Oliver Wyman and Altarum Institute, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), are engaged in a major, multi-disciplinary study of the consumer health-information space. The research is examining the barriers vulnerable consumers may encounter in accessing and using health information, and also how the marketplace views and prioritizes the health information needs of those consumers. Preliminary findings are available here.
Good Measures is one organization that is committed to serving the needs of vulnerable consumers with high-tech, high-touch health programs and services. Here, Patrick Flynn, chief operating officer of Good Measures, explains how the nutrition coaching and technology firm is improving the health of diverse populations.
Oliver Wyman Health: What is the mission of Good Measures?
Patrick Flynn: Good Measures improves the health and well-being of patients through high-tech, high-touch personalized nutrition coaching. Seven out of 10 people in the United States have nutrition-sensitive conditions – diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, excess weight, renal disease, celiac disease, arthritis, many cancers – that can be improved and better managed through optimized nutrition. We’ve removed barriers to eating better by providing easy access to registered dietitian counseling, available daytimes, evenings, and weekends. Our technology is integrated with daily life to guide people toward better choices and help them answer the important question of “what should I eat today?”
OWH: How do you serve Medicaid or low-income populations?
PF: We serve Medicaid and low-income populations in several ways. We work with rural practice groups, counseling their patients primarily by phone and email, but also being available in person when needed. By providing counseling by phone, email, text, and secure video, we’ve removed barriers such as transportation, time away from work, and childcare. In one rural population we are serving, early research results are showing reductions in A1C and blood pressure, as well as weight loss.
Good Measures also works with groups to identify specific needs of the region or area we are serving. For example, in areas with minimal access to fresh foods, we work with patients to identify how and where to introduce different food options, even if it’s only one new food at a time.
OWH: Have you had to customize your offerings to better serve vulnerable populations? How?
PF: Our coaching and technology is personalized for each individual. Good Measures’ registered dietitians get to know each patient to learn his or her health conditions, goals, food preferences, financial and time constraints, and barriers, and then tailor advice accordingly. The Good Measures app and website provide personalized meal and snack recommendations based on each individual’s nutrient needs, health conditions, goals, food preferences, and other factors. Figuring out macronutrient and micronutrient needs can quickly become very complicated, so we give people a simple way – through the Good Measures Index – to see how well they are meeting their nutrient needs and how their food choices affect their nutritional balance.
As for examples of how we’ve tailored our services to vulnerable populations, Good Measures developed budget-friendly meal and snack recommendations and built a library of plain-language guides for healthy eating on a budget. Now we are training our clinicians on health and social issues of LGBTQ patients, who have a higher level of food insecurity and have historically been underserved by the healthcare system.
OWH: What steps did you take to better understand these particular populations? And do you have any “lessons learned” to share?
PF: We’ve learned a lot by challenging conventional wisdom and conducting methodological research to validate or debunk assumptions. As an example, we conducted an attitudinal study toward technology access in rural West Virginia and discovered that the adoption and prevalence of technology was much higher than estimated. At the same time, access to technology isn’t always an indication of access to other basic services – some of our patients have smartphones and no running water. Despite such a barrier, our registered dietitians are adept at teaching problem-solving and finding ways to help everybody improve their nutrition.
Also, Good Measures clinicians working with diverse populations play a substantial role in product and content design and development. We work closely with referring providers, who have helped us shape our program to meet the needs of their communities. We also study foods available and food preferences in the areas we serve and we build out regional meal libraries, such as one for an employer group in New Mexico.
OWH: What are your perceptions of marketplace interest in solutions for vulnerable populations? What needs to shift in order to see more attention paid to needs of vulnerable consumers?
PF: We are seeing substantial interest in our solutions for vulnerable populations. Because our solution is ideal for rural patients who can’t easily travel, or people working multiple jobs who can’t take the time during the day to go to see a clinical professional, we continue to see greater interest in our ability to increase access to care. Also, we can deliver our Good Measures Diabetes Prevention Program in person or virtually, which is very attractive to employers and health plans.
While progress is being made in telemedicine for e-visits, adoption is still lagging, which is unfortunate because vulnerable populations would benefit from the removal of physical and financial barriers to care.
OWH: Looking ahead, how else might you enhance your product and service offerings for these populations?
We envision playing a key role in a “medical neighborhood,” which goes beyond the idea of a medical home and connects a constellation of health, social, community, and food-related services that help people become healthier and experience better outcomes. We will continue to work with state and local community policymakers and providers to identify their needs and support what’s most important to them.