Grand Rounds Blog

Our Benefits Innovator Q&A series features conversations with leaders in the benefits space about their top-of-mind issues. This month, we caught up with Milt Ezzard from Activision Blizzard to talk about everything from the rise of data-driven employee outreach to the merits of going big.

We know company culture has a big role to play in the types of benefits and services available to employees. How would you describe Activision’s company culture?

We have a culture of fun, and we’re very focused on finding and nurturing strong talent. At our core, innovation is very important. And of course, we look to lead in the entertainment space.

What is Activision Blizzard’s benefits philosophy?

Here, too, we aim for innovation—providing benefits that are beyond the ordinary. We don’t just offer out-of-the-box offerings like you might typically find at a conventional company.

What are your top priorities for your health benefits strategy over the next year…or five years for that matter?

Our top priority over the next year is maximizing employee engagement and in turn, the value we obtain from the benefits we offer. You can put all kinds of cool, innovative tools and resources in front of employees. But unless they engage and pick up those tools at the right time, you’re not maximizing your return.

Now and in the future, our overall benefits strategy approach is to chip away at that challenge and to put valuable solutions in the hands of our people at the right time and place.

What looming developments represent the biggest implications for employee benefits leaders?

The ACA, specialty pharma, Cadillac Tax–all things that are definitely in the background as far as what we need to deal with.

But for me, I think one of the biggest changes on the horizon is the rising ability to access information on quality and price for all kinds of health care services and providers.

And the increasingly efficient modes of accessing and receiving health care. Think about the soon-to-be “old” (I hope) way: calling to make an appointment (usually at least a week out),driving to your doctor’s office, paying to park, spending $150 to talk to someone for a few minutes after sitting in the waiting room for hours. Advances in telemedicine, not to mention supportive reimbursement trends, mean being able to serve a lot of people that we might not have in the past. Or at least not as easily (for them). It’s exciting.

Why is access to quality health care so important and why did you choose to make this a key part of your benefits strategy?

There are a lot of health care decisions made based on personal relationships, or the brand built around an institution or provider. And a lot of misconceptions about what quality care means. In many cases when you actually look at the data for the condition in question, a physician may score really low, but in other areas they’ve got great expertise (and press). Similarly, I don’t think it’s been realized until very recently that a facility with a strong reputation for care in one area may be weak in other areas.

I think the ability to have information on quality easily available will help people make better decisions about where they access health care, and ultimately promote better outcomes and lower costs.

That’s why we felt strongly about Grand Rounds and putting reliable quality information in our employees’ hands. Now they’ve got a resource that helps them better understand their condition, and that might open up new treatment options for them.

So what keeps you up at night as a benefits leader?

One of the things on my mind most recently is the emerging ability for carriers and other partners to identify opportunities to proactively communicate with members based on potential care needs. Whether it’s diabetes management or expert second opinion services, we’re on the cusp of making sure people have the resources available to them right when they need it.

This type of data-enabled outreach has never been the method of operation before. Usually, you just lay out your programs and it’s posted on your Intranet or a flyer and you hope that people stumble on it when they need it. But now, our partners can guide our members to programs like Grand Rounds before they start taking chemotherapy or scheduling a surgery, so they can be confident in their treatment plan. The thing we want to be sure of is that members know that potentially life-changing care is available to them through their benefits.

Any other last pieces of advice you’d like to share with benefits leaders?

A lot of people in this field seem to move so slowly. Everyone wants to try a pilot first. Everyone wants to test…and wait…and see what things evolve. My advice is to take action and pull the trigger on some of these new innovative, low-cost solutions.

I don’t like pilots. I think they are just as much work as launching a full program. If you do your due diligence and have quality measures in place, skip the pilot. If it’s good enough for a pilot, it’s good enough to use. You’ll spend a year evaluating a pilot and by then the market has already moved on and the technology has improved.

I hate to overuse the phrase, but “just do it”.

Okay, and this is just for fun: If you could have followed any other career path, what would you have done?

I would have been a marine biologist. I always wanted to be one while I was growing up but I think at some point I realized it just wasn’t practical!

Other things you might be interested in.
Five tips for a healthier heart
How the flu vaccine can keep you and your family safe
The Future of Healthcare is Inclusive