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At SXSW, Hipsters Look for Healthcare Tech Tipping Point

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, March 13, 2012

For their part, payers are busy figuring out ways to go directly to patients, rather than their traditional interface to employers and providers. "More and more, we're selling to individuals," says Tom Noland, Humana senior vice president of corporate communications. Humana's goal is to "make healthy things fun and fun things healthy."

To that end, Humana built an innovation center at its Louisville, KY, headquarters and Noland brought his vice president of innovation Shankar Ram to his SXSW session.

Where all this really starts to click is when payers start to offer direct incentives to patients for healthy behaviors. A year ago, Humana launched a new subsidiary, HumanaVitality, to do just that. "It's just beginning," Noland says.

Launched in conjunction with Johannesburg-based Discovery Holdings, HumanaVitality builds on Discovery's success in South Africa, Noland says. Patients upload biometric screenings to HumanaVitality and receive rewards as well as a sobering Vitality Age to see how their lifestyle is affecting their health.

In the healthcare system to come, can everyone truly be held accountable in this way? It's too early to tell. But the same tech hipster community that took Twitter viral is now part of the conversation. Don't be surprised if they're increasingly up to speed on the fee-for-service versus accountable care issue. And as SXSW observers have learned from history, where those hipsters go, customers will follow.


Scott Mace is senior technology editor at HealthLeaders Media.
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2 comments on "At SXSW, Hipsters Look for Healthcare Tech Tipping Point"


PJoseph (3/14/2012 at 10:54 AM)
Hey, Tom Noland and Shankar Ram of Humana. If Humana is serious about really helping customers, why did you send me, a long-time Humana customer, a paper calendar with pretty pictures on it? Is that an idea from your innovation center? How does that help me be healthier? How does that reduce healthcare costs? Is sending me a calendar the best way to spend your 20%? I don't think so. For your innovation center, hire people from Zappo's and Netflix, not healthcare, who really know how to motivate me to change my behavior, reward me for doing what's best, and make me feel good about it. Align your SXSW speeches with action, please. Change to healthcare delivery cannot happen without bringing in successful people from OUTSIDE healthcare.

Doug Naegele (3/14/2012 at 9:37 AM)
The line "Smartphones are no panacea..." is a great one, in that it acknowledges that not all patients are healthy, upper-income iPhone users. SmokefreeTXT, a product Infield Health built for the National Cancer Institute, works on SMS specifically to reach a non-smartphone market: teens. Let's remember that the very people who need health advice are sometimes not carrying shiny iPhone 4S's. Doug Naegele Infield Health