Making Healthy Choices Easy with Stephen Mitchley, Chief Strategy Officer at The Vitality Group Inc.
Episode 525

Stephen Mitchley, Chief Strategy Officer at The Vitality Group Inc.

Making Healthy Choices Easy

In this episode, we interview Stephen Mitchley, Chief Strategy Officer of The Vitality Group. Stephen discusses how his company incentivizes healthy living and how it’s serving both the insurers and the wellness community. He also shares his insights on navigating the market as both the insurer and employer, improving outcomes through behavior change, the importance of customer feedback, and a few other resources on how to handle this Covid19 pandemic if you’re in the business side of healthcare. We’ve enjoyed our discussion with Stephen and we hope you do too!

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Making Healthy Choices Easy with Stephen Mitchley, Chief Strategy Officer at The Vitality Group Inc.

Episode 525

 

Making Healthy Choices Easy with Stephen Mitchley, Chief Strategy Officer at The Vitality Group Inc. transcript powered by Sonix—easily convert your audio to text with Sonix.

Making Healthy Choices Easy with Stephen Mitchley, Chief Strategy Officer at The Vitality Group Inc. was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best audio automated transcription service in 2020. Our automated transcription algorithms works with many of the popular audio file formats.

Saul Marquez:
Welcome back to the podcast. Today, I had the privilege of hosting Stephen Mitchley. He’s the chief strategy officer that leads Vitality Group, digital and global partner disciplines. He brings 25 years of experience and expertise in overseeing operations and technology to the vitality group product team. Mr. Mitchley join Vitality Groups, Parents, South Africa based Discovery Holdings Ltd. in 2000, and he’s had exposure across the group leading large scale process reengineering activities and designing and building operations for new products and services. Prior to helping found the Vitality Group as chief operating officer in 2007, he headed up the Business Solutions Division responsible for broad operating model design, quality management, resource planning, data integrity, business intel and system support. He’s an outstanding leader in health care, but also a mechanical engineer by training that also, he also received his master’s degree with papers published internationally. It’s such a privilege to have Stephen join us today. We’ll be discussing a lot of different things, especially around behavior change platforms and making choices easier. So, such a pleasure to have you here with us. Stephen, thanks so much for joining.

Stephen Mitchley:
Yeah, absolutely so.

Saul Marquez:
So tell me more, Stephen, about what inspires your work in health care.

Stephen Mitchley:
I joined about 20 years ago and I was attracted to vitality. That’s a public communication around its values and its core purpose, which was to make people healthier. They’ve expanded that a little bit to making people healthier and protecting and enhancing their lifestyles. But the idea that you could join a company that wasn’t trying to beat the competition but was really trying to make a difference that attracted me to the company. And we have eight values that have subscribes as you join. And there’s a real sense of commitment to this noble purpose of making people who are dealing with our teammates. Yeah. I have a difficult day from time to time, as we all do. But I’m always brought back to this idea that as bad as my day was, the actions and the effort that we’ve all put in has actually made a difference in somebody’s life. So that that inspires me to work in the space as opposed to mining engineering.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, yeah. And I think that’s a really strong purpose. And I think what motivates a lot of us in healthcare. What would you say makes what your business does are, you know, really kind of around the healthcare ecosystem. How are you guys adding value?

Stephen Mitchley:
Sure. So I think it’s fair to say that we’re the pioneers of the concept shared value insurance. And when the company started 27 years ago, the focus wasn’t only on the supply side of healthcare, so doctors, farmers, hospitals, but rather also on the demand side. So the foundation goal created a program with that source to establish a relationship with the end consumer. And it tends to nudge them towards healthier decisions, these healthier lifestyle choices, things like physical activity, less alcohol, healthy nutrition, non-smoking, which have a profound effect on the border risk pool for the insured or the broader load on the health ecosystem. So in a very real sense, consumers can create value through their choices and that value that is created can be shared back with them. So our models have really tried to incentivize people towards healthier outcomes, healthier behaviors, knowing that as they achieve those incentives, they are creating value downstream. This has worked incredibly well in healthcare, life insurance, financial services, even banking. And I think it’s both effective. But frankly, it’s it really resonates with the participants.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, I think it’s an interesting model. And so to help better understand, are you guys both an insurer and wellness company?

