Meta-cognition: learning about learning helps the health insurance industry


In the past few weeks, two events converged that caused me to reflect on the importance of being a self-directed learner in today’s fast-paced, complex world.

First, we launched a program for one of our clients in the health insurance industry. The program’s goal is to develop people who work with “providers,” such as doctors, clinics, hospitals and more, to define a new and very different relationship between the insurer and the healthcare provider. This role is critical, because the provider world is completely disrupted.

The relationship between insurers (payors) and providers used to be “fee for service” in which, for each service a provider performed, the payor paid a fixed amount. For example, an X-ray of an ankle would generate a defined reimbursement to the provider. There was a problem, however; there wasn’t much of a relationship between the provider’s service and improved health. As a result, payors started to change the way they worked to “fee for value,” meaning the provider gets paid if they improve someone’s health.

Value is incredibly difficult to define in the health care industry and “pay for value” often results in less money for the provider. Not surprisingly, providers are resisting the change and generating astounding numbers of new business models such as “cash only” in which the providers don’t accept any insurance, “concierge” models in which patients pay the provider a fee to ensure access – a fee that is not insured and many other variations.

For our client, the previously mentioned health insurance company, to be successful, it must find new ways to partner with providers to generate mutual benefit. It’s difficult to transition from a simple contractual relationship to a sophisticated mutually beneficial alliance.

A standard part of our launch program—about two hours into the launch—is a section where we talk about the learning experience.

Since the Cerebyte learning experience is substantially different from almost all of the health insurance company’s previous learning experiences, the participants were a little baffled as to what was going on from a learning perspective.

In the program, we asked a series of questions:

Who is teaching the program? The participants’ answer: They are teaching each other, not listening passively to an authority figure.

Why is this a better way to learn? The participants’ answer: They know the realities better and can share much greater depth of experience and resources.

What is the role of the best practices? The participants’ answer: To focus attention on the issues that really matter.

What is the role of the coach? The participants’ answer: To guide us to go into greater depth to understand what we learned and how to apply it.

What is the role of the learning platform? The participants’ answer: To provide, with structure, a simple means of sharing our work with our team and an archive so we can go back and see trends.

Why are we talking about the learning process?

This last question is the payoff and it drew a blank stare from the group (it always gets this response).

Eventually, the team got into a discussion of how they need to be good learners to keep up with the pace of change in the health insurance world. I emphasized this concept by telling them that a fundamental aspect of long-term success is being able to learn about learning so their own learning can be vastly more efficient and effective. I also told them that learning about learning, making them self-aware, self-directed learners, is a fundamental part of the Cerebyte program. People always really like this idea, which brings us to the second element of this blog.

An article, A Stanford researcher’s 15-minute study hack lifts B+ students into the As, is about how “meta-cognition,” which is  learning about learning, improved student performance. Meta-cognition is the academic word for self-awareness of the learning process. This article shows that if you teach students to be self-aware learners, it produces strongly positive improvements in performance.

I was aware of meta-cognition years ago when I was at Stanford, but hadn’t really processed that we were doing meta-cognition as a core element in our Cerebyte programs. We always talked about helping people become more self-aware and self-directed learners and it worked well. Now there is specific evidence that meta-cognition is a powerful and effective means of improving performance.

Is your organization teaching meta-cognition?

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