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Letting consumers control their data can improve their health care experience

Originally published in The Tennessean, August 2019

Recently, my colleague Heather Kennedy publicly shared how she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2017. Thankfully, she has since gone into remission – but her story is helping demonstrate how we’re working to serve BlueCross members.

During Heather’s treatment, she saw five different physicians. They were ordering different tests, but it didn’t seem like they were talking to one another. After a third MRI did not detect her cancer, one provider wanted to perform exploratory surgery. Heather said no and using her phone presented medical information she’d received from her endocrinologist.

Heather’s story isn’t unique. She’s not the first person to see multiple doctors who independently want to perform the same tests. However, having easy access to her medical information made a difference. She became a more informed patient and advocated for a more appropriate treatment.

As Heather said later, “How hard would this have been for someone with no health care background?” Unfortunately, more difficult than it should be.

Working with provider partners

Heather’s story illustrates an important need — and one she’s helping fulfill in her role at BlueCross.

We’re focused on improving the health of our members, and working with many providers who share our commitment to improving the health care experience.

Giving members easy access to their own health data and the ability to share it with their providers is an important, but challenging step. It’s an industry-wide challenge that will take intense focus and collaboration.

In February, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a notice of a new proposed rule to standardize the exchange of patient digital health data. These new rules aim to create “data liquidity” across the health care system. That’s a fancy way of saying patients will be at the controls when it comes to getting, using and sharing their digital health information. 

Health care providers also want easier ways to share information with one another for the good of their patients, and they’re an important partner in this goal. One of the ways we support them today is a clinical data exchange (CDE) service for providers in our value-based care program. More than 3,000 providers statewide are partnering with us to share data and using it to better coordinate care for our members, especially those with ongoing health needs.

Protecting your information

Of course, some people are concerned about making medical information so easily accessible, even to those who rightfully own it. That’s a fair concern, and we know our members expect us to protect their private information. We take that responsibility seriously at BlueCross. We’ve invested heavily in information security, and we’re always evolving our efforts to protect against cyber threats.

Security will always be a priority. But our goals are for members to be able to access all of their medical information safely, and for them to choose which providers can see and share that info.

All of these efforts are ultimately about choices that can bring better health.  It’s our responsibility to collaborate with our partners to protect your information while giving you more choices and empowering you as a health care consumer.

About Nick Coussoule, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer

A photo of the authorNick is responsible for a broad range of strategic initiatives, technical and operational support functions. He has more than 25 years of extensive experience in operations and technology consulting and IT management in the U.S. and internationally.

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