Jackie Ejuwa is vice president of Health Transformation at Blue Shield of California. Jackie and her team work to eliminate health disparities, develop innovative products and find new ways to provide care that is worthy of our family and friends, and sustainably affordable.
Have you always worked in health care?
My healthcare journey began when I became a registered pharmacist at age 19. So, I have essentially been working in health care my entire adult life. I joined Blue Shield 19 years ago, as it provided me with the opportunity to expand my clinical and operational leadership experience.
Who are women that inspire you?
I am inspired by many women both inside and outside of health care. Someone who continues to inspire me by her resilience, dedication, and work ethic is my mother, now 77 years old. Deprived of formal schooling outside of elementary school, and an immigrant to the United Kingdom in her late teens, she created a pathway to economic advancement for her family and ensured that all her children were educated and subsequently successful in their own rights.
What are some recent, transformative accomplishments made by your team?
There are three recent accomplishments I’m particularly proud of:
First, my teams helped with the development and launch of Blue Shield’s new offering Virtual Blue. This “virtual-first” preferred provider organization (PPO) plan allows members to choose their network of doctors and specialists whom they can see virtually or in-person, without the need for referrals.
Second, my team co-led a health equity initiative collecting and ingesting self-reported race, ethnicity, and language (REaL) data for Covered California members, surpassing the 80% minimum requirement. This data is the key to identifying health disparities and developing effective programs to reduce and eliminate them.
Third, my team implemented a first-of-its-kind food pilot for Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan* members with chronic kidney disease. This pilot provided medically tailored meals for a 26-week period using a community-integrated model that matched members with community health workers. Preliminary results have been significantly positive, with members reporting improvements across all eight domains of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQOL) Survey.
The pilot is a collaboration with L.A. Care Health Plan, Blue Shield of California, and Community Resource Center with members from both health plans participating to prevent the progression of chronic kidney disease to end-stage, which requires dialysis and/or a kidney transplant.
We anticipate the cost of healthcare savings to be approximately $1,800 per person per year. Our pilot applied a health equity lens, ensuring participation from a predominantly Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) population, disproportionately impacted by kidney disease, and eliminated transportation barriers by utilizing community resource centers within five miles of all participants residences.
What’s most exciting to you about the future of health care?
There is much opportunity to evolve and improve our healthcare processes, systems and outcomes. The U.S. spends 18% of our gross domestic product (GDP) on health care, nearly twice as much as the average country, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In fact, health spending per person in the U.S. is nearly two times higher than in the closest country, Germany. Despite this spending, we have the worst quality outcomes in the developed world, ranking 11th out of 11 among OECD countries in 2021.
As a self-described healthcare futurist, I’m excited that a lot of very talented individuals and industries want to join in to solve this problem. There is a real opportunity to improve, simplify and streamline health care so we can improve outcomes equitably for everyone.
*Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan is a managed care organization, wholly owned by Blue Shield of California, offering Medi-Cal plans.