Technology fuels consumer-choice approach Featured

5:47am EDT June 30, 2004
From online meetings to paperless archiving, technology has transformed the business environment, saving companies time and money. Technology has also transformed how employers and employees choose and use health benefits.

These advancements benefit employees, employers, providers and the entire health care system.


* Easier access to health care and cost information. Through the Internet, patients can learn more about health conditions and procedures than ever before. The Internet also gives patients more complete information about the actual cost of medical care, a concept called transparency.

Knowledge about health care options and costs helps turn passive health care users into active health care consumers, a key factor in reducing health care claims.


* Greater choice and control. As health care costs rose dramatically in recent years, many employers chose a unique solution to combat the increases, offering employees a range of health plans with appropriate levels of cost sharing.

With this approach, employees choose a plan with coverage levels consistent with their needs, and they're more likely to use benefits wisely, resulting in reduced claims costs.

These choices wouldn't be possible without Web-based tools that help employees see the financial impact of their decisions. For example, online calculators help guide employees as they research and choose a health plan.

Web-based pharmacy tools assist members as they make prescription drug choices. Online calculators show employees the advantages of contributing pre-tax dollars to a Flexible Spending Account.


* Paperless transactions. Some health benefits companies have introduced stored value cards tied to a member's Flexible Spending Account or Health Reimbursement Account. Members just swipe the card at the provider's office, allowing them to pay from their account at the time of service.


* Simplified benefits administration. Online benefits enrollment saves time and money in HR departments, but technology also helps benefits administrators after the open enrollment period. They can now accomplish tasks such as beneficiary changes, billing and reporting via online self-service channels.


* Predictive data. New advances in data management help employers predict and manage health benefit costs. Predictive tools identify patients who may benefit from disease management programs.

Data analysis flags employee groups that may benefit from preventive care efforts. With these kinds of programs, employers can approach health care proactively, increase the health of their employees and reduce health care claims costs.


* Better communications and better care. Technology provides real-time information to doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, members, employers, benefits companies and others in the health care industry.

Doctors and other health care providers no longer have to wait on the phone for patient eligibility and benefit information; they can use the Internet to get this information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Doctors and hospitals can see a patient's health conditions and history from a broader perspective, which may lead to better treatment.

The Internet also allows providers to gain information quickly about the latest medical research.

The use of information technology simplifies health benefits administration for employer groups, physicians, hospitals and other health care providers. Technology gives consumers personalized information to help them understand the financial impact of health care decisions and control spending better.

And the good news for employers is that technology plays a key role in the consumer-choice approach that may help them reduce health benefits costs. Alan Guzzino,president of Humana's Atlanta, North Carolina and South Carolina market health plan operations, is responsible for the management, strategic planning and growth of those markets. Guzzino, an eight-year veteran of Humana, serves on the board of the Georgia Association of Health Plans. Reach him by e-mail at Robert S. Wolfkiel,vice president of sales for Humana's Atlanta market, is responsible for managing and directing the sales initiatives, enrollment process and profitability of Humana's product portfolio within that market. Wolfkiel, although new to Humana, has over 14 years of health care industry experience. Reach him by e-mail at


Offered by Humana Employers Health Plan of Georgia, Inc. or insured or administered by Humana Insurance Company. GHC-16490 5/04