Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, Nasdaq: VZ), headquartered in New York, is a global leader in delivering broadband and other wireless and wireline communications services to consumer, business, government and wholesale customers. Verizon Wireless operates America’s most reliable wireless network, with 104.6 million retail connections nationwide. Verizon also provides converged communications, information and entertainment services over America’s most advanced fiber-optic network, and delivers integrated business solutions to customers in more than 150 countries. A Dow 30 company with more than $120 billion in 2013 revenues, Verizon employs a diverse workforce of 177,800. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.
View Verizon’s Strategies
- Improve the Health and Wellness of Individuals
- Improve the Health of Communities
- Improve the Health Care System
The culture of health that continues to unfold across Verizon’s large and widespread workforce is the result of a strategic initiative designed to improve health and control costs for the company’s more than 700,000 employees, retirees, and dependents. The company’s comprehensive approach to health and wellness effectively combines benefits, incentives, support, and health services to help employees more easily access the right care at the right time in the right location. Results show that the strategy is working. In addition to providing comprehensive health benefits (on which the company spent nearly $3.2 billion in 2013), Verizon’s strategy involves engaging and empowering employees, retirees, and their families to proactively manage and improve their health. The strategy emphasizes preventive care and early detection, condition management, maternity care management, and promoting healthy lifestyles with a focus on healthy eating, exercise, tobacco cessation, emotional health, and work/life balance. Forty-five onsite Verizon Health and Wellness Centers, staffed by trained professionals who are Verizon employees, promote the importance of healthy lifestyle habits through physical activity, nutrition counseling seminars, and more.
Verizon’s Strategies for Improving the Health and Wellness of Individuals
An overview of some of Verizon’s strategies for improving health and wellness is provided below.
Ready Access to Online Healthy Living Information and Interactive Support Tools
In 2012, Verizon significantly expanded online access to healthy living information with a new one-stop health and wellness portal called WellConnect, which provides access to all Verizon wellness programs, as well as personalized health information, online tools, mobile apps, a video library, and healthy living tips to help individuals eat well, stay active, and maintain a balanced lifestyle. Additionally, Verizon regularly presents webinars for employees on a broad variety of topics such as asthma, diabetes, men’s health, Know Your Numbers, and prenatal care.
Easy Access to Preventive Care
Verizon offers no-cost biometric health screenings, such as cholesterol and blood sugar tests, along with height, weight, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI) screenings. During 2013, these services were offered at more than 90 Verizon locations, 2,000 laboratory patient service centers, and through personal physicians. Breast health informational sessions and mammography screenings were also offered at 21 work locations and more than 600 women took advantage of the on-site screenings in 2013. More than 20,000 employees received flu shots on-site, a positive increase of 8 percent.
Management of Chronic Conditions, Such as Diabetes
Verizon has teamed with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and Express Scripts to conduct outreach campaigns to help those with diabetes manage their conditions by encouraging preventive care tests (such as Hemoglobin A1c tests, dilated eye exams, as well as microalbumin, cholesterol, and blood pressure screenings) and medication adherence. Verizon uses national benchmarks to measure progress and designs new interventions to help employees manage key diabetes management goals.
Benefits and Impact
Verizon’s strategies are paying off. Verizon has studied the results of a group of 1,700 employees who were screened in 2012 and 28 percent of those who had out-of-range blood pressure the previous year had moved to in-range. Colon cancer screenings are improving as 47 percent of employees and dependents in the age-appropriate population were screened in 2013, approaching national benchmarks. Breast cancer screenings continue to improve and meet national benchmarks at 67 percent. In 2013, the Healthy Pregnancy Program deliveries accounted for 30 percent of all Verizon babies delivered, a 3 percent increase in participation over 2012. The Healthy Pregnancy Program helps participants safely deliver healthy children by providing maternity risk assessments, health education, and proactive benefits management. The program also helps to ensure the mother’s well-being with post-partum depression screenings.
