BlueCross Exec Talks Future of Health Care

Jan. 28, 2021

Late last year BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina welcomed a new vice president of product development, innovation and member experience. Tom Meier comes to BlueCross with more than 20 years of experience in health care insurance. 

In this role, Meier is responsible for the team that oversees developing innovative product solutions for employers and ensuring a positive experience for BlueCross members. 

“Our solutions help our members access the health care options available to them, actively engage in their health care decision-making, address and manage any health conditions they have, and ultimately, add the value that our employers and members expect when they select BlueCross,” he says. 

Here’s a look at some of Meier’s vision for his role at BlueCross and how it aims to positively impact the experience for both employers and members.

Tom Meier Hover image

Your team also oversees the digital products from BlueCross. Can you tell us about that? 

We have a tremendous digital design and delivery team that's responsible for the development and active management of our member facing digital assets, including our member websites and My Health Toolkit® member portal and app, which allows members to virtually access their ID card, check the status of their claims and benefits, find a provider, shop for care, and more. We want to ensure we are providing an intuitive and valuable digital experience that allows members to get their self-service needs met. We also want to make sure members can leverage the technology in their hands in a way that helps them engage in their health care.

What has surprised you? Is there anything interesting you've learned since starting this role?

I've spent a little over 20 years in the Blue Cross Blue Shield system. My last role was with Health Care Service Corporation, a large regional Blues plans operating in five states. When I came to BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, I assumed there was a lot that would be very similar. And it is! Our members struggle with navigating a complex healthcare system, just like other members across the country. Our employer clients struggle with keeping their employee populations healthy and controlling their costs, just like other employers. So, I expected it to be similar, but it's probably even more similar than I assumed it was going to be. 

What has been surprising is the exciting number of innovations that are already in place here, as well as those that are already in the pipeline for development. We're doing really exciting things at BlueCross. We are engaging with our members, employers, and local providers in a very unique way, and how we are solving for differences across South Carolina and beyond is very novel. 

I’m coming from a five-state Blue plan where we had very clear and different needs across those states – what is needed in rural Montana or Oklahoma is very different than what's needed in metropolitan Illinois and Texas.

I assumed that the needs of our members and employers across South Carolina would be more homogeneous and would more consistently apply across the state, but I have found that's not necessarily the case. The needs in the Upstate, in the Midlands and the Lowcountry are very different, because health care is local. And we have solutions to support them.

What have we learned about our customers during the pandemic? 

I think all of us at BlueCross can be incredibly proud of how resilient we have been and how we have continued to support our employers and members with access to top quality health care during the pandemic. We have seen how our members have embraced solutions that were in place before the pandemic but had not realized their full potential until something like COVID-19 happened.

For example, we’ve had telehealth in place for years, but there had been very low awareness and utilization. But in 2020, with physical access to health care significantly reduced, many of these virtual solutions that we had established previously now became the primary way that some of our members were able to access their care. It has been exciting to see these solutions not only work but be embraced by our members. 

How did our digital roadmap help during the pandemic?

Our digital roadmap focuses on our websites, member portal, native app, and includes a number of potential new features and enhancements. We know a lot of our members choose and prefer to interact with us primarily through our digital channels. They want the ability for convenient self-service. They expect functionality from their health plans aligned with other digital solutions that they leverage outside of health care, like Amazon or Apple. 

We entered the pandemic with a strong set of digital capabilities and have continued to add new features throughout the pandemic to help our members manage their increasing health care challenges, such as finding virtual solutions, engaging with clinicians, and managing their health care benefits. 

What does this look like going forward? 

The advancement of technology going forward will only fuel the demand for advanced digital capabilities, but we need to be careful that we’re not only solving for the digital needs of our members. We want our members to be able to engage with us in the modality of their choice, whether by telephone or by an app or by a website or potentially chat. These are expectations that our members are finding outside of health care, and we need to provide those solutions to them within health care.

What does the future look like in health care? 

There's so much exciting work happening in the health care industry right now. Technological advances have exponentially increased the ability for our members to better manage their medical conditions.

For example, maybe as recent as five years ago, a typical diabetes management solution leveraged was providing a member a paper logbook and then asking members to log their blood glucose level after a finger stick. Members could then bring that hand-written log with them to an endocrinologist for potential analysis into their condition management plan. The technology advances and solutions out there are incredible, whether continuous glucose monitors that transmit patients’ blood glucose level every 10 seconds and are connected to our health coaches or cellular-based glucometers that upload your results real-time. There are smart blood pressure cuffs and smart scales out there that help people actively manage their hypertension and weight management efforts.

There’s exciting technology out there that I believe our members could really benefit from. Our goal is to bring some of these solutions to market for BlueCross. 

What does the future look like with providers? 

There's an incredible opportunity when it comes to partnering with our providers in a different way. For example, providers currently have access to some member data, but in the future, we’re going to be able to exchange data seamlessly across our providers. This will revolutionize how members receive their care, how their care is delivered by providers, and how they access their care.

This partnership with providers will ultimately offer our members whole person and longitudinal care, which we expect will positively impact their long-term health.

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