Straight from the CEO: Built for You, Not Us

David Holmberg Highmark CEO

David Holmberg, chief executive officer, Highmark Health

At HLTH 2022 last year, Highmark Health, Google Cloud and League announced the first iteration of the integrated health experience platform that is central to our Living Health strategy. Some health plan members are already using the My Highmark app, our “digital front door” to that platform, and nearly all members will be on the platform by end of year.

This is an exciting milestone for our organization, and we’re grateful for the attention it has received. At the same time, this isn’t about us. Our consumer-focused business strategy is about meeting people where they prefer, understanding their needs, and building a health, coverage and care ecosystem around what matters to them and their clinicians. They will judge how well we’re delivering on that promise with My Highmark and our growing suite of connected solutions to support physical, mental and social health. And they will shape the ongoing investments and improvements in the Living Health model in the years ahead.

If the system makes it harder to be healthy, we need a better system

Our organization invests heavily in listening to and understanding the people we serve. From a consumer perspective, Living Health can be viewed as our long-term commitment to fixing three nationwide pain points that make it harder to be healthy.

First is cost. Health care spending now makes up almost 20% of our economy. That’s a problem for the nation — and it’s even more troubling when you think about it at the household level. Across a wide range of incomes and situations, too many people are struggling to afford the combined cost of insurance, care, prescriptions, and just making healthier choices.

A second pain point is that the health system is too fragmented — people experience a lot of friction and frustration as they bounce between the many disconnected players and point solutions. It’s confusing, hard to navigate, and all the more stressful when someone is already worried and tense because of a health problem.

A third pain point is that people don't feel like they have the clear information and guidance they need to make decisions and understand next steps. You may feel good about a specific interaction with a doctor or program, but outside those interactions — a.k.a., most of your life — there isn’t much guidance to help you connect the dots and succeed on your health journey.

We’ve been working these problems from multiple angles for years. Leadership in value-based care and outcomes-based prescription drug agreements are examples of addressing costs. Our blended health approach removes much of the fragmentation that came from lack of alignment between payers and providers. And we’ve made progress in delivering a more connected, comprehensible health experience through coordinated care models, care navigators, human-centered design principles in our facilities and processes, and simplified communications.

These and many other improvements across our system are important, but we have to go beyond that. With My Highmark and the integrated digital health platform, it’s no longer “just about “our” system”, it’s about your system — a platform that is highly personalized to your situation and needs, and can become a natural, holistic extension of your everyday health experience.

user interface of the highmark plan app

A trusted one-stop shop for health consumers

When you shop on platforms like, you appreciate the convenience of being able to log on and get access to a wide range of brands and products. The platform makes it easy to do what you want to do — searching and comparing options, making a purchase, payment, getting notifications and reminders. Your profile, preference settings, and data help customize the experience. If you use a platform regularly, it’s likely that there’s also an element of trust — you know that your data is secure, that what is on the platform has been vetted, and that you’ll be able to get help if needed.

The traditional health experience has been almost the opposite of that. But My Highmark is a big step toward creating the simple, personalized “one-stop shop” that health consumers want. Instead of fragmenting your health experience across multiple sites and apps, one sign-on will get you onto a platform that integrates care plans, virtual and digital health options, coverage information, bill payment, prescriptions, and more. Because the platform is designed to maximize interoperability, it will be easy to continue adding integrations and solutions — whether that’s a program specific to a chronic condition you’re managing like diabetes, a wellness offering through your employer, or a wearable device or app you use. As is true across our entire business, you can also trust that solutions and partners available through the platform have met our criteria for reliable, evidence-based, quality care.

Having more of your experience on one platform — with access to the tools and resources that are most relevant to you — will make it easier to engage in your health in meaningful, day-to-day ways, not just when you’re at a doctor’s office or having a problem. Just as important, the platform will use your data and preferences to provide helpful guidance, reminders and “next best actions” that help you stay healthy and manage your care. As it continues to evolve, the platform will also expand how you can interact with primary care physicians, specialists, and other members of your health team.

Getting back to that first pain point — cost — whether it’s one individual or an entire population, costs naturally come down if you achieve better overall health, earlier diagnosis and treatment, and more effective management of chronic conditions. Some of that can be driven by care providers, health plans, and investments in social determinants of health. But it also depends on personal engagement. We believe that if we simplify navigating and managing health, give people the right tools, resources, and guidance, and make sure the experience feels personalized and relevant, they will engage in their health more proactively, more often, and more effectively. That will have a real impact on total cost of care — and quality of life as well.

Living Health focuses our organization on delivering a simpler, more personalized and proactive health experience. The new platform will do that, literally, every time you log on.

Don’t fall in love with your real estate: Focusing on consumer needs

There’s a saying in retail: “Don’t fall in love with your real estate.” In other words, you might open a retail store and it’s a great location, great design, a perfect fit for your customers. This year. But a few years down the road, that might not be true. If you’re thinking too much about your real estate instead of staying laser-focused on your customer, you might miss the signals telling you that you need to move to remain relevant.

I think much of the health industry has struggled with that focus on the real estate — sometimes literally, but also in the sense of protecting past investments and decisions, legacy business models, even outdated approaches to health care.

We’ve taken a very different approach at Highmark Health — we’ve really tried to create a learning culture that’s constantly leaning in to understand consumer needs and embrace and respond to change. The integrated health experience platform we’ve launched has that kind of flexibility and responsiveness built into it. Your health situation will change over time — and that same My Highmark app and platform can change right along with you, with new tools and resources added to support the new needs or goals you have.

Similarly, from an organizational perspective, this platform is a foundation we will continuously build on, improve, and scale. That mindset isn’t limited to the technology — whether it’s insurance products or digital health solutions or home-based care services or anything else, Living Health is about building the best we can right now, but also being ready to upgrade or replace what we’ve created as customer needs, technological innovation, and market conditions change.

By:  David Holmberg

Originally Posted: February 10, 2023 on Highmark Health

David L. Holmberg is president and chief executive officer of Highmark Health.

This article was first published in Highmark Health Digital Magazine and is used with permission.

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