Verizon’s workforce is geographically dispersed across 49 states, and scaling programs to cover hundreds of locations can be difficult. Also, Verizon employs a number of shift workers and a large number of employees who work independently. Both can create challenges with widespread adoption. To overcome these challenges, Verizon launched a new online portal in November 2012 to provide an easily accessible, one-stop gateway for health and wellness resources. To drive traffic to the site, the company implemented a “push/pull” communications strategy, including a “Wellness Now” e-magazine. With the launch of the e-magazine, web page views increased nearly five-fold in only one month’s time. Verizon also launched a “consumerism campaign” designed to highlight cost savings opportunities in areas such as low-intensity emergency room and radiology use, influence health care decision-making through decision support tools, and promote accountability using “straight talk” about the cost of health care services. The use of incentives for healthy behaviors, like completing a health assessment to raise awareness of risk and actions to address those risks as well as not smoking, is key to achieving and sustaining those behaviors. In addition, Verizon utilizes “engagement champions” across work locations to raise awareness of onsite screenings, vaccinations, and physical activity initiatives.
Key Take-aways for Other Employers
Verizon’s health and wellness strategy is focused on prevention and healthy lifestyles, data-driven decision-making, and measuring success. De-identified claims data provides a good indication of how to prioritize programs and initiatives; communications and participation data along with employee feedback help determine interest, what’s working, and what’s not working; and de-identified outcomes data helps leaders understand lasting behavior change. Raising awareness through consumer tools and messaging helps employees understand the mutual advantage of using health care benefits and resources wisely. Verizon continuously innovates so that as market resources like online and mobile health tools change and grow, the company keeps its programs fresh and engaging.
Verizon believes that there are tremendous opportunities to grow and innovate by applying technology to important social issues. Nowhere is that philosophy more true than in health care, where applying new technology to existing needs can improve the lives of consumers and the health of communities. Verizon’s innovative health care initiative focuses on three areas of need—children’s health, women’s health, and senior health—and targets underserved populations within each area. By partnering with private and public health-related organizations throughout the nation, Verizon is leveraging technology to build healthier communities.
Verizon’s Strategies for Improving the Health of Communities
Children’s Health: Connecting Kids to Quality Health Care
For the more than 15 million children in the United States who do not have access to regular health care, and for their families, the mobile health clinics deployed by the Children’s Health Fund have filled a critical gap. These “big blue buses” are fully equipped medical offices that visit underserved areas, particularly poor rural regions and urban settings, including homeless shelters. Verizon is working in partnership with Children’s Health Fund to improve child health at six program sites in San Francisco, Phoenix, Dallas, Miami, Detroit, and New York. By equipping these mobile doctors’ offices with 4G LTE wireless technology, and enabling health IT solutions such as telemedicine, Verizon enables clinicians to access electronic health records and provide access to specialty care. Verizon technology provides real-time connections to immunization records that are required by schools but often hard for parents to produce, especially if they are living in a shelter. The technology also supports education and disease management through an innovative texting program.
Women’s Health: Empowering Women to Manage Their Care
Most women lead busy lives, as heads of households and care givers, and many cannot find enough time to visit the doctor or even take adequate care of their health. Underserved women are also diagnosed with chronic disease at greater rates and have higher mortality rates than men. If they are struggling socioeconomically, the demands of work and family combined with limited transportation, inadequate housing and other barriers can have even more negative health consequences. To address this, Verizon is working in partnership with the Society for Women’s Health Research as well as academic health centers associated with the medical departments at Johns Hopkins University and Emory University. The focus of the partnership is on improving chronic disease self-management through technology for women with socio-economic barriers to accessing care. A wireless glucometer for diabetes patients, or a wireless weight scale for heart failure patients, can transmit data to an online portal that a care manager can access, enabling clinicians and patients to work together remotely. This improves a patient’s ability to follow her clinician’s care plan and provide self management of chronic conditions for better long-term outcomes.
Senior Health: Extending Independent Living
In partnership with health centers that are members of the National Association of Community Health Centers network, Verizon is focused on using technology to enable underserved seniors with diabetes, heart and lung disease to age in place longer, with the help of remote monitoring devices and telemedicine. The longer seniors can avoid hospitalizations and assisted care, the better their long-term health outcomes will be. In addition, the changing demographics in the senior population is putting increased pressure on the health care system to find innovative ways to address chronic disease management. Community health centers are partnering with Verizon to deploy remote biometric technology in the homes of senior patients. This will enable them to send daily readings of their blood pressure, weight, glucose, or lung capacity to a care manager. The program will also utilize tablet-enabled telemedicine to improve disease education and care plan adherence.
