Q&A: Benevera Health CEO Corbin Petro

Corbin Petro is president and CEO of Benevera Health, a joint venture of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and four New Hampshire hospitals that, she says, answers the question: ‘How can we collaborate to improve how care is delivered?’ (Photo by Jodie Andruskevich)

Corbin Petro is president and CEO of Benevera Health, a partnership between Harvard Pilgrim and four New Hampshire hospitals (Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Elliot Health System, Frisbie Memorial Hospital and St. Joseph Hospital) that tries to lower health costs and improve outcomes.

Before joining Benevera, Petro was chief operating officer of the Massachusetts Department of Medicaid, or MassHealth, had a hand in crafting the Affordable Care Act as an aide to former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and before that worked at Goldman Sachs and Deloitte.

Q. How did you go from Goldman Sachs and Deloitte to advising a senator on the ACA when it was developing?

A. I was in business school at Wharton and knew that I wanted to learn about finance, knew I didn’t want to be a banker, and so I did some time at Goldman Sachs.

Then my connection to working at the Senate. Senator Landrieu was the senior senator from Louisiana. When I bought a house in Washington, her husband was my real estate agent. Her chief of staff was a woman named Jane Campbell who is the former mayor of Cleveland who I spent some time working for when I was very young and growing up in Ohio.

Q. You helped write some of the Affordable Care Act?

A. There are pieces of the Affordable Care Act that I had a hand in writing because of [Landrieu’s] influence as a swing-state senator and head of the Small Business Committee.

Q. Then you were in Massachusetts implementing the Affordable Care Act after that.

A. Yes. One of the reasons I wanted to go there was really to take some of the policy work that I had done on the Hill and execute and deliver what it means at the state level. We were also trying new payment models to really move providers from being a fee-per-service or a transaction-based financial arrangement to one where the hospital systems are really taking more accountability for outcomes of patients.

Q. That’s the main focus of Benevera.

A. Yes. I was really attracted to the joint venture model from working at the state level and putting those payment models into play.

Q. How does it work?

A. Benevera is a partnership between Harvard Pilgrim and four hospital systems. The largest is Dartmouth-Hitchcock. It’s really around “how can we collaborate to improve how care is delivered?” Part of that is through changing incentives and aligning them in the right way and getting us all on the same page as it pertains to serving patients appropriately.

Part of it is really building out a delivery mechanism and a care mechanism, which we built at Benevera to better serve those patients who need more support than what they’re typically getting from the healthcare system. We have teams of folks who live out in the different parts of New Hampshire. We have nurses and social workers and community health workers and pharmacists who go into people’s homes to help them with understanding their insurance or fill out a housing application, or navigate getting to the doctor’s office, or what their medications may mean. It’s a very holistic whole person approach, very high-touch.

Q. This is only if you’re considered somebody who has a lot of needs?

A. Yes. We call them “high-need,” and that doesn’t always mean somebody who has a chronic condition or is unhealthy. It could be somebody utilizing the healthcare system wrong or has just a basic lack of health education. We’re helping to be an advocate for them. We do use analytics to identify those who are highest in needs. We do a number of welcome calls and introductory calls. We do that for all Medicare members, for example. In that cohort, every person would interact with us and we offer our services.

Q. Medicare?

A. Yes, Harvard Pilgrim has a Medicare Advantage Plan. Obviously, the core of our work is for Harvard Pilgrim-insured patients, whether they’re individuals who buy on the exchange or they’re employers who get their employees benefit from us, working with them. We are available for other insurers and other market segments and have started to have those conversations where we can work with patients outside of Harvard Pilgrim’s insurance business.

Q. Do you try to steer people to the hospitals that are members?

A. Not necessarily. Part of the joint venture is to encourage through plan designs and lower copays and stuff for our patients to work with our partners because we set them to a high bar when it comes to quality and outcomes and costs. We believe it makes sense for our patients, but we don’t do anything specifically to drive them or to encourage them to go to our partners. We try to identify the best care for them for where they are in the state, for what their plan covers, for what the copays may be and what they can afford.

Q. It would be more economical to go within the plan, but they don’t have to do that?

A. The most important thing for us is keeping people healthy and keeping them engaged in the right level of care, the right place of care, the right doctors for their needs. If you make it inconvenient or inaccessible, that’s going to undermine everything that you’re trying to do.

Q. The people being served aren’t seen as members of Benevera, right?

A. Benevera is a wraparound service, so every person and every employer who has Harvard Pilgrim gets Benevera and the added services that are part of their insurance plan. We are a separate company from Harvard Pilgrim, but we’re part of every insured member in New Hampshire.

Q. Is there a way to measure your success?

A. One way is patient satisfaction and net promoter scores from the patients who we work with, and that continues to be extremely high. Ninety-plus on our net promoter score is pretty crazy in healthcare, but that’s the type of feedback that we get from our patients.

We do track cost and utilization of the right services. For the patients who we work with, we find that they reduce their ER utilization, they reduce their inpatient hospital stay utilization, but they increase their primary care utilization. They increase their use of pharmacy and we try to make sure that they are adhering to the medication that makes sense for them.

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