Friday, September 4, 2015

Underwriting vs. Care Management

Rock on, care management
In the course of learning about care management, the Population Health Blog has benefitted from sitting at the feet of high-functioning finance experts, actuaries and underwriters. Reconciling health care revenue/expense, trend, monetized risk and pricing of insurance with the savings, quality and patient experience that comes from optimized care has been a fascinating - if sometimes frustrating - intellectual exercise.

However, this report on the rise of machines and the continuing displacement of knowledge workers reminded the PHB of the divide between the science and the art in this corner of health care. 

According to David Autor, it's only a matter of time until machines begin to displace the high-end brainiacs who oversee the health insurance industry's premium, reserves, claims payments and surpluses.  Human judgment will never go away, but logarithmic jumps in processing power combined with the big data that comes from industry consolidation means the "answer" on how much to charge for coverage of a person with diabetes will be less flexible and more preordained.

The PHB, however, is of good cheer. 

While underwriting risk will be all about the numbers, managing conditions within those numbers will remain a very individual enterprise. Human needs, preferences, tolerances and culture will continue to shape highly variable decision-making within the care system for years to come. The need for highly skilled knowledge workers who can help patients co-manage their care will grow, not diminish. 

Factory farms may be churning out ingredients on an massive scale, but someone has to plate the finished meal. 

The music industry may be selling Beyonce at $0.99 a pop, but nothing will replace seeing her live in concert.

Payers and buyers may commoditize cataract care, but someone has to make sure patients take their eye drops.

Underwriting on one side.  Care management on the other.  The PHB likes where it's at.  

Image from Wikipedia

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