5 things CEOs can do today to improve employee health

When asked what steps employers can take to improve the health of their employees, it’s easy to see why many business and corporate leaders feel resigned to the status quo. The ever-increasing expenses associated with medical care – including the cost of insurance coverage for employers and employees as well as out-of-pocket expenses for individuals and families – are forcing businesses to make tough trade-offs on spending health. On top of that, employers and benefits teams are inundated with vendors and consultants preaching about increasing employee engagement with far less detail about better health outcomes.

Charting a new direction to improve outcomes and affordability can seem like an uphill battle. But for CEOs looking to make a real difference in the health of their employees, five important steps can be rolled out now.

1. Increase the availability of responsible care models to improve the experience, quality and affordability of care at the local level.

For many large or “jumbo” national employers, the hassle, complications and costs associated with managing the litany of contracts and partners can make direct contracts with local suppliers and hospitals impossible. However, in cases where a local supplier or partner can provide significant advantages or improvements over the status quo, a more localized approach can be an advantage. For example, JPMorgan Chase
JPM
partnership with Kaiser Permanente in California to advance specific health equity programs and our upcoming primary care program with Vera Whole Health and Central Ohio Primary Care represent two highly localized initiatives that can provide more personalized and direct care within communities where our employees work. A range of other companies, including Firefly, Eden, Transcarent and Centivo, offer responsible virtual care models that show promise as an alternative to standard insurance offerings. Mapping strategic strengths among providers and partners in the field can be helpful, even if an employer still maintains a national approach with other models of care.

2. Invest in access to the data needed to assess health outcomes.

Any meaningful health intervention or program can only be successful if employers have access to the data and information needed to fully understand the health of their employee population. Yet many employers lack the human and technological infrastructure to effectively analyze data to get a holistic view of population health. There are several reasons for this – long-standing and flawed gag clauses between benefits providers prevent employers from performing complex analysis of meaningful health data, in addition to the considerable time and resources required to identify a robust data system. The lack of meaningful data access for employees leads to a series of challenges to improving population health – without cost and quality information, employees cannot make good decisions about care management. The lack of meaningful analysis means health inequities are hidden and employers have no basis on which to hold health plans and providers accountable.

Starting with a large-scale assessment of data warehouse systems is an important step for healthcare delivery teams. Once the right data systems and analysis are available, employers can better understand the specific health needs and concerns facing their employees and determine the appropriate steps and programs to improve outcomes.

3. Align employee health benefits with population health outcomes.

Attractive and robust employee benefits are an essential part of a company’s recruitment and retention efforts. However, traditional corporate health benefits have focused primarily on employee engagement and satisfaction, with the expectation that employee empowerment alone will have a positive impact on health outcomes. Unfortunately, this is far from the case. Today, the growing prevalence of five chronic diseases – high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, physical inactivity and obesity – has long-term consequences for employee health and costs US employers more than $36 billion a year.

Employers must intend to implement programs that prioritize health outcomes, as well as engagement and satisfaction. While this is a significant investment for companies that need to overhaul existing systems, the initial investment can pay off in the long run by targeting health plan efforts to mitigate the likelihood of a serious disease progression, improve employee productivity and reduce overall healthcare costs. .

Alignment around population health outcomes can also extend to those responsible for structuring benefit programs. Imagine if employee benefits teams were paid in part to improve population health, increase cancer screening rates, or eliminate health disparities.

4. In a new era of hybrid work environments, prioritize care models that can meet employees wherever they are.

Prior to COVID-19, employers sought to create a work environment supportive of work-life integration. As we enter a new era – and a new type of hybrid workforce – employers will need to follow two paths simultaneously: promoting a safe and engaging office environment that keeps employees coming back while allowing their colleagues to work away from the office. In many cases, this may mean living in communities and areas outside of physical office locations.

The added flexibility must also extend to health benefits by allowing employees to easily access care at home or wherever they are. Virtual primary care and home care options can serve as a cornerstone for more “mobile” benefits offerings, providing easy and convenient care when and where it’s best for employees. Eliminating traditional constraints to timely access to primary care services and testing – namely location and availability – has the dual benefit of solving medical “wildernesses” that can discourage or delay care for employees .

5. Make care navigation central to the benefits package and experience.

Even for the most savvy healthcare consumer, navigating the healthcare system can be a daunting task, and just as convoluted and challenging when faced with an urgent health issue or emergency. Integrating a comprehensive care navigation solution—tools that simplify the process of finding providers, hospitals, or specialists in the network—can ease the consumer experience of accessing needed care. By doing so, employers provide their employees with additional support to make the best decisions for their health. Morgan Health’s latest investment in Embold Health is designed to help evolve and expand the reach of these essential tools so that more consumers can benefit from the service. Companies like Include Health are also paving the way for a more inclusive healthcare experience, providing round-the-clock assistance with coverage questions or next steps on a patient’s journey to better health.

Together, these five steps can put employers and companies on the right path to delivering better health and better employee outcomes. And, of course, there is also a key social benefit, as innovation in health care is critically important to the long-term viability of employer-sponsored health insurance – all the more that inflationary pressures are about to affect US corporate earnings. The long-term impact of these changes will strengthen our workforce and our economy so that others can reap the benefits.

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