Cable provider Comcast and insurance group join forces in healthcare partnership

The unique initiative pairs a health insurer with a cable corporation with the goal of improving access to healthcare through health education content and telemedicine.

Cross-industry deals and ventures are all the rage in the healthcare industry at the moment whether its retail and insurance through the proposed CVS Health and Aetna deal, pharma and health IT via Roche’s acquisition of oncology analytics business Flatiron Health, and whatever online retail giant Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway are cooking up in their joint venture. In a variation on this theme, Independent Blue Cross parent company Independence Health Group and Comcast have formed a healthcare partnership crossing the streams of health insurance and cable.

Although the news release is short on details, the initiative is expected to provide educational content and telemedicine services, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Independence Blue Cross and Comcast have been working on this effort for at least a year, a source familiar with the deal said. The web-based tool they’ve developed is intended to give patients access to healthcare information that’s relevant to them. The plan is for Comcast and Independence Blue Cross to make the new program accessible nationally, across multiple distribution channels and devices, according to a news release.

Daniel Hilferty, Independence Blue Cross CEO, said that the two companies were exploring how best to use technology to help consumers access healthcare services.

Brian Lobley, president of commercial and consumer markets at Independence Blue Cross, offered an example of how the service could be utilized for someone recovering from knee replacement surgery, according to the Inquirer

We’re going to use all of the data that we have from both companies and actually be able to create specific journeys for you, Lobley said. Two knee replacement paths are not the same depending on your age, depending on your weight, depending on other conditions.

It sounds like the “platform”, as it is described, could be used as a marketplace to host various types of digital health tools, particularly companies with a business model that supports reimbursement.

IBC and Comcast are expected to begin pilots of their new initiative in the second half of the year, according to the Inquirer.

A little more light has been shed on Amazon’s joint venture with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway thanks in part to a letter from JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon who highlighted how digital and virtual technologies could address some of the biggest costs in healthcare on page 40 as part of a review of 2017 and challenges that lay ahead.

He noted that the joint venture between the three groups will hire a strong management team and figure out ways to apply big data, virtual technology, better customer engagement and better customer choice. Among the issues the collaboration will set out to address are misaligned incentives, developing better wellness programs — particularly around obesity and smoking, figuring out ways to reduce healthcare waste and fraud, addressing overutilization and underutilization of specialized medicines, and the rising cost of end-of-life care.