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. That’s correct. And our primary markets, we were at as the insurers in South Africa and the UK, very vibrant, large insurance businesses, both in Chorlton insurance, life insurance and health insurance. And back in the day in 2000, we actually started our healthcare insurance company in the US. But it’s very difficult to start an insurance company from scratch, certainly at that time. Given the dominance of the players, the United’s and what we found was the Vitality program, the Wellness Wellbeing Program, which has always been central to our product offerings, resonated with the market. So we weren’t on the insurance business and stood up a a wellness company that was focused on the needs of self-insured employers. And that was then the vitality quickly. Since then, and we’ve taken the vitality concept and we’ve learned that we don’t want to get into founding insurance companies, but we’ve taken that concept. We’ve partnered with the largest insurers in the world, in China and Southeast Asia. We’ve got a joint party with John Hancock called John Hancock Vitality. So we’re using their insurance backbone in infrastructure and bolting on this. This loyalty and reward and wellness program to ignite that membership base.

Saul Marquez:
Fascinating. And so still you kind of still play as an insurer in certain markets like South Africa and the U.K., but overall you’ve become a partner to insurers and in the way that they deliver wellness programs to folks. And I would imagine just the insight that you guys have, having played both roles, is very beneficial to both the consumer and the payer. Can you comment on that?

Stephen Mitchley:
Given the rich history of civil hundred million life is in South Africa now and in the UK, we really have a fine sense of what’s the outcome that you get through activities? What does physical activity physically do for the claims and hospitalisation trends? So we can relate the outcome of those those inputs to the actual incentive award that we would want to put in front of the member. And that’s that’s how we’ve got this. This model of shared value insurance developed. While many folks say you should exercise more, we all understand that the. Do you get people to engage in that exercise and engage in the choices that they’re making for their health? So having that first hand experience of actually servicing customers, having to market the products, I think we’re really well positioned to be able to understand the demand for insurers here in the US and help them navigate the relationship with the customers as well as the the actual nuts and bolts of making the thing work.

Saul Marquez:
Very cool. And what would you say makes what you guys do different or better than what’s available out there today? Because they’re, you know, the markets, there, right. and they feel like more and more people are starting to realise the value of wellness. But what would you say distinguishes vitality?

Stephen Mitchley:
Well, yeah, you’re right. So, I mean, it’s a very efficient market. A lot of the innovations that we were coming up with five, six years ago are, quite frankly, quite common today. So what what differentiates us is this shared-value model that I spoke about. I think it creates a unique dynamic between the consumer and the provider of the service or the insurance. So in a real sense, the vitality program is a relationship which the comprehensive nature of the program means that there’s connectivity that we create extends into the day to day world around individual sets, on their phone, on their risk, apple watches and gone to Tegra Cygnet new roundabout kind of way. We’re always augmenting your every day and what you’re doing with what has traditionally felt like a material concept of insurance entity. That’s paintings for you. So you you don’t really touch and feel your insurance. But by bringing that the concepts of reward within the insurance to the day to day, you must take a an inverted augmented reality approach where I’m exercising today. And I know that insurance is looking after me because they’re paying for my watch, for instance.

Saul Marquez:
Mm hmm. Yeah. Yeah, that’s a that’s you know, that is so true, right. Because you you have your insurance company and we all know that you don’t use it unless you need it and you don’t think about it unless you need it. But you know it’s there. Right. And so what happens in between and what’s that relationship look like? So maybe you could share a little bit about that. Stephen, how has the way that you guys work made things better for consumers or even employers?

Stephen Mitchley:
Yeah. So I think you hit the nail on the head. I mean, typically, health insurance has about a 10 percent online registration Right. may be less than that. It’s difficult to actually reach customers. So you can imagine that if if the general health insurance environment has low digital penetration, that it’s it’s even less so for life insurers. You look at the John Hancock Vitality program, which disengagement rates north of 60 percent range, and that level of interaction, that level of of engagement, digital engagement with the product. We see that extend into the corporate wellness programs at Healthcare Solutions at the office. So it really is a relationship vehicle. So, yes, we do focus on behaviour change. Yes, we do focus on on outcomes. But at its core, we see people really get ignited by the idea that, gee, we were there to help them be a better them and the insurer or the employer is on that journey with them. So this sort of incredibly high engagement rates, which are atypical in the market, I think is a is a big boost for the ability to be able to reach out and assist you with it’s you’ve got a capability that needs attention or you just simply need a bit more nudging to keep you active.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. You know, Stephen, I appreciate that idea. And it’s fresh. It’s different, you know, as an insurer and as an employer. Right. And that that pays the bills. You’re really not engaging. And the the differentiator that you guys provide is let’s help employees, people engage with their insurance weekly, daily, monthly. And in this way, because, I mean, hey, I’ve had you know, I’ve I’ve paid for my own insurance. I’ve I’ve been through employer insurance. Blue Cross Blue Shield United. And the reality is, like you said at the beginning. Hey, OK, maybe I need to find a physician, so then I go on their platform and I go look who’s in network. But in between, there’s nothing there. I have never felt any connection or touchpoint to them. The big differentiator.