Benefits and Impact
Effectively deployed technology can help patients more easily access care, particularly patients in underserved areas or whose socio-economic condition or advanced age makes getting care difficult. By 2016, more than 80 percent of broadband access is expected to be mobile, which in many cases will provide many people with their first and only access to the Internet via a mobile device.1 Such connectivity, combined with advanced, low-cost devices, provides unprecedented opportunities to empower people and improve health and well-being. Verizon programs integrate technology into patient-centered care models that pair technology with targeted disease education programs. This connects the ecosystem and delivers health education to those who need it the most. Empowering patients to make better health-related decisions enables improved disease management, which will result in better health outcomes. Verizon has developed a framework for measuring the social value of its philanthropic work. In health care, the company is measuring changes such as increased access to providers and improved disease management in the near-term and plans to measure health outcomes and health care costs over the long-term. During 2013, the company focused on implementing these health care initiatives and in 2014 will report impact results, which we hope will demonstrate the shared value that Verizon is creating through this and its other philanthropic programs.
Engaging individuals more fully in their health and health care and improving access to care not only improves the experience of care for patients and their families, but also improves the quality and cost-effectiveness of care. Individuals who need the most help are often the most difficult to reach. The use of mobile and online tools can significantly boost the level of engagement of hard-to-reach patient populations, by tapping into devices that nearly every American uses today. Organizations that are providing health care to medically underserved communities are increasingly leveraging technology to improve the health of vulnerable populations.Examples include online disease education resources, self-monitoring and tracking tools, electronic communications between the patient and the care team, electronic health records, remote monitoring, and telehealth, all of which have been shown to improve the effectiveness of and reduce the costs associated with outreach and engagement of individuals.
Key Take-aways for Other Employers
Community-based, technology-enabled health care programs should be designed in collaboration with forward-thinking health care organizations with proven care delivery models. Technology can increase access to health information, speed up delivery of critical care data and remove distance barriers, but it should be integrated with clinicians, patients, and families and deployed as part of a patient-centered care plan in order to have the best chance at demonstrating efficacy.
1 “Transformative Solutions for 2015 and Beyond: a Report of the Broadband Commission Task Force on Sustainable Development,” The Broadband Commission for Digital Development (International Telecommunications Union and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), September 2013. http://www.broadbandcommission.org/documents/working-groups/bb-wg-taskforce-report.pdf
Health IT plays a critical and foundational role in efforts to improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of care. Electronic health records (EHRs) and other software, combined with electronic information-sharing, enable clinicians and the entire care team, including health plans, hospitals, laboratories, and pharmacies, to share information with each other and the patient to support well-informed, higher-quality, coordinated, and convenient care. Applying analytics to electronic data sets improves the overall health of populations by helping to determine which treatments are most effective for particular conditions and patient populations, identify and predict public health threats and safety issues, and develop new therapies that address deadly and debilitating diseases. Analysis of data can also support reductions in the overall cost of health care by helping to detect and prevent fraud and abuse. New technologies also help individuals navigate their health and health care. Nearly every American is now online—whether through a computer, digital tablet, or mobile phone.1, 2 Increasingly, Americans are using these mobile and online tools to access educational resources; track their exercise and food intake or blood pressure and medication adherence; connect with communities online to share insights; and interact with the health care system. Increasingly, individuals are communicating with their clinicians using email, engaging in “virtual visits” or online care when a face-to-face visit is not needed, and connecting with their clinicians from home through remote monitoring systems. Verizon recognizes the value that health IT and other online tools bring to health and health care and has taken actions as both an employer and a technology provider to bring these tools into the hands of clinicians and patients.
Verizon’s Strategies for Improving the Health Care System
Verizon offers its employees and their dependents more flexible, convenient, and effective ways to seek and receive care through the use of online technology. Sometimes called telehealth or online care, this new kind of doctor-patient interaction will continue to grow in use and popularity. Verizon is also tackling many of the challenges associated with the use of health care technology to improve care, including enabling the convergence of biometric and medical device applications, EHRs and other clinical software, and consumer-facing tools through a remote monitoring platform to improve the quality, cost, and patient experience of care. Each of these innovative strategies is described in further detail below.
