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Blue Cross Blue Shield of TN leader speaks with Hinge Health at Movement 2023 conference

Lowering MSK care costs for employer health plans

Blue Cross Blue Shield of TN leader shares why MSK care became a priority for employer health plans and why Hinge Health is their partner of choice

Published Date: Oct 31, 2023
Blue Cross Blue Shield of TN leader speaks with Hinge Health at Movement 2023 conference

The vast majority of Hinge Health participants are offered our program through their employer health plan. Rebecca Burton, Lead Product Manager at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee (BCBS-TN), is one of the many people behind the scenes making this happen.

Among her responsibilities, Burton oversees BCBS-TN’s suite of wellness products. With that, she works very closely with partners at Hinge Health to manage the insurer’s digital MSK offering.

“I’ve been in the digital health space pretty much my whole professional life,” she said. “It’s something that I’m excited and passionate about.”

Burton joined Kristen Sherman, AVP of Partnerships at Hinge Health, on a panel at the Movement 2023 conference to discuss why BCBS-TN sought out a digital MSK solution for its members, what brought them to Hinge Health, and why they are now considering adding it for other lines of business.

Watch the full recording of their discussion or read on for some key messages Burton shared with the audience. And follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn for information on future conferences.

We recognized the need to address rising MSK costs—and our clients did, too

In late 2020, we recognized the need to address the rising cost of MSK-related conditions. And not only did we recognize that need, but clients were asking: How can you help control that cost? What do you have? That was really a sign that we needed to look into something.

So as most plans do, we went to RFP and took a look at the overall market. We had a few participants in that RFP and looked to see who could best meet our needs and what we were looking for. 

We were primarily looking for a solution that would provide access to all of our members and meet the members where they were—giving them no reason for not getting support and services no matter where they lived.

That was a priority for us—service for members regardless of their geography and work. We also wanted to help our clients improve client retention by adding to our innovative product suite.

Hinge Health really stood out—and has delivered

The goal was to work with a partner that could lower costs and deliver on an ROI guarantee, starting with our self-funded line of business.

What we were really looking for was a comprehensive solution that went across the continuum of MSK needs. And we were looking for a partner who was well-established.

We went into this looking for a partner who would be long-term, grow with us, be innovative, would work well with our strategic needs as a company, and deliver savings.

As of the Movement 2023 conference, BCBC-TN had been partnered with Hinge Health for a year and half post-implementation. Burton talked about promises made and promises kept:

We were able to develop a communications strategy that fit our brand and approach

As a health plan, we tend to be a bit conservative in our communications and very hyper-aware of member outreach, member abrasion, and not over-communicating.

Hinge Health’s communications strategy is pretty aggressive when it comes to reaching out to members, but it’s that way for a reason—you have the engagement to show it.

But we did have to come together and meet in the middle.

Hinge was open to hearing what our brand sounds like, how we typically communicate with members, and what that looks like. We came to a mutual understanding of how we could make it work. And we have made it work.

On top of that, we have some clients who have very specific customization needs and processes that they follow. We’ve had to work with Hinge Health on understanding those clients and making sure that all of their requirements are being met.

As our client list with Hinge Health grows, so do those customizations. We’ve partnered really well with Hinge to come up with a process to track that and make sure we’re not missing something.

The more customization you have, there’s just always room for error. But we’ve worked together to get through that. And it has been smooth sailing.

Innovation is important to health plans

Innovation is important to everyone in this room and health plans, but it’s hard to keep up with everything. And there are so many priorities within the company.

Partnering with someone who can move and innovate fast can sometimes make you feel a little nervous. But in the time we have had Hinge Health, there have been a lot of exciting changes and improvements to the member experience and offerings. 

For example, the Women's Pelvic Health Program offering, which I truly believe in and was very excited about because it’s an area that not a lot of people want to talk about. But there’s a need there.

There was a light-bulb moment when I thought, ‘OK, this makes complete sense’

I manage the maternity program at BCBS-TN. There was kind of a light-bulb moment when I thought, ‘OK, this makes complete sense. We need to somehow find a way to provide this service to our maternity members and other members, who may need it as they age. This is a service that we need.’

I have friends and coworkers who have gone to pelvic floor therapy and felt it was very invasive and just not something they would want to go back to. Now we can provide this to them in the privacy of their own home. And I'm really excited about that.

We’ve partnered with Hinge Health to figure out what that integration looks like. And Hinge is always open to having a call and going over new ideas. I appreciate Hinge’s openness to really challenging each other to partner together to build really meaningful member experiences that aren't so broken—that weave in and out of other programs that might be offered.

We’ve doubled down on data to ID high-risk members

We heavily leverage data in our partnership with Hinge Health. It's just one area that we've doubled down on as a plan.

We have access to this data that can help us identify members who may be high risk now or on that path. So we've partnered closely with Hinge to identify those members.

Hinge Health has just done a beautiful job of building out high-risk communications and a journey for our high-risk members that might look just a little bit different for other members.

Here, Burton discusses what she is mindful of when addressing these high-risk members:

It just seemed prudent and necessary to evaluate Hinge Health for our other lines of business

We continue to see costs for health care rise, specifically in the areas where we know Hinge Health has an impact. And then at the same time, there's downward pressure for us to work to control those costs.

What can we do to help with that? We try to remain competitive to attract new clients and members, but sometimes that is just a bit difficult.

Based on the experience that we've had with Hinge Health to date, it just seemed prudent and necessary for us to evaluate other lines of business where it could make an impact—where we are seeing higher MSK costs. That led us down the path of looking at Medicare and our fully insured.

With both lines of business, as with self-funded, cost is a top consideration. We are working with our actuary teams and doing our own internal cost analysis to see what is happening with the groups already using the product. What we have seen is that it is absolutely time for us to look at adding Hinge Health to other lines of business.

Cost savings are great, but it’s also about the member experience

Cost savings are great and always most important. But our members are truly seeing results and decreasing pain, and I always want to share that positive feedback with our Medicare and fully insured product owners.

Two weeks can’t go by without someone reaching out to me to share positive feedback about Hinge Health.

Burton shared the story of a member who emailed her to share how he’s now walking without a cane thanks to Hinge Health—and what he said to make her think: 'This is good. This is what we need.'

Drive down the cost of pain