The American health care system is undergoing seismic change with advances in technology and medicine, an emphasis on preventive care, and the mandate for universal coverage.

Health insurance providers are being forced to adapt. How should they decide what to change and how to stimulate growth? Because consumers now have more choice and purchasing power when selecting a health plan, they will increasingly guide innovations in health care--even more directly than they do now--through a process called "co-creation."

The results of a recent IBM study support this idea. The study revealed that C-level business executives across multiple sectors worldwide have big plans to put the consumer at the helm of business strategy. Inspired by consumer-centric innovation, the most savvy, forward-thinking companies will ensure they are on the right path by launching health care products and services which will not only attract new customers but will also keep existing ones who now demand more from their health insurers.

Co-creating Innovative Solutions

Some Massachusetts health insurers got a head start after the state launched its own health insurance exchange, the Massachusetts Health Connector, in late 2006. One such insurer, Fallon Community Health Plan (FCHP), sought to distinguish itself through collaboration with consumers. In 2012, Fallon worked with a private online community of more than 300 customers from around the Commonwealth to understand their issues with choosing a health insurance plan. Overwhelmingly, the company learned that people were frustrated by the complexity of the product and felt they lacked sufficient education to make informed choices.

So Fallon took action. It introduced the idea of a retail space to members of the community and asked them what they’d like to see in it. The result of their feedback was the company’s first brick-and-mortar FCHP Information Center, where insurees can come in to ask questions, discuss their options with healthcare representatives, and even take yoga classes, participate in smoking cessation workshops, and receive a host of other valuable benefits.


Fallon also tested the community’s reception to a health insurance plan that rewards wellness. Members were so inspired by this concept that they offered their own ideas about how to make it better. In 2013 the "Healthy Health Plan" was introduced, offering customers incentives and assistance to become and remain healthy.

As health insurance companies partner with their customers, allowing them to provide valuable input, insurers nationwide have a real chance at reaping the mutually beneficial rewards of lowered costs, increased enrollment, and customer satisfaction. Along the way, we’ll become a healthier, happier and better informed society--something I think we can all agree is a big step in the right direction.