Oregon Business – Supplemental Care: The Next Frontier of Healthcare Innovation

According to FirstLine Benefits, traditional health care, adept at identifying morbidities and responding with medical interventions, is just the beginning of the potential impact of health care. The complementary care provider offers proactive, over-the-counter care options that help health plans reduce costs, health insurers and employers differentiate themselves, and consumers lead healthier lives.

Serving members since 2004, FirstLine Benefits enables organizations to provide over-the-counter healthcare and grocery store benefits to its consumers, eclipsing standard healthcare offerings. Individuals can order from more than 750 products, from Tylenol to bandages. Thanks to the company’s strong relationships with manufacturers, this list includes in-demand items made scarce by supply chain issues.

What started as an over-the-counter skincare platform has since grown into a suite of innovative products.

“We found that people appreciated when we made suggestions and grouped products. So we started to play with that more,” recalls Sana Hashmi, Vice President of FirstLine Benefits. “We realized it was helpful to create a well-thought-out, organized kit that meets a need.”

Sana Hashmi, Vice President of FirstLine Benefits

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the company mailed more than 200,000 care kits containing preventative items, such as masks and hand sanitizer, on behalf of a healthcare customer. A flurry of positive social media activity followed, with recipients posting photos of their kits and letters of appreciation.

“When you have a great experience at the doctor, you’re probably not going to write about it. But if your health plan or your employer sends you an organized kit with really nice things you can use, you’re more likely to engage and provide feedback,” adds Hashmi. “This leads to better engagement and better retention.”

Boxes organized and delivered to homes already exist in other sectors, such as food and fashion. FirstLine Benefits’ preventative care kits, called Ready Sets™, bring the same client-centric approach to healthcare. Out-of-the-box kits make it easy for organizations to offer personalized white-label care kits, including touches like a welcome letter and helpful training to achieve the kit’s specific purpose.

Each care kit reflects the daily practical needs associated with a specific consumption goal, while supporting the strategic goals of insurers and employers. Importantly, content can be quickly adapted to changing public health needs and policies.

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“Research shows that small objects can make a huge difference, and that’s something the public has witnessed during COVID. Suddenly the power of hand sanitizers and face masks was understood,” says She said, “I think at that time people were shocked to learn that not everyone had the money to buy these items.”

After witnessing a growing public appetite for proactive management, FirstLine Benefits expanded into new areas of need that offered the potential to innovate.

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Three lines of Ready Sets are currently available: Ready Set Prevent for cold and flu season includes face masks, hand sanitizer, vitamin C and other items that help prevent the spread of disease. Ready Set Begin includes portion containers, a pedometer, digital scale, educational resources and additional tools to help with weight management and active living. Ready Set Steady equips the home for independent living to prevent travel injuries.

Then, a kit for new moms is in preparation and another organized around seasonal stress, such as holidays.

“When you start moving away from traditional hospital benefits, your employees see that you care about them holistically,” says Hashmi. “When you offer benefits like this, people are excited to come to work and you attract more talent. Everyone provides medical and dental care, so you stand out as an employer by offering care for sale free that meet people’s needs.

For example, imagine being sent home from the hospital to recover from hip replacement surgery. At the same time, a Ready Set Steady box arrives at the door. It includes a nightlight, shower stool and non-slip socks, all tools that prevent injury during this vulnerable time.

OTC benefits remove the barriers between consumers and OTC care, providing them with a convenient and responsive alternative to an immediate hospital or emergency room visit. Consumers are more likely to choose budget options when over-the-counter items are covered by their plan and can be purchased online or at pharmacies using a preloaded debit card.

A FirstLine Benefits study confirmed that supplemental programs can significantly reduce health plan costs. He found that when a specific plan incorporated OTC benefits, hospital admissions and emergency room visits dropped by 39.8 and 26.4 percent, respectively. Avoidable admissions fell by 47.2% and the readmission rate by 41.4%. These changes saved the 20,000-member plan featured in the study an estimated total of $10.5 million per year.

The only measure that has seen an increase? Member retention: up 8.6%.

Data collected during Ready Set campaigns further strengthens an organization’s engagement strategy. FirstLine Benefits produces bespoke reports that provide insight into member engagement and inform steps towards further optimization.

Ready Sets will continue to evolve, meeting the dynamic needs of individuals and breaking down barriers to life-changing over-the-counter care.

“Most people don’t spend 80% of the day in hospitals. I hope one day health plans will build products with proactive health in mind: Do new parents have access to diapers and formula? Do my clients have access to food? concludes Hashmi. “Let’s build products with those things in mind first.


Brand Stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share information about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues. Stories are produced in-house by Oregon Business’ marketing department. For more information, contact Associate Editor Courtney Kutzman.

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