medical.jpg It seems like everyone is interested in healthcare these days. With the cost of care growing so rapidly, it’s no wonder that this topic piques the interest of so many people, from politicians to employers to the “average” working Jane or Joe. While many people believe that healthcare in America needs changing, there are no easy solutions to this problem. I recently attended a talk by MaryAnn Stump, the Chief Innovation Officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota on some ways her organization is empowering healthcare consumers. She presented two current projects, Healthcare Facts and The Healthcare Scoop; I found these fascinating as a healthcare consumer and as a public health professional. Healthcare Facts are like a Nutrition Label for healthcare. They include objective information about hospitals and clinics, which allow consumers to compare apples to apples when choosing a hospital. The Healthcare Facts labels were developed using input from patients; they are easy to read and understand. At a glance, a healthcare consumer can see how many cancer cases were treated in the prior year, the number of nurses per patient and the percentage of beds with private rooms, among other indicators. Ms. Stump stressed that consumers are most interested in finding the best fit with their needs, which includes a combination of safety features, a good value and comfort features, such as a hospital’s religious affiliation, pain management program, free parking, etc. The website,, is a forum for patients to share their healthcare experiences with others. Patients can find healthcare stories by topic area (pregnancy, emergency care, pediatric, etc.), by clinic or hospital or by health professional. Background research on this project showed that people were most likely to evaluate the quality of healthcare through word of mouth. However, people are much more likely to share an opinion on a healthcare experience with a friend or acquaintance verbally than to share the information online. The Healthcare scoop provides a forum for people to share their experiences online and since its inception in the fall of 2007, this website has had over 40,000 visits. The talk by Ms. Stump was organized by the Minnesota Chapter of the Association of Strategic Planning. Throughout the year, they offer monthly breakfast programs and “jammin sessions,” which are a free-flowing exchange on emerging topics and trends of interest to planners.