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Capital BlueCross Health and Wellness Store is First of Its Kind in the Nation

By Colin McEvoy on March 17, 2015

The interior of the Capital Blue health and wellness store at the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley.

The interior of the Capital Blue health and wellness store at the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley.

There’s a store in the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley where you might find someone enjoying a healthy smoothie at the café. Or just leaving after the latest Zumba class. Or maybe just admiring the works of local artists on the walls while their children play with iPads and Nintendo Wii Fit units in the kids’ zone.

Believe it or not, it’s the Capital Blue health and wellness store.

It may not necessarily be what you’d expect from a health insurance company, but this space at the Upper Saucon Township shopping mall is one-of-a-kind in the nation. Customers can visit to find an affordable health plan, visit with a registered nurse or dietitian, attend a wellness seminar, obtain personalized health and nutrition consultations, search for a provider in their network, or compare the costs of imaging services. But it also includes a healthy Rodale Café, a kids’ zone, community spaces, free wi-fi and a wide range of fitness classes and activities.

The exterior of the Capital Blue health and wellness store.

The exterior of the Capital Blue health and wellness store.

“Other (health insurance) companies have retail stores, but there is no other store in the country with this particular combination of health and wellness features,” said Anne Baum, vice president of Capital BlueCross.

A partnership with Rodale, the café helps customers live a healthy life by promoting good food choices and providing healthy, organic food anytime the store is open. The menu offers a wide range including sandwiches (mashed chickpea salad, roast beef wrap with horseradish slaw, wild rice with cranberries and hazelnuts), toasties (hot squash, turkey feta meatball), salads (red beets tabbouleh, warm roasted parsnip) and smoothies (red velvet, PB & J, tropical greens and super citrus).

“The idea is helping people own their health and wellness, and nutrition is an important part of that,” Baum said. “We have recipes available and programs to teach the community about nutrition. And the food is really delicious.”

The store offers “health guides” and “care guides” – many of whom are trained as nurses, dieticians, physiologists or nutritionists – who offer advice and answer questions about making healthier lifestyle and wellness choices. For example, they can provide individuals with resources and education to help manage their diabetes, or if you need surgery they can help you come up with a plan to prepare for it.

Baum said one customer came in seeking advice about how she could lose 50 pounds before she turned 50 years old. They came up with a plan, and she ended up losing even more weight than her initial goal.

“We have the greatest employees,” Baum said. “It takes a very special person to work here. Whether somebody is frustrated and needs help obtaining insurance or working through a health crisis, or whether they are new to the area and just has a few questions, our employees are fantastic.”

Courtney Steckert, a retail center sales and service representative, working at the Capital Blue health and wellness store.

Courtney Steckert, a retail center sales and service representative, working at the Capital Blue health and wellness store.

In addition to physical activity classes like Zumba and yoga, the Capital Blue store offers seminars like disease prevention, stress management, understanding medical benefits, cyberbullying, and even “chocolate as medicine.” It also features a conference room available for the business community, and the store has hosted events for such community organizations as the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Lehigh Valley Business Coalition on Healthcare.

Headquartered in Harrisburg, Capital BlueCross is the leading health insurer in the Lehigh Valley and central Pennsylvania. The company incorporated in 1938, and Capital BlueCross merged with the Blue Cross of the Lehigh Valley in 1985, expanding its service area to 21 counties. They have been active community partners with many Lehigh Valley organizations, including the IronPigs, Phantoms, ArtsQuest, Northampton Community College dental clinic, and mobile vans from the Lehigh Valley Health Network and St. Luke’s University Health Network. They are also a sponsor with the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).

The Capital BlueCross store is not the only innovative and creative approach the company is taking to health care. Another is through “accountable care arrangements,” an innovative approach to improve the health care experience and outcomes for their customers. Capital BlueCross has seven such arrangements – including one with St. Luke’s University Health Network in the Lehigh Valley – which is designed to enhance care coordination and the patient experience, improve health outcomes, and reduce health care expenses.

Baum said the model stemmed from research Capital BlueCross launched years ago to study the total cost of health care and how the company can provide the best value per dollar. They recognized that physicians and health care providers were paid as a service offered, and ultimately the reimbursement structure incentivized volume rather than quality of care.

“The accountable care arrangements take a different approach and incentivize value over volume,” Baum said. “We’re working together to give members the best possible value and set a focus on those goals, rather than simply volume.”

For example, a customer with chronic medical conditions, or those at risk for such a condition, is identified for outreach, education, and intervention services through the use of St. Luke’s and Capital BlueCross’ analytics systems. Capital BlueCross also has care coordinators who work with physicians and patients, to ensure patients can manage their conditions and stay out of the hospital where possible, resulting in a better quality of life.

“The holistic approach results in a more personal touch, more follow-up care, and more time with physicians and staff, rather than just setting up a series of appointments,” Baum said.

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