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Post-Pandemic Strategies To Improve Employee Health
Author: Everette Fernandes

Post-pandemic strategies to improve employee health (headline)
During the pandemic the importance of employee health quickly morphed from a human resource issue into a business performance issue. Employers can use their COVID-19 experiences to fine-tune their future healthcare investments to better manage their employees’ health. Employers often rely on third party administrators and brokers when making health care decisions for their employees. One thing is clear. Seeking additional input from a strong health care partner during the decision-making process can lead to higher quality, more affordable care and improved health outcomes. Here are some trends to consider before making changes to health care benefits.

Telemedicine and digital health are here to stay
During the pandemic most employees became comfortable receiving medical care virtually. Employers should seek out health plans that offer easy access to telemedicine, virtual visits and a robust digital health platform. Advocate Aurora’s LiveWell app allows patients to get virtual care anywhere through secure video visits or e-visits helping them stay connected to care, anytime and anywhere. The app combines a patient’s integrated medical record with features such as guided meditation, healthy recipes and health news. Employees can message their provider and manage their medical appointments, too.

What are employers thinking?
A recent survey1 of large employers conducted by the Business Group on Health found that employee health continues to play an integral role in employers’ workforce strategies. In response to COVID-19 many employers accelerated their plans for increasing telehealth and mental health benefits, by:
• expanding the scope of virtual health services (reported by 84% of respondents)
• improving mental health access and services (reported by 87% of survey respondents)

94% of survey respondents anticipate future increases in medical claims due to delayed medical care. They expect a higher prevalence of late-stage cancers in their employee population because of missed cancer screenings. Employers are also concerned about long-term mental health issues (stress, depression, anxiety, substance abuse) exacerbated by the pandemic. Selecting a health care provider that offers wide-ranging preventative care and comprehensive behavioral health services will remain a high priority.

Advancing population health through partnership
The pandemic underscored the value of population health management. Population health strategies help maintain employee health and reduce the incidence and cost of co-morbidities. As a leading health care provider Advocate Aurora partners with employers to implement data-driven, best-practices to better manage chronic diseases.

Shifting to value-based care
Employers often use insurance brokers and benefits consultants to advise them on health plan design and vendor selection. Inviting a health care partner to contribute potential solutions during these discussions can improve the quality of care and mitigate cost increases, especially as more employers move toward value-based care.

Value-based care represents a shift from traditional “fee-for-service” payments toward a model where good health outcomes are rewarded. Value-based providers receive financial rewards for delivering highly coordinated, high-quality care. With value-based care, doctors and hospitals get paid based on outcomes, not on the number of procedures done, patients seen, or how much they are charged. Instead of receiving payment for each service provided, value is generated by providing the right level of care, in the right setting, at the right time. In other words, the provider has some “skin in the game.”  

Electronic medical records (EMRs) help eliminate repetitive and unnecessary tests and procedures. EMRs allows teams of doctors and healthcare professionals to communicate seamlessly with one another and with care coordinators. The net result is fewer hospital admissions and trips to the emergency room and a healthier workforce.

Encouraging wellness, providing quality care and preventive screenings are key to generating improved healthcare outcomes. Measuring care quality and outcomes should be a prerequisite measure for any value-based program that employers might be considering. Employers can’t wait for solutions to be offered without partnership and discussions. Providers will be more willing to assume risks on larger based populations, while employers are willing to consider new and innovative benefit solutions that will reduce overall employee healthcare expense.

Making healthcare proactive, not reactive
The shift to value-based care is a long-term goal — but one that’s gaining traction. New and innovative solutions are helping keep healthcare costs down, produce better outcomes and improve population health. Creating an open dialogue with a strong, value-based health care partner may be just what the doctor ordered —if employers are to lead the way to better employee health in a post-pandemic era.

To learn more about employee health solutions, check out Advocate Aurora’s Employer Solutions. A robust solution customized to your company’s culture could also include employer clinics, wellness, occupational health, executive health programs and more.   


Everette Fernandes serves as Advocate Aurora’s System Vice President – Commercial Growth

1Business Group on Health. (2021, August). Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey.

 
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