A 360° approach to chronic conditions

In the second installment of a two-part podcast series with Healthline Media, focused on the company’s Whole Person Health Initiative, Brendan McHenry, SVP of sales and strategy for Healthline, spoke with Steve Madden, GM and editor-in-chief of MM+M, about the final two pillars of the program: Complementary Health and Financial Wellness. 

Stemming from proprietary research conducted by Healthline, the Whole Person Health Initiative supports the company’s goal of helping supply those living with chronic conditions the information needed to better navigate their health journey. 

The way the company defines complementary health, McHenry shared, is by looking at the ways in which its consumers (people living with chronic conditions), are using a variety of different facets to treat their condition with a more 360˚ approach. 

“They might be looking for a vitamin they can try or a different exercise regimen or diet, but whatever it is, they’re then using these things to supplement a primary (pharmaceutical) medication,” he explained. “It was surprising to us to see how much people were willing to experiment and try new things in pursuit of better management of a chronic condition.” 

When probed by Madden to share how Healthline plans to help make this part of its users’ overall healthcare management, McHenry cited the company’s cornerstone mission of providing reliable and accurate information.

“At Healthline, we feel we have a duty to be the voice of reason in any conversation that is noisy and new,” he said. “We make it our job to look into all of these trends that our users are wondering about and provide a POV on them that is medically vetted, and that they can feel good about applying to their course of treatment.” 

McHenry said the company hoped that, in addition to helping patients on their personal healthcare journeys, this commitment to drill down into the surge of consumer inquiries would also help bridge the communication gap between patients and HCPs, leading to a better level of engagement.  

“Most people, when they go to see their doctor, are not being asked about their overall health and well-being,” he said. “They rarely ask about diet or what non-prescription medications you’re taking. They’re not asking about mental health or how well you’re sleeping, and unless you’re late paying the bill, they’re not asking about your financial wellness either.” 

McHenry noted that when it came to people’s concerns about their care, people almost universally worried more about the financial impact than the actual prognosis for their own health, a statistic they found so troubling, they decided to address it by making it one of the four pillars of the program. 

“It was alarming to us to think that someone would be more worried about their wallet than their body, but that is a reality for a lot of people,” he said. “When you have a chronic condition, there are so many things you might not consider that are going to have a financial impact. It’s not just the cost of treatments, it’s also assistive devices, add-ons, etc.” 

McHenry went on to note some of the indirect financial impacts to living with a chronic condition that most people don’t often think of. 

“If you have IBD and you’re experiencing a serious flare, then you’re probably not going to be able to go to work or go to that client dinner you had scheduled, and you definitely won’t be able to travel,” he stated. “And those things can have lasting impacts.”

When asked by Madden how the pandemic has exacerbated these financial fears, McHenry shared that unemployment or decreased pay due to COVID was driving many people to have to make very difficult decisions about their healthcare. 

“We’ve seen a real surge in people looking at couponing and assistance programs and wondering how generics compare to the brand name drug they might currently be on,” he said. “And that has led us to want to educate people on things like how ‘prescribe as taken’ medications work or if there are alternative treatment options they can look into.” 

Both McHenry and Madden agreed that talking to people about their financial situation can be a tricky road to navigate, with McHenry sharing that the key to Healthline’s approach has been empathy. 

“Being empathetic to people’s realities helps to start a good and inclusive conversation about all the different things they could be doing,” he said. “And we feel it is our job to help people by pointing to different resources they can integrate into their daily lives, but may not even realize are available to them.”

One such option, according to McHenry, is the massive influx in telehealth options brought on by the pandemic. 

“People may now have the ability to visit an out-of-state provider who may be lower cost to them,” he shared. “Or a nutritionist who may be in network, but they’re on the other side of the country. Now, more than ever before, we are in a position to meet people where they are (literally) and provide them with options they may never have considered, but that can be very impactful for them.”