Healthcare costs continue to rise. The premiums your business pays today are likely higher than they were five years ago. Greater deductibles and copays mean your employees are impacted too.[note]https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/2018-health-plan-premiums-forecast.aspx[/note] Did you know that the way employees manage their health benefits and their access to healthcare transparency technology contribute to these costs?
Visiting the doctor is difficult.
Employee healthcare choices impact a business’ healthcare costs. I believe that it starts with the fact that receiving the appropriate medical care at the right time is difficult.
It’s a lot of work for an employee to find a doctor that accepts their health insurance, is in a convenient location, and accepting new patients. The United States’ physician shortage doesn’t help.[note]https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/08/upshot/a-doctor-shortage-lets-take-a-closer-look.html[/note] A study conducted last year found that patients are waiting an average of 24 days to see the doctor after making an appointment, a 30% increase from 2014.[note]https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2017/03/19/doctor-wait-times-soar-amid-trumpcare-debate/#30516bd02e74[/note] Many times, employees have to coordinate the complicated process of transferring their own medical records.[note]https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinalamontagne/2015/04/29/how-do-i-get-my-medical-records-transferred/#a17af8071c82[/note] These tasks often delay employees finding a dedicated primary care physician (PCP), forcing them to visit expensive alternatives that drive up premiums like urgent care or the emergency room.
Even with a dedicated PCP, it’s disrupting to visit the doctor. Although the average out-of-pocket cost per medical visit is $32, employees face a larger “penalty” due to opportunity cost. In this case, the opportunity cost is defined as the value of productivity that an employee could have been engaged in if they didn’t spend 121 minutes (the average time per medical visit in the United States) away from work.[note]http://time.com/money/4063039/time-money-doctor-visit-healthcare/[/note] Researchers believe that these factors raise the average cost of one medical visit to $75, $32 out-of-pocket and $43 lost in income opportunity.[note]http://time.com/money/4063039/time-money-doctor-visit-healthcare/[/note]
Additionally, employees attempt to work through their illness, leading to a slower recovery. Instead of missing a few hours to see a doctor when they first fell ill, they end up missing a week of work because they waited too long to see the doctor and get proper care. Nine out of 10 Millennials, the largest generation in the workforce, avoid going to the doctor.[note]https://aplus.com/a/millennials-avoid-doctors-why-you-shoudnt?no_monetization=true[/note] This increases the chances of employees getting one another sick, decreasing overall productivity.
A technology solution.
The good news is that there are a number of healthcare transparency technology tools:
- In-network doctor searches
- Cost comparisons with and without benefits
- Quality measurement
- Compilations of reviews
These healthcare transparency technology tools make healthcare choices more affordable and manageable for you and your employees.
Why should my business use healthcare transparency technology?
Encouraging employees to make smarter decisions about their benefits with healthcare transparency technology is a growing trend. This is because smarter decisions lead to cost-savings and increased employee engagement.
Lower Premiums Equal Cost Savings
Cost comparison tools are key to keeping your premiums low, and employees are on board too. Nearly 73% of millennials report wanting to lower their healthcare costs, but say that they don’t know how.[note]https://partners.amino.com/hubfs/May%202018%20-%20eBook%20-%20The%20Benefit%20Managers%20Guide%20to%20Healthcare%20Costs/ebook-healthcare-costs-04-30-linked.pdf[/note] Services like imaging (X-Rays and MRIs) vary in price by hundreds of dollars, even though the quality is the same. Employees who have high deductible health plans will want to know the most affordable place to complete the required imaging. A cost comparison tool factoring in your employees’ benefits will help them determine where to go for the best possible price.
Increased Employee Engagement
Cost comparison and quality measurement tools bring healthcare quality and out-of-pocket costs to the forefront. Your employees are able to set realistic expectations about their healthcare thanks to price transparency and reviews from other patients. You can expect fewer inquiries from your employees about why their medical bill is so high.
Increase productivity at work.
Tools for doctor searches can help employees quickly find a physician in their network and preferred location, all online. The quicker they find and see a doctor, the faster they get back to work. They’re also less likely to stay at work and get their colleagues sick. Additionally, less time is spent on the phone making an appointment since many tools offer the ability to book appointments securely via email or text message.
The technology that can make an impact.
Both health insurance carriers and third-party technology providers offer tools to help employees make better healthcare choices.