Bringing Online Care to Verizon Employees and Their Families
Verizon employees who have a health question or a common health problem do not necessarily have to contact or visit their doctor anymore. With LiveHealth Online™, in partnership with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Verizon offers workers an Internet-based communications tool to facilitate health care services. Once they have enrolled, users can choose an Anthem-approved doctor located in the user’s state and connect with him or her using a two-way video service, enabling a face-to-face conversation between doctor and patient. Just like an actual visit to the doctor’s office, this online visit is a covered benefit, and users pay only what they would pay at a regular office visit. While this service is not appropriate for emergencies, employees are encouraged to use the service whenever they have a non-life-threatening health concern and do not want to wait to see a doctor. Some of the most common uses include people with cold and flu symptoms such as a cough, fever and headaches; problems with allergies; sinus infections; and family health questions. Doctors can review patients’ health history, answer questions, and in several states may even be able to prescribe medications. Detailed records of the session can be sent directly to the patient’s regular doctor.
Mobile Health Product Enhances Patient Access to Clinician Visits
Verizon has launched a cloud-based, enterprise-class mobile health product for health systems, health plans and employers to make a clinician visit more convenient and cost-effective for their patient and member populations. Verizon Virtual Visits helps reduce visits to the emergency room for non-urgent care—estimated to run $4.4 billion in 2014 alone. In addition, the product also enables patients, who may not otherwise have convenient and timely access to care, to see a clinician for simple conditions. Verizon Virtual Visits connects patients online with a clinician through a secure app on their smartphone or tablet, or via a Web portal. Once logged in, patients are taken through a set of health-related questions followed by a discussion with a clinician, who evaluates the patient’s condition and provides an appropriate care plan. Clinicians can use the platform to electronically send a prescription to the pharmacy of the patient’s choosing, where legally permitted. Data shared between the clinician and the patient is encrypted during the online visit, as well as afterward when the data is stored in Verizon’s HIPAA-enabled Cloud. With Verizon Virtual Visits, health systems can benefit from reducing the burden on clinical staff by enabling them to see patients remotely, while health plans can help satisfy members, particularly younger generations, who are increasingly demanding more convenient and less costly options for care. Verizon Virtual Visits can also benefit employers by helping to reduce the time employees take off from work to seek care for themselves and their families.
Identity and Access Management System
The use of IT in health care requires the identification and authentication of clinicians and other members of the care team before they can access a patient’s health records electronically. Verizon’s Universal Identity Services is a cloud-based solution that reduces the risk of identity fraud with high-assurance identity credentials that are simple for providers to use and integrate with existing health care technologies.
Benefits and Impact
Several studies have shown that health IT, if effectively designed and implemented, has a positive impact on patient safety, the efficiency and effectiveness of care, and patient and provider satisfaction.3 Online care enables access to care when it would otherwise not be easily available. It also improves convenience for patients. Patient satisfaction scores for LiveHealth Online are high—over 90 percent—and 90 percent of users say it saves time. Importantly, 85 percent of users say they were able to completely resolve their medical issue by using this service. Data show that 55 percent of online visits to LiveHealth Online have required a prescription. The implications for improved health, lower costs, reduced absenteeism, and greater productivity are also significant. Remote home monitoring systems have also been shown to improve health outcomes and reduce costs.4
Despite federal investments and increasing levels of adoption of EHRs among hospitals (44 percent) and office-based physicians (40 percent), the level of interoperability and information-sharing across disparate systems remains low. 5, 6 key role in promoting electronic information-sharing across providers and interoperability across systems to support higher-quality, more cost-effective, coordinated care. The widespread adoption of online care is hampered by laws and policies regarding telehealth visits and prescription-writing that differ from state-to-state. Many states place restrictions on providing care in states where a physician is not licensed to practice. In addition, many states require a pre-existing provider-patient relationship in order for a valid prescription to be written. Currently LiveHealth Online providers in 38 states can issue prescriptions (out of 44 states that offer the service). As telehealth visits become more broadly used, these laws and policies will need to be updated to accommodate the growing demand for these efficient services. Verizon supports federal legislation and efforts to adopt a state telemedicine compact that removes legal barriers.
