New Rules Of Engagement
Most healthcare organizations understand the basics of what’s required for population health management, but lack a clear strategy for making it successful in their marketplace with consumers. Here are some guidelines that can make a big impact:
Rule 1 – Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This principle, first attributed to St. Francis of Assisi and in recent times to author Steven Covey, helps lay a solid foundation for community partnerships. For example, the healthcare needs of a company predominantly composed of female office workers will look very different from those of a construction company. Engaging effectively with area employers requires empathy and research, not just a canned response.
Rule 2 – Speak the employer’s language. You’ll be much more successful if you don’t confuse local employers with healthcare and technical jargon like “covered lives” and “interoperability.” Employers would much rather discuss return on investment than some hospital-centric topic like HEDIS quality scores.
Rule 3 – Meet them where they are. Health systems with the most successful community and employer-directed initiatives employ an employer relations specialists who meets on-site with local employers. They take a consultative approach, tailoring employer-specific programs to improve health outcomes and lower costs. Helping employers reach those goals provides a boost to strategic hospital programs, services and specialties.
Rule 4 – Provide tools to manage the employer’s investment in better health. Many health systems claim to have a population health platform, yet it is often so complex it does not engage the consumer or the program manager. A truly effective platform needs to be simple to use, create a connection with its users and automate key functions like tracking employee participation and determining which incentives work best. Don’t get snowed by all the “Big Data” stories in the media. In population health, data analytics needs to be practical and actionable.
The platform also needs to include a population health website that lets employees track their own progress, view content personalized to their health risks and communicate easily with care coordination teams if this component is built into the program.
Rule 5 – Develop programs to fit each employer’s budget and readiness level. There are basically three levels of employer engagement:
- Early adopters who are willing to gather employee data with a Health Risk Assessment tool and to participate in health seminars or on-site health sessions.
- Consciously committed employers that see the advantages that can be gained from understanding and addressing their workforce health risks. These companies often have created budgets for more robust biometric screenings.
- Fully engaged employers who have well-defined incentive programs, often are looking for ways to improve on what they have, and may even have on-site nurse practitioners.
Your health system needs to develop programs tailored to each of these employer categories.
Here’s an example of a provider/employer partnership that has produced outstanding results:
The R.E. Darling Company in Tucson, Arizona is a manufacturer with only about 100 employees. Several years ago, its healthcare costs had risen to nearly $1 million annually. The company worked with its hospital partner to create special $1,000 health savings accounts for employees who participated in a population health initiative. The hospital worked with an outside firm to develop a platform for managing biometric screenings, health fairs and awareness campaigns, health coaching, fitness classes and much more.
In the first year of the program, employees posted a 23% improvement in cholesterol scores and an 18% increase in establishing relationships with a primary care physician. Meanwhile, the company achieved a 74% reduction in healthcare spending.
When health systems and employers work closely together – using actionable data to achieve practical results – employees and community groups steadily get healthier, the cost of care decreases and productivity rises. In short, this new partnership is helping to realize the full potential of health reform – and hospitals are building meaningful, local relationships comprised largely of a commercial payer mix.
About the Author:
Phil Suiter is President and CEO of Aegis Health Group in Brentwood, Tennessee. He has nearly three decades of healthcare experience, and has previously served in executive roles at Artemis Health Group, Vanderbilt University, OnLife, and Notify MD.