Employer Solutions | 3 months ago

Pillars of Healthcare - Flexibility

There are five primary pillars of healthcare services that make up a truly successful employer health program.

By Daniel J. Birach, President, HEALTHWORKS Division, Carolinas HealthCare System

It’s no secret that the healthcare landscape is evolving rapidly. Rising costs, advances in research and consumers’ desire to better understand their overall health and preventive care have led to a dramatic increase in options on the market. Rather than simply offering a traditional collection of health, dental and vision coverage options for employees, companies now have to sift through numerous benefit choices that ten years ago would have been seen as just “nice to have.”

Preventive resources like on-site health clinics, health coaching, fitness options and health surveys have been shown to help employees live healthier lifestyles while lowering the overall cost of care. But, having too many choices can be intimidating. In fact, many of our clients find themselves wondering, “How do I know that my health benefits are covering all the necessary bases?”

The truth is, no two companies are alike and so no two insured populations will require the exact same mix of benefits. A 150-person insurance firm will have different needs than a 1,000-person manufacturing company or a 10,000-employee financial firm.

As we work with clients and brokers to develop a customized healthcare program that works best for their team, we have found that there are five primary pillars of healthcare services that make up a truly successful health program. The key is identifying the right services within each pillar to build the program that will serve your business. Companies that offer resources in every one of these areas tend to have an holistic, robust healthcare program. Over the next few weeks, we will talk about each of these pillars in depth so you can better evaluate your own program options. The first pillar—and possibly the most prevalent in today’s marketplace—is flexibility.

Heathcare Pillar OneFlexibility

Flexibility in healthcare is critical from two perspectives: the collection of healthcare options employees can choose from and the manner in which care can be accessed. In an increasingly customized world with costs being so important, more and more employees are looking for healthcare choices that fit their lifestyle and needs.

From an employer standpoint, flexibility can be offered in several ways. A few of the most prominent options include:

Plan FlexibilityThe core of any solid benefits package is health insurance that covers regular visits to the doctor and common health issues that arise, from a broken arm to bronchitis. In today’s highly specialized world, employers can offer their teams the option of selecting additional care and coverage for their specific needs. These arrangements let each member of the insured population select the types of coverage that make sense for them and their family.

“An employer who wants to give employees choice can offer a variety of benefits such as more than one choice for medical plans, dental plans, vision, accident, critical illness, disability, and life insurance.  Such employer would contribute a set dollar amount for each employee to spend on these benefits and allow employees to contribute the difference if their family situation called for purchasing more,” says Rob Krieg, JD, CEBS, Area Vice President, Health & Welfare Consulting with Hill, Chesson & Woody, a division of Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc.

For example, a young family may want to invest in orthodontia coverage, while a team member with a family history of melanoma may appreciate the ability to buy extended coverage for cancer treatment. As an added benefit, this approach allows the company to avoid paying for care that not all employees will need. These plans ensure that employees remain covered for medical conditions that arise and allow them to build the plan that works for their budget and needs.

Care Access—We live in a constantly connected world, which makes it possible for some employees to work from anywhere. If they have an appointment with the doctor across town, they can take a conference call on the drive over and check email while they wait. But not all jobs are structured this way, which means that for some employees, accessing healthcare can mean a drop in productivity or lost days.

Consider an employee who works in a large warehouse and twists his ankle during a shift. In a current office environment, he would have to find a way to leave work, travel to a nearby urgent care facility or possibly a specialty clinic for x-rays, then travel to a pharmacy for pain medication and treatment supplies. It would take several hours before he receives treatment. However, if this employee works at a facility with an on-site clinic, he could be treated and begin recovery within the hour. Importantly, his follow up care could easily be monitored from the workplace as opposed to making a series of time consuming appointments at an office away from his company.

In another example, a young executive is in the middle of a busy planning season when she begins to rapidly develop symptoms of a nasty cold. This employee is fortunate because her company offers virtual urgent care appointments. Instead of trying to find a window of time to leave her office to be seen at an urgent care facility, she can simply talk with a doctor from her desk in between meetings. That same doctor can call in necessary prescriptions she can then pick up on her way home at the end of the day.

While on-site and virtual medical professionals can be a bonus, other on-site resources can have a significant impact as well. Welcoming a nutritionist to your offices once a month, providing a physician to speak about the affects of stress on the body, or hosting daily group exercise classes are great ways to help employees live healthier lifestyles and control chronic medical conditions like diabetes and obesity.

These are just a few of the ways employers can ensure they are providing their team with a flexible approach to healthcare. What are some of the ways your organization provides flexibility to your staff? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter (@HEALTHWORKS) and on LinkedIn. And keep watching the Info Hub. In our next post, we’ll talk about the second pillar of successful healthcare—benchmarking.