Stephen Mitchley:
Yeah, we like to think so. Yeah. Yeah. More fundamentally, I mean, I come back to the whole purpose of making people healthier. You can’t do that unless you have a relationship with them. So if your mindset is listen to the consumer, engage with the consumer. Thank you. You see fundamentally different outcomes in many ways.

Saul Marquez:
So what would you say has been one of the biggest setbacks you guys have experienced then, what was a key learning that came out of that?

Stephen Mitchley:
You felt for me, and it was the economic crisis of 2008 and 2009, which in 2008 launched the Vitality program on a standalone basis to employer as we we weren’t on the health insurance business and later, 2008 later moved to Chicago’s chief operating officer. The economic downturn kicked in and it had a massive impact on all employed clients. We saw absolutely no sales for a year and a half. We saw massive decreases in membership and demand management was, quite frankly, all of the employers were insolvent. So there was a tough time. And then as a startup, we had to be incredibly frugal with investment. So we spent a lot of time listening to our customers and determining which tools and capabilities they found the most valuable. I think a focus on the core purpose and the value of innovation and optimism really helped us weather the storm. But more more fundamentally, we emerged from that very dark period with a much deeper appreciation for the inclusion of customer feedback with its purchase of your products, or they actually used all the products in our product development. Today we talk about design thinking as a discipline in digital, but the real thing, real sense. Even back then, we were engaging with folk before presupposing that the product that would that would assist them. So I think that value system was a great anchor for us in the time. And here today, with the situation that we’re in the curve it that it’s very much a driving force of how we think through what what is the right thing to do today to better support our customers.

Saul Marquez:
Love it. Yeah. It’s well said, it was a tough time and. You know, we’re kind of going through a tough time here with Covid-19, but now you guys are more established and you know, you’ve noticed on your site you’ve got some Covid-19 resources. Can you tell us a little bit about those resources? And, you know, I know people are always looking for help and perspective. Tell us about that.

Stephen Mitchley:
Yeah, with pleasure. I think given the background that we’ve got with your large health insurance with Africa launched health insurer in the UK, we obviously have access to data on from the medical aspect of we’ve got access to both clinicians and actuaries that are tracking exactly what’s going on, on globally. Every market that we’re in, we’ve we’ve responded with adjustments to the program that are very, very in tune with where people are at. I look at the UK, for instance, they’ve turned the program on its head and are supporting people while they are are at home rather than keep it static and say, gee, you know, you need to go running. I mean, people contract. So providing support with the discounts to online materials or discounts, online programs, discounts to devices that you can use on home in South Africa. The company there is very large it’s about 50 per cent of the market and they’re working in lockstep with the. So they want government to provide the resources that the country needs even to the underserved population. I think, yeah, we’ve taken a lot of their content to of their thinking. We’ve repackaged it. Why? Employers focusing on things that make a difference while in isolation. It’s that there are some some key principles that you can apply to make sure that as you’re in lockdown, aware as your own sheltered environment, that you’d cancel, be productive. You can still be effective. You can address the dangers of being isolated.

Saul Marquez:
Some great resources, folks, vitalitygroup.com at the top menubar, there’s Covd-19 resources. Love what they’ve done there and definitely a great thing to check out. That’s a vitalitygroup.com, Covid-19 resources and beyond right there. They’re doing some really unique things here to to help both employers and payers with what they’re doing increase that level of engagement. What would you say you’re most excited about? Stephen.

Stephen Mitchley:
Well, reflect on the 20 years with the company I’m pretty proud of. We’ve managed to accomplish, but. I really am. I’m incredibly excited by the ability for us to do so much more, particularly enabled by technology. We’ve got fantastic engagement rates. We’ve got great outcomes globally. And yet I wouldn’t real sense of just scratching the surface. Every market we see deep relationships being formed between the program and its participants say, injecting even greater personalization of experience and program focus. And it can only help the lift that the program gives transforming lives. So although have a little long in the tooth in the industry, I just had a sense that we could do so much more. And quite frankly, yes, it’s dark times at the moment, but things are getting easier. Technology is becoming easier to deploy. Interactions are becoming easier to facilitate. You know, there are a lot of the sort of ways for interactions that you had in the past have been obviated by digital solutions, so I’m just really excited by how the emerging technologies we’ve got the penetration of of mobile access can enable us to have richer, more meaningful discussions and well tailored solutions for individuals.

