Humana CEO Mike McCallister, no fan of the way national health care reform was handled, has long been on his own mission to rein in massive health care costs.
It's a mission that has taken McCallister from the health insurer's Louisville headquarters to Washington to his latest stop Friday: a Humana outpost in St. Petersburg that he believes holds one of the cost-cutting keys.
The fledgling operation here, called Humana Cares, targets preventive care and follow-up care in a nonhospital setting, namely the comfort of a member's home. Since opening its doors in the Carillon business park just shy of two years ago, Humana Cares has exploded from 200 employees to 820 workers today. And it's still growing.
Within the Humana organization, "this will be the business group likely to grow the fastest," McCallister said. That's saying something for a company that has nearly tripled its workforce since McAllister became CEO a decade ago, growing into one of the nation's largest health insurers with over 35,000 employees and $34 billion in annual revenue.
Humana is best-known as Florida's biggest Medicare health-benefits company. It operates its national Medicare marketing and customer service call centers in east Tampa. All told, it has more than 2,000 bay area workers making it one of the region's biggest employers.
The Humana Cares unit offers counseling over the phone and through home visits for those ailing from a variety of illnesses. Some of its nurses work at Carillon making calls to members; some work out of their homes.
On Friday, McCallister made his first visit to the operation to showcase new technology that he hopes will raise preventive care — and cost savings — to a new level. In a pilot program, Humana is setting up remote health monitoring stations in members' homes to communicate directly with its nurses.
Initially, the insurer is targeting congestive heart failure patients, giving them devices to monitor their blood pressure, weight, heart rate and other vitals on a daily basis with results automatically inputted into the system. Weight gain and higher blood pressure are both possible signs of a heart problem.
The set-up includes an interactive program to quiz members about medical changes and a computer monitor to video-conference as needed with a specific Humana nurse assigned to them.
Other companies have experimented with home health video conferencing. "It's the combination of the case manager with the technology that makes this stand out," said Humana Cares president Jean Bisio.
The 18-month-long pilot, which costs less than $3 million, was developed through technology developed by Intel-GE Care Innovations. It's gradually being rolled out to about 2,000 members, but McCallister envisions it going far further.
Programs like this, he said, will be critical to cutting health care waste. Anywhere from 15 to 50 percent of all health care costs are "non-value added," McAllister said — costs such as unnecessary emergency room and clinic visits.
"We're trying to change the entire dynamic," he said. "It's not just (members') health care … but their wellness."