It’s an interesting and inexact path in the healthcare purchasing world right now. No one knows that better than our business customers. As we talk with them and listen to what they’re experiencing, what they’re facing and how they’re navigating forward to do well by their employees, we continually deepen our understanding of the employer purchasing market and what we need to do to both lead and respond.
What are our customers telling us lately? I talked with our ThedaCare At Work team and was heartened to hear about some shifts in business thinking and purchasing decisions around health care, and concerned by some of the trends businesses continue to face. Here’s a snapshot of what they shared with me.
- Cost-shifting may be nearing its peak. While employers continue to look for ways for employees to participate in the costs of health care – a trend that’s been occurring for many years – they are increasingly aware of the risks and downside of this approach. Although high deductible health plans, and increased co-pays and out-of-pocket costs are still typical, more and more employers are realizing this trajectory has a ceiling. They’re exploring other ideas.
- New payment models intrigue employers. Employers are becoming educated about alternative payment models as they look to increase predictability around costs. And, they understand that moving into those spaces requires a close partnership with us. We’re doing more consulting to help employers manage their costs. We’re getting questions about bundled payments for procedures like joint replacement. We’re being asked what we can do to lower costs and improve quality.
- Employees are behaving differently. With the advent of health apps, social media prompts and personal fitness activity trackers, people are taking their health more seriously. At an individual level, more and more employees want to improve their health, believe they can do it, see change in others, and are changing their own behaviors to make it happen. What’s more, they’re bringing this new attitude and approach to work.
- Worksite healthcare options are growing. Today’s healthcare market is less about one-size-fits-all, and more about what meets the needs of my workforce? Employers are answering that question by opening onsite clinics, engaging health coaches, launching wellness programs and more. They’re empowering employees to partner in improving their own health.
- Narrow networks aren’t what they used to be. As employers look for high quality providers who are skilled at managing costs, they’re anxious about being forced into a narrow network of providers. The good news is that the narrow networks of today are not the narrow networks of the 1990s. Thanks to the alignment of high quality, lower-cost systems – like AboutHealth, of which ThedaCare is one member among eight – employers can provide access to doctors, clinics and hospitals in towns and cities across the state. That’s actually a remarkably broad network!
What can employers take away from these insights? First, there are many available options. The marketplace continues to change quickly. Keep working with your broker to understand how you can get access to all the high quality, low cost options you need. Then, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and connect with us. More than ever before, we’re innovating, adapting and responding to meet individual employer needs.
The way forward will continue to change and require innovation from us all. Let’s keep talking as we walk this path together.
Dr. Dean Gruner is president and CEO of Appleton-based ThedaCare.