VOL. 115 | NO. 176 | Thursday, October 18, 2001
Humana plan launches in Memphis first
Humana uses Memphis as launching pad
By SUE PEASE
The Daily News
Humana announced Wednesday its new health care initiative,
which it hopes will change the way people think about health insurance plans.
The plan, called Emphesys, is an online product built to
give members more control over health decisions.
Its more than a Web site. It starts to be a tool as you
make decisions on how you want to spend money when buying health care insurance
or manage money as far as using benefits wisely, said Dr. Jonathan Jack
Lord, Humana chief innovations officer.
Top officials with the Louisville, Ky.-based managed health
care firm were in Memphis Wednesday at the Memphis Botanic Garden to introduce
Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout gave a brief speech commending
Humana for choosing Memphis and Shelby County as the place to roll out the
We are proud of our community particularly our health
care community, Rout said, underscoring the many providers in the area
including Baptist, Methodist, St. Francis and St. Judes Children Research
The plan is a preferred provider organization and will
eventually be rolled out to all Humana markets, Lord said.
Next on the list is Austin, Texas.
The connections to technology along with health system
relationships were factors in deciding where to rollout the plan, Lord said.
The company is involved in writing insurance in 28 states he
said. However, it has 330,000 physicians and 2,900 hospitals participating with
the company nationwide. In Memphis, there are about 2,500 physicians and 28,000
members in the Humana traditional network.
During the presentation, Humana officials used words such as
revolutionary, consumer-centric, and an amazon.com-like ability to learn
before you buy, health care insurance.
The plan is digitally based. It takes the processes of
health care insurance, where there are bottlenecks, and turns them into
accelerations, Lord said.
For example, if members are unsure of what specialist to
see, they can log on to a physician and hospital rating system to research
doctors and facilities. In order to combat poor customer service common in the managed
health care world, Emphesys provides real time Web chats along with the ability
for a member to schedule a phone call.
For employers who add and remove employees to the plan
frequently, they can now do so immediately online, instead of waiting for the
paperwork to process.
The online product was built from the ground up, said Bruce
Goodman, Humana chief information officer, which is different from many other
providers who provide a digital layer over their traditional benefit offering.
Humana partnered with many technology companies in designing
Emphesys, Goodman said, including Advanced PCS for the ePharmacy module, Cisco
Systems for Webchat and Webcallback systems and Oracle for the integrated
consumer care and database technology.
Brenda Deweber, insurance supervisor with OB-GYN Specialists
PC in Memphis, attended the event to gain more knowledge about how the plan
She saw Emphesys as probably the first system providing
comprehensive detail online. She believes the instant online updates would help
cut down on false coverage information for patients, she said.
One of the pilot members using Emphesys is law firm Stokes
Bartholomew Evans and Petree. Becky Boone, administrator for the firm, said the
experience with the plan has been good although there were minor kinks to work
out at first, as with any new product.
Factors that attracted the firm to Emphesys were its
affiliation with Baptist, the Humana name and the fact that some administrative
work is done online by the employer giving it somewhat better rates, she said.
Also, while employees have more control over the plan they
also have more responsibility for it too, which will come with a learning
curve, she said.
However, instant access is attractive.
The information is updated immediately so its always at
your fingertips, Boone said.
Humana Inc. is a publicly traded health services company.
Its stock closed Tuesday at $11.59.