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AHIP Institute begins with emphasis on innovation to help consumers

Highmark Health CEO David Holmberg: "To change care, you have to stand for something"

America's Health Insurance Plans kicked off its annual AHIP Institute with a call for innovation and a surprise appearance from outgoing President and CEO Karen Ignagni.

"It's been such a marvelous opportunity to represent each and every one of you," said Ignagni (pictured right), who added that she was speaking at the event for the first time in 22 years as the lobbying group's leader.

Ignagni is leaving AHIP in September to become President and CEO of New York-based nonprofit insurer EmblemHealth. She described her appearance at the event as "incredibly bittersweet" and praised payers for their willingness to take on initiatives such as care coordination, better disease prevention and care delivery reform at a time when payment reform has forced the insurance industry to "turn entire products upside down."

Ignagni told attendees that AHIP will continue to represent the industry--and that she will not be a stranger. "I look forward to coming back next year and continuing to work in this great industry," she said.

It's an industry that must be ready to change, said Rodney F. Hochman, M.D., president and CEO of Providence Health & Services, an integrated delivery network based in Washington state.

Hochman, who spoke during AHIP Institute's opening panel, said his system's last 12 hires have all come from Amazon--and "they are shocked at our lack of consumer focus." Some Providence employees struggled with this cultural change and left the organization, but "most accepted that the industry needed to move forward."

In addition to improving its digital platform--one of the 12 former Amazon employees helped develop the Kindle tablet--Hochman said Providence concentrates its innovative efforts on improving population health management and strengthening its core services as opposed to expanding. "Innovation over scale is the way we're going to solve healthcare issues," he said.

At the same time, organizations cannot simply innovate for innovation's sake, said David Holmberg, president and CEO of Highmark Health. That can lead to expensive, and sometimes unnecessary, technology investments. Rather, Holmberg said, insurers should hone in on innovations that will improve outcomes while lowering costs.

Highmark has made waves under Holmberg's leadership for ending coverage of costly and potentially dangerous power morcellator procedures and suing the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for $300 million in cancer claims overcharging, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

Holmberg mentioned both moves during the panel discussion and said they show how insurers can "change the game" if they focus on doing the right thing. "We need to make healthcare smarter, make it simpler and make it care for everyone," he said. "To change care, you have to stand for something."

Related Articles:
AHIP Institute agenda filled with familiar themes
Karen Ignagni's AHIP resignation comes at critical time for healthcare reform
Karen Ignagni leaving AHIP for EmblemHealth
Highmark could be the industry's next trendsetter