five million members by addressing these elements and how they can significantly affect an individual’s health and well-being.

To provide the best coverage options for each group customer, we work with employers to understand their specific needs, as well as those of their employees.

Often, companies want better-managed costs, a healthier workforce and a positive member experience. These needs are also apparent in employer survey reports, which show a growing interest in well-being offerings for their employees. These programs can help employees thrive, live healthier and become more engaged and productive in the workplace.

Though Blue Cross has offered employer- and member-facing health and well-being programs onsite, digitally and via phone for years, we wanted to engage members in a new, innovative and scalable way that also encouraged them to live healthier and helped employers create a culture of workplace wellness.

This ideation led to the development of Blue Cross’ Virtual Well-Being program which, launched in January 2019. Using a live, virtual format allowed us to personally connect to members and employers, deliver content using digital capabilities via webinar, and answer questions in real-time during sessions.

The Virtual Well-Being program consists of two live webinars each week that are hosted by a virtual coordinator ― one for employers and one for members. 

Employer webinars focus on well-being topics with content that can be downloaded and used to help develop, deliver and enhance worksite well-being programs. Member webinars include information on finances, emotional health, exercise, nutrition, meditation and social isolation, among other wellness areas of focus. 

Using the live webinar format helps Blue Cross garner data to make ongoing improvements to the program and ensures it remains a valuable resource for group customers and members. Surveys are used to capture feedback, monitor quality and measure the value of the program from the perspective of both employers and members. For convenience, all webinars are accessible in a responsive design environment for all devices. 

To make the registration process as easy as possible, the landing page features a split design with an employer and member section, each with associated links. The links allow users to register for upcoming webinars or watch a past webinar they may have missed.

Content from each session can be downloaded on-demand for personal use or employee distribution. Downloadable content includes webinar slides, associated handouts and a customizable email template for company-wide communications. 

Every detail related to participant engagement was thought out – even the backdrop used by the presenter. As an exercise physiologist, I believe whole heartedly in the research findings that show spending time in nature not only reduces blood pressure, anxiety and aggression, but it also increases happiness and improves pain control along with a whole host of other benefits. Each week, participants view one of the rotating backdrop nature scenes behind the webinar presenter during the session.

In addition to the aesthetics and content, having a live presenter is another important component to the success of Virtual Well-Being. The program requires someone relatable, engaging and comfortable in front of a camera. The host uses real-life examples and exudes a genuine passion for the topics that help to connect and inspire people.

The webinar content is developed internally from daily research and review of scholarly journals, articles and well-being topics, and Blue Cross subject matter experts are sometimes asked to co-present a session in order to dive deeper into a topic – such as financial well-being, behavioral health, diabetes education, nutrition, dental care and vision health.

To maintain a heightened level of engagement and relevancy, webinars are short – less than 15 minutes – and are built around topics that apply to members across all segments of our business, including commercial, seniors, college-aged and those in the individual market. Themes range from social connectedness and a sense of purpose to financial and physical well-being, but also expand into lifestyle topics such as physical clutter or digital detoxes.

A recent webinar on hygge – the Danish concept of enjoying the “good life” with good people – was well attended and received. The presenter gave researched information showing the physical and emotional benefits of connecting with people, slowing down to enjoy your surroundings, and taking the time to create an environment that feels cozy and safe. Ideas of how participants could incorporate hygge concepts into their everyday lives were also provided.

The team consistently receives positive comments from participants about how they use what they learned from each session. Here is an example from the hygge presentation:

“I had never heard of hygge until yesterday and I like everything about it. In fact, that is going to be our Friday night for my family, we are unplugging, getting comfortable, fire in the fireplace, a little music and board games. Can’t wait!”   

We’re continuously looking for ways to refine and enhance the program for Blue Cross members and employer groups. Following the program’s launch, the team created a series of short meditation videos that are available on the Blue Cross member page. Moving forward in 2020, we are encouraging our members to complete well-being “assignments” – spending time in nature, reading a book or completing an act of kindness – something they can do each month to move forward on their well-being journey.

Feedback from employers and members within the first year of the Virtual Well-Being program has been extremely positive and we look forward to building on this success to help our members live happier, healthier lives.

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