The one thing employers wished their health plan knew
By Emily Wolfe on Dec 22, 2017
We recently conducted a survey of over 100 human resources professionals on their health benefit plans for the coming year. Although we anticipated some of their responses (see: healthcare costs continue to be a challenge), their answer to one question in particular really surprised us. We asked them what was one issue they wished their health plan realized and provided a few options, including:
- Questionable ROI proof points don't stand up to scrutiny;
- Employees don't want another web portal; and
- How to better integrate different program components and vendors
We were sure the first or second answer would win the most votes. Or perhaps our vague, free-text “other” category would reveal another often-discussed issue. However, with an overwhelming 62 percent of the vote, “How to better integrate different program components and vendors” took an early and sustained lead that it never surrendered to the other choices.
Looking back, perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, the benefits space has grown increasingly fractured over the last several years, with specialized vendors offering highly targeted and niche services. And according to these HR pros, the integration side of the equation hasn’t kept up the pace. Many health plans speak broadly of “total population health” but for many employers, in practice this translates to “specific population health.”
Disease management programs provide a compelling example of this issue. For many large employers, employees with diabetes gain access to a program with health coaches, case managers, coordinated care and targeted educational content. Meanwhile employees on the cusp of a diabetes diagnosis gain access to an entirely different experience often featuring digital devices, AI-powered mobile coaching and financial incentives to lose weight.
Clinically, this makes sense. The two groups require different levels and types of interventions to either control their condition or help them avoid the condition entirely. Yet in practice, this leads to uneven outreach, chaotic engagement strategies and multiple reporting dashboards. Employers are telling us that dozens of micro programs can only work as well as the comprehensive wrapper that unites them.
So what should health plans do with this information? First, they need to rethink how they coordinate their various programs and services. While in the past plans measured a program’s success using metrics like reduced costs and increased member engagement, plans should add a more qualitative measure to their list: Harmony with other programs.
This cohesive experience should be readily apparent from both the member side as well as the employer side. That means outreach to participants and reporting to employers should look and feel the same, and ideally be contained in the same dashboard. While this could require substantial shifts in program design, an effective transition would also enable health plans to offer employer clients and prospects something truly unique in the marketplace.
Employers want this, they just wish their health plan would listen.