Health plans as public health: Inside BCBS Tennessee's health equity strategy

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is digging into the data behind health equity, publishing its first ever health equity report to bring together public data and data from BCBS Tennessee members. 

The company published the report in February. Using public data and data from BCBS Tennessee members, the payer analyzed how race and social factors affect outcomes in behavioral health, cancer care, child and adolescent care, chronic conditions, COVID-19 and maternal health. 

In a call with reporters on Feb. 13, BCBS Tennessee CEO J.D. Hickey said the payer is considering the next steps it will take based on the report's findings. 

"Right now, we are very much focused on the rollout and talking about what the results of this mean, but please know we are already thinking about next steps and what we may do for next year in terms of making this report more impactful," Mr. Hickey said. 

Next steps could include making the report more detailed and granular in the next year and adding health equity standards into provider contracts.  

Andrea Willis, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer at BCBS Tennessee, said the payer considers health plans a part of public health. 

She said the payer hopes to be able to incentivize providers to help produce good health outcomes. 

"It's important to look at who's coming into the office and who's not coming into the office as well. What are the barriers that we can break down to get into the office to get the care that they need? Most importantly, we want to see that they have good, quality outcomes," Dr. Willis said. 

Sherri Zink, senior vice president and chief data engagement officer for BCBS Tennessee, said they want to make sure data is available to providers to address disparities. 

"We have several tools that our providers leverage when they're participating in some of our value-based care initiatives that give them these metrics," Ms. Zink said. "In the past, we have not necessarily given it to them by race, ethnicity and language. So that's something that we're looking to expand so that we can create additional awareness for the provider community." 

Read the full report here.

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