November 16, 2023 Episode 60

Deciphering the New Normal (Part 3): Humana’s Chief Strategy & Corporate Development Officer, Dr. Vishal Agrawal

As a “payvider” that has a strong mix of both payer and provider in its DNA, Humana offers a unique perspective for advancing the value-based model as every organization in healthcare works to shape and adjust to the new normal.

Deciphering the New Normal (Part 3): Humana’s Chief Strategy & Corporate Development Officer, Dr. Vishal Agrawal

The previous two episodes of Healthcare is Hard explored the “new normal” from the provider perspective with heads of strategy at an innovative regional health system, OhioHealth, and one of the nation’s largest, CommonSpirit. For the third episode in this series, Keith Figlioli welcomes Humana’s Chief Strategy and Corporate Development Officer, Dr. Vishal Agrawal, to shift the discussion towards payers and how they’re adjusting to the post-COVID world.

Today, Humana is one of the nation’s largest health insurers that also provides payer-agnostic primary care, home health and pharmacy services through its CenterWell brand. However, delivering health care services is not new to Humana. The company’s roots date back to the 1960s where it began as a nursing home business, and by the 1990s, it grew to become the nation’s largest hospital company. While its care delivery assets eventually merged into HCA Healthcare as the company focused on insurance, this deep history provides a unique advantage as the industry continues its shift towards value.

In this episode of Healthcare Is Hard, Dr. Agrawal shared some of the strategic priorities for Humana as he helps the organization navigate the new normal in healthcare. Some of the issues he discussed with Keith include:

  • Breaking the facility-centric model. The pandemic forced healthcare organizations to think differently about where and how they operate, accelerating the adoption digital and in-home solutions. For Humana, Dr. Agrawal describes how this was a focusing mechanism to help the company think about what it does best, and how it could enhance and integrate those pieces to deliver a more omni-channel approach to healthcare that people desire. This included doubling-down on the primary care, home health and pharmacy services Humana delivers through CenterWell and creating an integrated delivery system with a core focus of keeping people healthy. With this strategy, and a business especially well-suited for the Medicare Advantage payment model, Humana also announced in early 2023 that it would exit the commercial insurance market to focus on government-funded programs.
  • Chronic care management. In a health system that was designed around the fee for service model and does a wonderful job treating conditions for sick care, Dr. Agrawal believes one of the biggest missing pieces is a similar focus on chronic care management. He’s excited about the opportunity for building an integrated delivery network (IDN) that brings together high touch areas that can manage chronic health conditions more proactively, and is optimistic about the ability of the Medicare Advantage model to help push the industry in that direction.
  • Removing waste from the system. Dr. Agrawal points out the extreme waste in the healthcare system – which by some estimates surpasses $1 trillion annually – and how eliminating that waste should be a key focus for everyone. He talks about opportunities for reducing avoidable admissions and ER visits by keeping people healthier and innovating in areas like nephrology, cardiology or oncology where much of the disease and health burden exists.
  • Consumer choice & personalization. Healthcare is intrinsically personal and as a result, requires many different options for people to choose what’s right for them. Dr. Agrawal describes how Humana is tailoring plans to meet these needs and uses the example of the Humana Honors Plan that it built in partnership with USAA around the capabilities of the Veterans Health Administration. He believes we’ll see more customization in areas like this as healthcare becomes a more consumer-driven market.

To hear Keith and Dr. Agrawal talk about these topics and more, listen to this episode of Healthcare is Hard: A Podcast for Insiders.