When it comes to innovative health insurance programs, the Dayton area is squarely in Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Ohio’s crosshairs.

Several programs and online tools for both consumers and providers have been introduced first in the Dayton region. Many of those programs and tools have since been rolled out nationally in the 14 states where Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield operates.

So why has the Dayton region been such an important market for Anthem to test the waters with new programs and tools? “We’ve built a lot of good relationships in that market,” says Kim Ashley, public relations director for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Ohio.

One of the most innovative tools Anthem launched in Dayton was the web-based National Cost Comparison Tool. The transparency tool, which started in Dayton in 2006, allows consumers to compare prices at area hospitals for common procedures, tests and visits.

“Say you were getting a knee replacement. You can go in and look at what a provider at one hospital versus another in the Dayton area [to see] what that range of costs would be,” says Ashley. “It is the actual cost that was negotiated with the provider.”

The tool is now available nationwide and the number of procedures listed has increased from approximately 40 in 2006 to more than 350 today.

Another web-based tool launched in the Dayton and Cincinnati markets in 2008 allows patients to rate the quality of their doctor’s visit. Anthem members can locate their doctor online via the website’s “Find a Doctor” button and then add their own quality rating based on their experience with a physician. The tool also allows consumers to view how others rated the doctor.

Anthem also has a wellness coordinator who is dedicated to the Dayton and Cincinnati markets, says Ashley. The wellness coordinator will sit down with an employer and give them ideas on how to incorporate more wellness programs into their company.

The new tools and programs are designed to help consumers with their health care needs, says Ashley. These tools and programs helped employees and consumers “better understand that they need to take control of their own health care and understand the cost of health care, and that’s where things like transparency tools came into being,” she says.

Another program that Anthem launched in Dayton is the Home Run for Life community relations program. Anthem partnered with the Dayton Dragons minor league baseball team starting in 2004 to recognize five children each year who are battling or have successfully overcome significant medical events.

“It’s something that just tugs at your heartstrings,” says Ashley. “It’s another innovative thing we’ve done and a first in Dayton on the community relations side.”

One of the most important connections Anthem has with the Dayton region, however, is its president, Erin Hoeflinger, a Dayton native. She attended Centerville High School and Wright State University and currently lives in Springboro with her husband, Deron, and two daughters, Lindsay and Nicole.