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40 Ways To Refocus On Better Health Outcomes

In celebration of our 40th anniversary, we revisit important take-aways employers can put to work. 

This year, Health Action Council turns 40. That’s 40 years of supporting employers’ efforts to deliver better benefits and improve health outcomes — and 40 years of collaboration, innovation and thought leadership. So, let’s kick off this celebration with a ticker of 40 actionable steps and insights. 

Good Design, Better Benefits 

​​​​​Good design is innovative. Proactive product development can be as simple as tweaking a process or communication style so you’re reaching your audience. Or, it can mean adding an option that meets people’s needs.

Good design is long-lasting. A sustainable benefits program is a strong foundation that we must review and edit constantly so it is relevant and serves the needs of our people. 

Good design makes a product useful. In the case of benefits design, “usage” is the key—proper utilization that improves quality of life. That includes encouraging health screenings and preventive visits.

Good design makes a product understandable. The way we explain health benefits and wellness offerings to our people will influence how they utilize a plan.

Identify vulnerabilities. Review claims reports and summaries to understand the percentage of your population that is impacted by chronic disease. 

Think long-term. Evaluate your current benefits plan design for opportunities to implement a care program that evolves with the patient over time.

Focus on net cost versus discounts. A provider network can efficiently deliver better value by allowing a provider to raise its list price without increasing the reimbursement. 

Consider the ‘real’ prescription cost. Current policies have created deeper discounts for brand name drugs. Look at the total cost of the prescription after all discounts and incentives are applied. 

Rethink the network. Rather than evaluating access to an entire network, focus on providers and whether they will address your employees’ common conditions. Remember, cost variances do not guarantee better care, healthier outcomes, or increased consumer satisfaction.

Evaluate provider quality. Ask how your medical plan administrator evaluates the quality of providers in their networks and encourages employees on your plan to use higher-quality providers.

Capture Meaningful Data

Data and metrics matter. Understand the chronic conditions your employee population faces and recognize the differences between offices if you have multiple locations. 

Reduce plan overutilization. Millennials experience chronic conditions at significantly higher rates than other generations. A well-managed plan will improve health literacy and reduce utilization.

Think beyond the plan. Employers who focus on their population's health needs can effectively address the value of their human capital, including knowledge, skills, abilities, motivation, and creativity. 

Know the SDoH variables. Only 10-20% of a person’s health is determined by what happens in the hospital or doctor’s office and the rest are based on a person’s social circumstances.

Get the healthcare cost picture. More than 156 million Americans have employer-sponsored health insurance, with employers and individuals paying the lion’s share of healthcare costs. Also, medical price increases have far outpaced inflation and the consumer price index (CPI) and continue to rise.

Add up prescription costs. In the late 1980s, only about 20% of the population took one medication per day. Today, that number has increased to more than 65%. 

Educate on E.R. expenses. The average E.R. cost is $2,200, which is 10 times higher than urgent care or virtual visits that cost $50 to $150.

Leverage virtual visits. The average time for a traditional physician office visit is 123 minutes (transportation, waiting room, visit). Compare this to the average virtual visit time of 20 minutes. Time savings translates to productivity. 

Count in the families. Nearly three-quarters of employees surveyed said they had care responsibilities but only half of employers were keeping track of which employees were taking care of family members.

Take a health-first approach. We need to think about health first and health financing second because when people are well, they are less likely to experience unexpected medical events that can result in ER visits, surgery, medication, and time off work.

Understand regional cost differences. Some communities have higher E.R. utilization rates, and others have higher C-section rates. Knowing these variances for the communities where your company operates helps you plan to improve health outcomes. 

Engaging Employees to Make Healthier Choices 

Define what you stand for. What matters to your business and to your people? Clarify your mission, vision and brand. Consider how these tenants define you as a company to employees, customers and the community. 

Connect health and productivity. When health suffers, healthcare costs rise for employers. When productivity suffers, employer’s profitability is impacted. Multiple community studies now support this assertion.

Get everyone on the same page. This is all about speaking the same language. When employees understand the culture and leadership sets the tone by living it, there is connectivity and collaboration. And from a healthcare and wellness standpoint, alignment establishes a common ground. 

Start the conversation. Ask employees what matters most. By gaining a deeper understanding of what’s truly important to them, you’ll be better positioned to deliver focused, effective solutions.

Drive adoption. Culture comes to life when it is reflected in your company’s policies and processes, and that includes the way we communicate healthcare and wellness resources. 

Be proactive. Continue to manage your high-cost claimants while developing, implementing, and engaging employees in activities that will keep them healthy. 

Lean in. How do you support employees from a holistic perspective, in ways that transcend their job descriptions?

Think prevention. Implement and promote disease prevention and lifestyle modification programs to delay and manage the onset of chronic conditions. 

Find the right care. Our campaign provides tools like a symptom checker, healthcare options, prescription discounts, provider listing, and more.

Step it up. Continue targeted fitness campaigns that combat obesity like joining Health Action Council’s Step It Up program. 

Promote all fitness. Wellness goes beyond what we eat and includes finances, so why not consider offering a “financial fitness” series with tips on how to achieve and maintain it?

Engage the family. Involve the entire family in healthy practices, as children mirror their parents’ health. 

Manage stress. Pay attention to how your employees manage stress. Don’t shut down automatic employee responses to stressful situations. Instead, change expectations and provide support.

Teach benefits. We have a greater responsibility than ever before to “teach benefits” because healthcare is complex and navigating a changing system is difficult. 

Evolving in Changing Times 

Agility is critical. Embrace flexibility as we face unique times and a whole new level of evolution in our workplace environments. It’s all happening fast. 

Walk in their shoes. Empathy gives us the ability to see people for who they really are, understand varying perspectives and consider what supports, services, and tools benefit the individuals on our teams.

Create systems. While communication is a two-way street, leaders have a responsibility to develop systems and provide forums to encourage and facilitate open dialogue. 

Think differently. Creativity allows us to get out of our skin, push past our comfort zones and try something new. 

Be proactive. Plans can change. But taking some of these steps can help avoid unnecessary risks or poor communications: focus on goals; be transparent; listen; train leadership to manage change; refresh policies and procedures; give rewards; and celebrate. 

About Health Action Council 
Health Action Council is a not-for-profit 501(c)(6) organization representing mid-and large-size employers that enhance human and economic health through thought leadership, innovative services, and collaboration. It provides value to its members by facilitating projects that improve the quality and moderate the cost of healthcare purchased by its members for their employees, dependents, and retirees. Health Action Council also collaborates with key stakeholders – health plans, physicians, hospitals, and the pharmaceutical industry – to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare in the community.

Patty Starr bio image

About the author

Patty Starr

Patty Starr is president and CEO of Health Action Council and is responsible for driving the strategic direction of the organization--build stronger, healthier communities where business can thrive. 

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