2016 #OWHIC Summit Preview: Accolade’s Tom Spann on the Magic Formula for Consumer Engagement


How Accolade integrates behavioral science, consumer insights, advanced technology, and personal touches to spur consumer engagement.

Tom Spann

5 min read

Digital health company Accolade made headlines recently when it announced it raised $70 million in new funding. The Philadelphia-based company provides healthcare concierge services to employers, health plans, and health systems. It marries highly personalized service with high-tech analytics and data mining to help consumers navigate their health benefits and healthcare experience. Tom Spann, Accolade’s Co-Founder, Vice Chairman, and COO, is a featured speaker at the upcoming Oliver Wyman Health Innovation Summit. He will join a Main Stage discussion on how to convert a fundamental understanding of human behavior into high-impact relationships and sustained value. A preview:

Oliver Wyman Health: Accolade is built on its consumer engagement platform, which (in turn) is built on “influence science.” Can you explain the concept of influence science?

Tom Spann: According to Accolade advisor Robert Cialdini, author of the book Influence, influence science integrates neurosciences and social sciences to help us understand how our knowledge of an individual, and how we relate and interact with that individual (and other influencers), can influence decisions and behavior. At its simplest, it allows us to use science, which applies across all cultures, to highly personalize each interaction – regardless of channel – and optimize our ability to help each consumer make and act on better decisions.

OWH: How have you been able to strike the right balance or combination of human touch and high-tech tools for behavior change?

TS: We started with the consumer and studied what they needed. From there, we determined where we could apply a human touch and technology. Since consumers wanted and needed one trusted place to go, our initial focus was on humans as the “presentation layer,” with each interaction supported by strong technology that integrated a broad set of clinical and benefits content, data, and workflow. Only by harnessing the power of intelligent technologies could we create a product that could so completely meet such a broad set of needs while also delivering an exceptional experience.

Consumers need help with the complexities and fragmentation of healthcare. To do that, they need a single engagement platform that can handle any condition at any point on the care continuum by addressing each person as the unique individual they are – someone with not only clinical needs, but life context, emotions, and aspirations. These consumer challenges are the key driver behind the 40 percent of healthcare spend that is either unproductive or unnecessary. This is unsustainable, particularly for employers struggling to manage skyrocketing employee healthcare costs. Consumer healthcare engagement must be an enterprise priority.

However, consumer needs are varied and constantly evolving. Consumers want the option to engage with someone personally, online and through mobile channels, especially when it comes to managing their health. So we extend this integrated approach to continuously improve and evolve our solution with meaningful data derived from insights on life context and personal circumstances, to the costs associated with individual decisions and the impact on outcomes. Our platform gets more intelligent over time, continually learning and optimizing its recommendations – both in real-time, as our relationships uncover more data about each individual, and collectively using machine learning to better tailor our influence. Both data science and natural language processing help enable our solution and our Health Assistants to make a real difference.

Armed with timely, integrated data – information on benefits, claims and biometrics, to data on providers, programs, community resources, and apps – along with unique data from real-time conversations, we can curate the options available in a highly personalized way.

We start with culture and then design everything while viewing the consumer as a real person with needs and dreams and problems and stories that would lift you up and break your heart. - Tom Spann, Accolade

OWH: Healthcare has long struggled in the area of consumer satisfaction. People are focusing on it now, but catching up to the Amazons/Zappos of the world can seem overwhelming. Where is the best place to start in improving customer services/satisfaction?

TS: Start with the customer. Ask people what they want, figure out what they want even if they don’t know what it is, build products that create an awesome consumer experience, and be authentic in your approach. You must put your business plan behind the mission, which in our case is to reinvent the healthcare experience for millions of people. It may be a radical mission, but we’re on the path.

Healthcare professionals and employers alike want to do the right thing, yet we still see behaviors in direct contradiction to that – not sharing data, adding speedbumps to quality care access, and not communicating with patients or families, just to name a few. There is a reason Net Promoter and Trust Index scores are so low in healthcare. It is not bad intention, but it is a failure not to focus on earning consumer trust. And once you’ve lost trust, you’ve lost the ability to make a meaningful difference.

At Accolade, our Net Promoter Score is in the 70s, far above the below-20 level scores that are commonplace in healthcare. This is because we start with culture and then design everything while viewing the consumer as a real person with needs and dreams and problems and stories that would lift you up and break your heart. Not as a revenue source. Not as someone you need to do something “to” in order to “fix.” Not as someone who will try to take advantage of you. Treat them like you would the person you care about most in the world.

  • Tom Spann