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VOL. 115 | NO. 176 | Thursday, October 18, 2001

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Humana plan launches in Memphis first

Humana uses Memphis as launching pad


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 Emphesys.

Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout gave a brief speech commending Humana for choosing Memphis and Shelby County as the place to roll out the companys initiative.

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 Hospital.

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 works online.

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.

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