Shelly Lanning on How Employers Can Reduce Costs by Bridging Gaps in Women's Health Care


In a presentation at the Greater Philadelphia Business Coalition on Health Women’s Health Summit, Shelly Lanning, cofounder and president of Visana Health, addressed the need for comprehensive approaches in women’s health care and their coverage options.

Shelly Lanning | Image Credit: Visana Health

Shelly Lanning | Image Credit: Visana Health

In a presentation at the Greater Philadelphia Business Coalition on Health (GPBCH) Women’s Health Summit, Shelly Lanning, cofounder and president of Visana Health, addressed the need for comprehensive approaches in women’s health care and their coverage options. Her presentation explored the spectrum of women’s health needs and raised key points stressing the significant repercussions of neglecting women's health concerns, particularly those of gynecological conditions and reproductive health.

According to data from the World Economic Forum, employers see 25% more costs from women during their commercial time of life when compared with men. Lanning used this statistic to point out that women experience most of their health needs before the age of 45, suggesting the imperative to improve health care options for women as well as their employers.

The timeline in which women most require access to health care primarily falls within their childbearing years, which often coincides with a prominent and demanding time in their careers, Lanning explained. For men, the bulk of attention needed for their health care is shown to occur around the age of retirement.

Shifting to the barriers brought on by a lack of female representation in research studies, she spoke about how pharmaceutical companies face challenges in conducting clinical trials for women due to menstrual cycle fluctuations. The standard for testing requirements often demands regular menstrual cycles, leading to increased costs and logistical complexities because the hormonal impacts of even a regular cycle need to be considered. Without having to factor in menstrual cycles, the sponsor can enroll fewer people in the trial to attain their results, according to Lanning.

The lack of comprehensive data on women's health has a “devastating” impact, leading to significant challenges in understanding and addressing the specific needs of women.

“Ninety percent of all women's concerns fall outside of family building,” Lanning said. “Seventy-three percent of them—that’s a full two-thirds or three-quarters—don't get adequate treatment or treatment in a timely process for those conditions. Forty-five percent of all women—that is almost half of every single one of your female employees—have a gynecology surgery, and most of them happen before 45 years old.”

There’s an economic rationale for prioritizing women's health care, she explained. A substantial percentage of women do not receive adequate treatment for gynecological conditions, leading to adverse outcomes and therefore increased costs. Surgical interventions, such as hysterectomies and cesarean deliveries, are prevalent among women, highlighting the urgency for improved preventive care and treatment options.

Lanning shared how Visana not only aims to be a solution for women’s health within the medical field by addressing some of these gaps but how it can also help mitigate payer costs. Nestled within a real obstetrician-gynecologist clinic, Visana offers virtual access to medical services, specializing in comprehensive clinical care. Supported by extensive research, Lanning adds that Visana was developed with critical insights into the challenges faced by women seeking medical attention, especially for acute conditions that require immediate attention.

In Visana's clinical trials, the findings identified one prevalent issue is the difficulty in accessing timely care, especially for conditions such as contraception, urinary tract infections, and sexually transmitted infections. Beyond that there are many conditions that require ongoing management.

“What we found in the data from your constituents is that you’re going to have to spend money on people [who have] no special condition,” Lanning said. “But when you start adding conditions they become expensive, and although they’re smaller numbers, the people with a lot of comorbidities, those are the ones who cost an extraordinary amount of money.”

One of the most compelling findings she shared from the research was the prevalence of comorbidities among patients. Women who seek care at Visana presented with an average of 3.6 different comorbidities, representing the interconnected nature of women's health issues.

The findings also revealed the 3 biggest driving interests of health benefit providers were menopause, avoidable surgeries, and preventive care. These same aspects of care come with many of the obstacles women encounter in traditional care settings, resulting in the gaps seen within the scope of women's health.

With 1 in 5 women considering leaving the workforce due to menopause, and 45% of women needing gynecologic surgery, combined with 1 in 3 women who delayed a pap smear or mammogram, there’s ample room to address urgent gaps in care and also reduce the need for health plan spending. While almost half of women undergo surgery, costing $19,203, most of the time (76%) surgery could have been avoided.

With a focus on the interests of health benefit providers, Lanning explained that partnering with Visana offers excellent cost-effective care with easy contracting to work toward better outcomes for patients and payers.

“The most important aspect is the data—being able to say it's a clinical model that makes it super easy,” she said. “It's a clinical model that provides great outcomes that women like, we have a really great [Net Promoter] Score that we're proud of, and we can show that we demonstrate savings.”

When asked about key advice she has for employers, Lanning said making care accessible and affordable is critical. Virtual-first care options do both. Visana works within the health benefits team to identify symptoms instead of diagnoses for claims and offers webinars and resources to work with their employer clients on ways to reduce avoidable costs.

“There are a lot of opportunities—work with your pharmacy benefits and you can dramatically reduce your costs by streamlining what you already have in formulary,” she explained. “So, a lot of times it’s about simply having access to a lower cost and knowing where to look for that.”

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