Accessing health care information across disparate systems is a major challenge across the entire health care ecosystem often impacting the quality and cost of care. Providers require immediate access to comprehensive and accurate patient information at the point of care, while at the same time meeting the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and other key regulations. Patients understand the need to have their personal health information available where and when they seek treatment, but they are wary of data breaches and data inaccuracies. (Under HIPPA, it’s “Protected Health Information.”)
Verizon Universal Identity Services is a cloud-based managed service that uses mulit-factor authentication to help verify that users are who they say they are. Once authenticated by the service, users can securely access online content such as websites, corporate resources and even electronic medical records from a computer, smartphone or tablet.
Combining an individual’s username-password with a computing device that generated a one-time password, Universal Identity Services is designed to meet the Level 3 authentication requirements created by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This is an alternative to traditional solutions and provides a fast, flexible and secure way for health care organizations to implement multi-factor authentication while also helping health care organizations address their complex challenges of protecting patient information and minimizing fraud.
By simplifying and standardizing the authentication experience, Universal Identity Services can be used to enable a wide range of activities across the health care ecosystem. It can:
• Authenticate health care provider identities according to strict NIST standards.
• Give providers flexible, efficient, secure access to e-prescribing applications and electronic authentication.
• Decrease time spent on logging into various systems enabling providers to focus on direct patient care.
• Assist health care organizations with addressing applicable security requirements for strong authentication.
• Reduce the risk of identity fraud, helping to maintain patient privacy, manage costs, and protect brand reputation.
Key Take-aways for Other Employers
To help address escalating health care costs, employers will continue to look for innovative and lower-cost solutions, including those that leverage technology. New technologies, along with cloud computing and enhanced data storage capabilities, will help providers manage their patient base more comprehensively, especially in collaboration with other treating physicians for the same patients; help patients with their decision-making on the best and most cost-effective treatment options; connect clinicians with their patients when a face-to-face visit is not feasible or needed, to improve access to and convenience of care; and safely store larger amounts of health information for use in clinical decision support at the point of care. By partnering with health plans to communicate expectations about the importance of provider adoption of EHRs and electronic information-sharing and reinforcing such messages through incentive structures, employers can play a critical role in advancing the development of the much-needed electronic information infrastructure required for transforming the U.S. health care system. Also, by leveraging online, mobile, and other electronic tools to engage individuals in their health and health care and improve their connections to the health care system, employers can improve outcomes in both cost and quality.
1 Maeve Duggan and Aaron Smith, “Cell Internet Use 2013,” Pew Research Center: Internet Project, September 2013. http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/09/16/cell-internet-use-2013/
2 Aaron Smith, “Smartphone Ownership—2013 Update,” Pew Research Center: Internet Project, June 2013. http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/06/05/smartphone-ownership-2013/
3 Melinda Beeuwkes Buntin et al., “The Benefits of Health Information Technology: A Review Of The Recent Literature Shows Predominantly Positive Results,” Health Affairs, 2011. 30, no. 3: 464–471, doi: 10.1377. http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/30/3/464.abstract?sid=b56672b9-8d30-49b3-9a61-ed0c2e673732
4 “Optimizing Telehealth in California: An Agenda for Today and Tomorrow,” California Telemedicine and eHealth Center Telehealth Optimization Initiative Center, January 2009. http://www.cahpf.org/GoDocUserFiles/488.CTEC%20Telemedicine%20Brief.pdf
5 Chun-Ju Hsiao et al., “Office-Based Physicians Are Responding To Incentives And Assistance By Adopting And Using Electronic Health Records,” Health Affairs, 2013. 32, no. 8, doi: 10.1377. http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/32/8/1470.abstract?sid=39833bb7-67cc-4337-9362-ccc425462a45
6 Catherine M. DesRoches et al., “Adoption of Electronic Health Records Grows Rapidly, But Fewer Than Half Of US Hospitals Had At Least A Basic System In 2012,” Health Affairs, 2013. 32, no.8, doi: 10.1377. http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/32/8/1478.abstract?sid=db3f6273-4c21-4a2a-93c9-d91b68bb6cde