‘Obamacare’ is disrupting the whole US healthcare system – and at the time of writing, much of the rest of the government of the United States. In 2010, one of the biggest insurers in the US had the foresight to disrupt its own business model before the politicians did it for them. Regence BlueCross Blue Shield had been a business-to-business company for a century. Now it needed to understand its consumers.
CEO Mark Ganz called in Sense Worldwide to help. We took senior executives into the lives of people who couldn’t be described in an actuarial table or Powerpoint deck.
If you’re getting to know your customer from a powerpoint deck, you’re doing it wrong.
We took senior executives from Regence BCBS on a journey through the highs and lows of the US healthcare system; we visited a ‘health tourist’ who’d flown to Singapore for an operation. We spoke to somebody who was getting informal diagnoses from a moonlighting health professional and was then ordering prescription meds from Mexico. We hung out with a Hells Angel with multiple incurable conditions who would ride his Harley through the Utah desert as a form of pain relief. It was a humbling, emotional journey, and it brought the Regence executives to some powerful epiphanies about their careers.
Life services? No thanks.
Regence executives had hypothesised that their company could expand into financial ‘life services’ like retirement plans and mortgages. But consumers rejected these kind of extensions strongly. When we talked to Americans about health, the conversation almost always turned into a broader discussion about the quality of their lives. This is where Sense consultants abandoned the pre-planned lines of enquiry and picked up on the kind of big, latent need that changes a whole industry.
Quality of life services? Yes please.
Contextual research backed up the findings in our interviews. Americans have one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world, but a lower quality of life. And they’re increasingly angry about it. There was a space for a company to address that issue. The CMO called our strategy, ‘Pure genius’. Regence has renamed itself Cambia, and is offering ‘quality of life services,’ including an award-winning wellness app and a chain of gyms.
While many healthcare companies are quailing before the proposed healthcare reforms, Cambia is already two years ahead, offering a better quality of life to its growing customer base.