Saul Marquez:
Awesome. That’s definitely exciting and, you know, we’re all looking for different resources and and things to keep ourselves inspired. What book would you recommend to the listeners? Stephen?

Stephen Mitchley:
It’s it’s it’s an oldie, but I think I think it’s a great book by Eli Goldratt.. It’s called The Goal, which which takes idea of the theory of constraints, but it just tells a story around that. And I think I found some of those principles as being very good anchor points and thinking through problems. And I think as we go through through the Covid experience and we start having to reimagine pieces of our business and responses to inevitable economic disruption, I think that’s a that’s a really great book to go through, because I think gives you a very fresh perspective of how to tackle problems quite differently. By nature, I’m a very optimistic person. I think with my engineering skills, I’m also a constructors. That book in particular, I think helps you get that feeling of, okay. I’ve got this problem. What other constraints? How to maximize the constraint. But it it does so in a very easy to read narrative. And, you know, as as focal, I’ll be battling to find something meaningful to watch on TV with every other show stuff. Yes. Full stop that. That might be a good bedside read.

Saul Marquez:
I love it. I love it. Great recommendation and folks, you know where to go. Outcomesrocket.health in the search bar type in vitality group. And you’ll see the full transcript of our discussion with Stephen today. Links to the company, links to the book that he recommended and a lot of other things there. Stephen, what are what our pleasure that to learn more about what you guys do and how you do it differently. Before we conclude. I’d love if you could just share a closing thought and then the best place where the listeners could continue the conversation with you or someone on your team.

Stephen Mitchley:
Yeah, absolutely, I mean, at the moment, I’m I’m particular about particular passion about weight management and your highness, mobile connectivity to to help with that. So we’re working on very unique approaches in the space of change and how to assist members. And now I think I take away from that, that as bleak as things look today on a day to day basis, it’s important to really maintain your sense of optimism and move into far better challenges as a society. And we will overcome this experience. But importantly, underpin that optimism with constructive action to seek opportunities to stretch your day differently or set up time to reach out to people, to word of isolation and not be feeling connected. Even do something bolder, like help communities that are risk around you. So my sense is, if as we go through this, if you maintain your sense of optimism and try and focus on what constructively can you do for this future that we moving into, I think it really is a good, good way to approach it. And I’m certainly taking that approach has as its own company. And I know a great resource, great place to reach out is on the vitalitygroup.com. We’ve got a contact us page and happy to help this people as they go through this.

Saul Marquez:
Standing, Stephen. That’s awesome, and, you know, that’s a great note to sign off on. You know, keep that optimism high and match it up with some constructive action. You know, I had an opportunity to to go to the Covid-19 resource that you guys provide. And there’s this really neat bingo card. And some of the ideas on there are inspiring. You know, like just for example, get dressed as if you’re in the office, just do that. Make a healthy dish with items in your pantry. Try a new recipe so that there’s a whole list. So, folks, check that one out. I’ll actually provide a direct link to that bingo card, because that’s a really neat way. I’m going to print this off. Stephen, before we’re done, because there’s some really good ideas on there. And I appreciate what you guys are doing and your thoughts and and definitely wishing you guys the most success here as we turn the corner on this disease and get into even better times.

Stephen Mitchley:
Absolutely. Thanks Saul, much appreciate your time.

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Today’s Guest:

Stephen Mitchley

Stephen Mitchley is the Chief Strategy Officer that leads Vitality’s Group digital and global partner disciplines. He brings 25 years of experience and expertise in overseeing operations and technology to the Vitality group product team. Mr. Mitchley joined Vitality group’s parents South Africa based Discovery Holdings Ltd in 2000 and he’s had exposure across the group, leading large scale process re-engineering activities and designing and building operations for new products and services. Before helping found the Vitality group as Chief Operating Officer in 2000, he headed up the business solutions division. He’s an outstanding leader in healthcare but also a mechanical engineer by training.

 

Website: https://www.vitalitygroup.com/

 

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Resources on how to weather economic disruption and other challenges
  • The importance of focusing on the organization’s core purpose
  • How to increase customer’s engagement

Resources

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