David Contorno and Morse-Schindler No one truly owns the benefits experience, according to Doug Morse-Schindler, and that causes the experience itself to be broken. (Photo: Daniel Williams/ALM)

The health care industry has a technology problem.

While that statement may not be earth-shattering, it needs to be repeated until its resolved, according to David Contorno, president of Lake Norman Benefits. In a wide-ranging conversation yesterday at the 2018 BenefitsPRO Broker Expo, Contorno and Doug Morse-Schindler, president and co-founder of HealthJoy, discussed the big technology gap in the health care industry and offered solutions on what can be done.

The experience

No one truly owns the benefits experience, according to Morse-Schindler, and that causes the experience itself to be broken. “It’s fragmented,” he said. “There’s not a single place where a consumer can go for any type of guidance or answers. There’s not a single constituency.”

Morse-Schindler added that “when we begin to look at what a solution might look like” it might be found in the efforts of outsiders to the industry. “We have JP Morgan, Berkshire-Hathaway and Amazon coming together to look for smart ideas about what health care is going to look like at least within their organizations.”

He said at this point it’s unclear what those solutions will eventually look like, but “the main thing they will be focused on is the experience. We’ve seen Amazon do that in their own marketplace, and ultimately, we need to follow suit if we’re going to fix any of this.”

The Amazon marketplace

The Amazon experience in its retail business is one Contorno would like to see replicated in the health care space. “When I go to Amazon, I can type in a search for something,” he said. When he does that it’s not a closed system. “Its not just Amazon products that pop up. It’s also the independent sellers. This allows me to make a comparison to everything else in the marketplace all in one shot. We need to be able to do that.”

Consumers want and need that type of one-stop shopping in their health care service, Contorno said. For now, they’re left calling the doctor, then the pharmacy, and possibly a provider or some other entity. He agreed with Morse-Schindler that the current process is fragmented, burdensome and frustrating.

Access to data

“The single biggest issue holding us back from making the overall service easier to use,” said Morse-Schindler. “is being unable to access the data that we need in order to provide that personalized service consumers want.

He said he understands the need to be sensitive to people’s privacy, particularly in light of the issues of late regarding Facebook and consumer data. “But we need to find a balance. We need to find some middle ground where we can communicate with consumers about their prescriptions and under health needs without alienating them or making them feel like it’s an invasion of privacy.”

Close the gap

There are no easy solutions to solving the data problem, according to Contorno, but a major step will be in gaining better access to data. “Obviously we need data,” he said. “And that’s going to be another roadblock with the large carriers. They feel the customer data is their and they don’t want to share it, but if we’re going to be successful, we need centralized data. That’s what made Amazon successful. It’s what made Uber successful. And it’s what we need to make health care successful.”