Grand Rounds Blog

We recently surveyed over 8,000 benefits and total compensation executives from self-insured companies regarding their priorities for 2014, and we uncovered a number of key insights, such as:

  • Healthcare costs may not be rising as much as in years past, but benefits executives are highly concerned about controlling costs while getting a handle on cost transparency within their organizations.
  • At the same time, respondents appear to lack the necessary tools and resources for tracking costs in relation to employee absenteeism.
  • Less well-known programs, such as an Outcomes Management program for connecting employees with top specialists, as well as physician-to-physician consulting for in-patient care, seem to be gaining awareness and interest as executives seek out new ways of controlling costs in 2014.

Here’s a little more background one each of these insights. (Click on the graphs to see the larger versions.)

Thinking just of healthcare benefits, what are your top priorities for 2014

Healthcare costs have actually been slowing down of late; while annual spending on healthcare grew at more than 10% in years past, it is only about 4% now. Still, adding 4% to already bloated costs is still preying on the minds of survey participants–as is changing up existing wellness programs, and complying with ACA regulations.

What are you adding to your health benefits package for employees in 214?

“The status quo” appears to reign in terms of changing up the mix of wellness programs; most executives aren’t planning to add or change programs. A third of respondents are looking to supplement their existing programs, and 22% is evaluating cost transparency options. Interestingly, 8% is looking at quality transparency options–perhaps realizing that it’s equally important to understand the quality of healthcare options offered to employees as it is to understand the cost.

While adding a typical corporate health and wellness program was top of mind for most respondents, a surprising large number (33%) chose an Outcomes Management program as a possible addition to existing benefits packages. An Outcomes Management program connects employees with top medical specialists in order to resolve costly, expensive conditions—and has been shown to return a high ROI if the program sees sufficient utilization. Outcomes Management programs may be rising in visibility and interest among benefits executives.

In considering all cost dues to healthcare expenses,  missed work and other hard cost, where is the greatest cost to the business incurred.

Unsurprisingly, it is the complex, expensive conditions in the workplace that drain costs every year from self-insured organizations. Of growing important to benefits executives may be programs that do not simply promote “general” wellness, but rather programs that zero in on drastic illnesses (such as cancer) or chronic illnesses (such as diabetes) in order to deliver better healthcare outcomes to employees.

On average, how much cost does your company incur per year from employee absenteeism due to health reasons?

The vast majority of respondents do not track costs incurred from health-related employee absenteeism. One question that may arise from this: how do benefits executives subsequently track ROI from their voluntary benefits programs if such costs are not tracked? Do these programs generally lend themselves to a clear ROI analysis? This may be fodder for a future survey.

Despite the lack of knowledge regarding costs associated with employee absenteeism, survey respondents are highly invested in reducing absenteeism through a variety of programs. A second opinions/Outcomes Management program ranks third on the list of potential solutions (28%), behind general wellness programs (72%) and biometric screenings (56%).

What is the most innovative benefit you'll see in 2014?

Concerns around cost transparency continues to drive the answers of survey respondents–but 27% also expressed interest in a medical “SWAT” program where in-patient care could be supplemented by “on call” medical experts. This program could have a tremendous impact on employer costs; it could ensure that employees receive the right diagnosis and treatment at exactly the juncture in the healthcare cycle where costs generally spiral out of control.

Conclusion
Issues of costs, quality, and the ability to reduce employee absenteeism clearly remain top of mind among benefits executives. While Outcomes Management may be a newer concept, it appears to be gaining awareness and interest. As quality and cost concerns continue to intermingle throughout 2014, this awareness is likely to grow.

Author

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