cigna’s integrated personal health team sees success with behavior change

May 27, 2011

in health communication,reviews: products, services, books

helena and theresa were telling me of a woman who’d recently suffered a major loss. a nuclear family member died, and this woman was grieving. theresa was working with the woman to manage her diabetes; helena to cope with tobacco cravings. neither knew of her loss. it wasn’t until a scheduled call with helena that the woman shared this information. she was concerned that her grief and stress would undo the work she’d done to quit tobacco. helena offered to connect the woman with a behavioral specialist while they crafted strategies to help her stay steady, tobacco-wise. the woman agreed to the suggestion. then helena told me how, behind the scenes, she connected with the behavioral specialist and looped in theresa, and how together these three brainstormed ideas and prepared for their next coaching call. this woman had a team thinking about her different but connected needs. possibly even more important at this particular time, she only had to tell her story once.

it’s this level of care, compassion and coordination that makes the IPHT stand out. the IPHT brings together nutritionists, fitness experts, psychologists, social workers, nurses, and case and lifestyle managers to form a health posse that works one-on-one with employees. this health posse helps employees recover more quickly and safely from surgery, quit tobacco, ease stress, eat better or come to grips with a chronic condition. but it’s real strength is in supporting employees when several of these threads come together, or unravel.

i met with theresa, helena and several other IPHT coaches when i was onsite at cigna’s eden praire location. i was there to manage a photo and video shoot with the coaches dedicated to my client. we’re creating several communication pieces to introduce employees to the service—more specifically, to the coaches. they’re the real stars of the show, and we made them just that during our amazing shoot. (our photographer can make your handsome aunt agnes look better than kate moss. i’m still pondering why i declined my turn in front of the klieg lights.) we also wanted to capture their stories—who they are, what they love about coaching, who’s touched their lives—so employees see the human side of cigna.

that human side interests my client. so does the business side. and there’s a real business side to providing integrated health services. in bringing all of the cigna health partners under one roof, cigna makes it easier for an employee to use these services—and more likely to use them as well. an employee can call the IPHT, or the coaches may reach out to an employee directly. during a first call, a coach creates an employee’s health profile and then crafts a plan that may involve several specialists over time. the employee’s always in charge and can decline a service, but through the scheduled, regular calls it’s more likely that an employee will build trust and expand his or her work with the team. jane davidson, a cigna clinical consultant, shared that the IPHT approach has led to:

  • 72% of those with chronic conditions were open to additional health improvement programs and support
  • 24% of those identified as having chronic conditions go on to engage in coaching
  • 96% of those participating in coaching took action to improve their health
  • 72% of those people met or progressed to their goals
  • 2 out of 3 of those with chronic diseases choose to focus on additional health priorities

in turn, the action leads to results. when compared to those in a more traditional approach to health management, employees who worked with the IPHT are twice as likely to shift from high- or medium-risk to low risk. they’re also more likely to be medically compliant. employees being coached for obesity were 10% more likely to adhere to glucose testing. employees with diabetes were 7% more likely to get their HbA1c testing. as the coaching lowers health risks, it also lowers the need for high-cost health services. employees working with the IPHT have a:

  • 12% reduction in the use of all non-primary care services
  • 3% reduction in the number of ER visits
  • 2% decline in overall hospital admissions

that’s a benefit that pays back cigna, my client, the employee and the employee’s family in immeasurable ways. cigna launched their integrated personal health team in 2008 to provide a more holistic approach to health, not solely a treatment for illness. i’d also say it’s a more human approach. the women i met in eden prairie are passionate, knowledgeable and dedicated. they put a new face on insurance. and we want to show that face…beautifully.

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