Several health insurance companies have cost comparison and in-network doctor search tools for their policies. Anthem Care Comparison allows employees to compare actual costs for common procedures at hospitals and facilities in their network. Employees can see price information as well as procedure and quality comparisons that gauge performance and safety at each facility. Along similar lines, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield members can use the Zagat Health Survey to read other members’ feedback about their experiences with doctors. Ask your health insurance broker about the tools your carrier makes available to employees.
Amino helps employers save money by guiding their employees to higher-value care. We had the opportunity to talk to Amino’s CEO and Co-Founder, David Vivero, about the greatest benefits for employees using their products.
- A comprehensive search that includes everything from doctors and specialists to hospitals, urgent care centers, imaging centers, and more — all within an employee’s insurance network.
- A SmartMatch feature that uses an algorithm to highlight providers that are a balance of cost-effective, safe, and experienced, so employees don’t have to guess what the best choice is.
- A user-friendly experience that makes the product easy, friendly, and accessible. Amino also offers a concierge service that can book doctor’s appointments on the employee’s behalf to make the experience even more seamless.
With several healthcare transparency technology tools currently available, we asked David what makes Amino unique. He stated two main reasons:
- A powerful database of health insurance claims (9 billion!), so no other claims data is needed to get employees up and running. This means Amino has the flexibility to work with companies of various sizes — with a premium offering catered specifically to companies with 100+ employees.
- A premium solution that integrates seamlessly with other benefits, meaning less overhead and admin for HR/benefits teams. Features like single sign-on and “contextual benefits,” which guides employees to use other healthcare benefits available to them (like telemedicine) right when they’re searching for care, also make the integration as smooth as possible.
He also told us what current employee users enjoy about Amino:
“Employees love Amino because it helps them find care that’s not only great, but affordable for their plan, too. Amino’s care search includes everything from doctors and specialists to hospitals, urgent care centers, imaging centers, and more — but what makes that information useful is that it actually guides employees to the best choices for their plan. Our SmartMatch feature takes that data one step further by highlighting providers that are cost-effective, safe, and have lots of experience treating similar patients, so employees don’t have to guess what the best choice is.”
With the healthcare transparency technology tool Zocdoc, users can scan their insurance card and list their medical concerns in order to generate a list of doctors who can treat them. Each doctor has a profile with reviews and a star rating.
Employees with access to Zocdoc can see open appointment times and book instantly online while reading verified reviews. Zocdoc users can also complete waiting room forms online ahead of time and keep track of annual checkups. Their wellness guide includes a personalized to-do list of preventative care appointments, many of which are free under the Affordable Care Act.
Online enrollment software also plays a role in healthcare cost comparison. Employees can see what each of their benefit options, including health, dental, vision, and voluntary, will cost them per pay period in real-time. They can also view side-by-side plan comparisons with details about copays and prescriptions covered to help determine which plans bring them the most value. This is a great way for employees to plan for their health care costs.
Utilization is key.
The types of healthcare transparency technology tools mentioned above won’t yield results without utilization. Amino, one of several healthcare and benefits tools available in the Ease Marketplace, agrees. Drawing from Amino’s own experience, David offered the following tips to drive employee utilization:
- Lean on your vendor, whether it’s an insurance carrier or third-party technology, for support on creating a detailed rollout plan.
- Ask for marketing materials (like posters, flyers, and digital signage), ask yourself “would I stop to read it?” If not, push for something more surprising and engaging to catch employees’ eyes.
- Don’t just talk about utilizing the tool during open enrollment. Make sure to communicate the benefits of your new tool all year long — you never know when someone will need a new doctor or an expensive procedure.
- Ask your vendor to come to your office. Offer an incentive (like lunch!) to get employees to attend — once they see it in action, they’re going to be much more likely to try it out for themselves.
“My main advice for HR leaders looking to implement a healthcare utilization tool is to lean heavily on your vendor — they should be your partner throughout the journey. Their job isn’t only to provide the product, but to also be with you every step of the way to support the rollout, engage with and educate your employees, and help you develop the right messaging and materials needed to effectively communicate with your organization,” said David.
Research also shows that employers have been adopting consumer-driven benefits, high deductible health plans, HSAs, and FSAs to combat rising healthcare costs.[note]http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/health-insurance-premiums.aspx[/note]
Healthcare doesn’t need to be difficult.
Understanding a product before deciding to buy it isn’t a new concept. Groceries, clothes, and airfare are all items that we assess for quality and cost before we buy. Why should healthcare for your employees be any different?