Employers Embrace Integrated Health Care

posted by Alicia Caramenico

on March 6, 2019

Employer-provided coverage and benefits deliver affordable access to care, effective ways to improve health, and financial stability and security for more than 180 million Americans every day. And for a growing number of them, coordinated, whole person health care is the right thing to do, according to Anthem’s latest Integrated Health Care Report. It found that sharing data and connecting benefits—medical, pharmacy, vision, dental, life, and disability—can lower health care costs and create a happier, stronger, and more productive workforce.

Nick Brecker, President, Specialty Business, at Anthem, Inc., shared his insights on the report, integrated health care, and shifting attitudes among employers.

What is “integrated health care” and why should employers and employees take notice? 

Nick Brecker: In many ways, the term “integrated health care” has become industry jargon that different companies have used to mean different things. But at its core integrated health care is all about creating a seamless, connected health care ecosystem that includes patients, their doctors, and health insurance providers that results in higher-quality care, a healthier, more-productive workforce, and a more satisfying overall experience. With a connected and coordinated ecosystem, information and data flows more seamlessly across the entire system—from primary care doctors, to specialists, to dental, vision and disability providers, and pharmacies—in a manner that results in a more complete picture of a patient’s health. This allows health issues to be identified and treated more quickly and accurately, and for gaps in care to be resolved between care providers and their patients.

Our research shows that employers and employees are already taking notice. Employers indicate that a tighter job market is one of the main drivers of connected, integrated health benefits. In previous years, companies that integrated benefits were generally focused on the potential financial savings. But now, they’re turning to integration, not just for savings, but to create “a stronger hiring and retention position” and because “it’s the right thing to do” to maintain happier workers. This is in addition to the more practical financial and outcome-based rationale that has traditionally been a driver.

What’s the business case for embracing integrated health care? Why is it the “right thing to do” for employees?

Brecker: While the old-school financial and administrative advantages of connected, integrated health benefits still hold true, now employers are placing an increased value on employees and keeping them happy.

Whole person health care is the “right thing to do” for employees and their families because integrated health care facilitates better communication among the patient’s health care providers—doctors, pharmacists, dentists, vision providers and care managers. In an integrated health care model, the insurance carrier connects care providers with a bigger picture of a patient’s health via electronic patient health histories and health reminders when a patient is overdue for a health care service. This inclusive process is important because what affects one area of a patient’s health can affect another. A simple example of this kind of integration is important, and can also be found in the report, is 25 of the top 25 utilized drugs have vision and/or dental side effects. That’s why it’s important that providers are notified of the medications their patients are taking and have full insight to diagnose and treat their patients properly.

What, if anything, surprised you about the results?

Brecker: It may come as no surprise in this day and age, but it’s interesting to see how much consumer technology continues to increase in importance. Employee engagement is a critical factor in integrated health care success and technology plays a role. The challenge is how to stimulate such engagement. Many people today are already making use of apps, trackers, and alerts in their health and wellness routines. As a result, digital capabilities, which work seamlessly with integrated health care, are becoming increasingly important to employers in engaging their employees, especially among the majority of employers who are already actively integrating or considering integrated, whole person health care.

What impact do you hope the report will have?

Brecker: Anthem is focused on innovating and simplifying health care. We strive to be a valued, inclusive partner that supports the needs of employers and the market as a whole. The environment for acquiring and retaining talent in the workforce has grown increasingly more competitive, especially with a historically low unemployment rate. More employers are competing for the same talent, and benefit offerings are becoming an important differentiator as companies try to distinguish themselves from other employers. Anthem believes that employers should consider what role integrated, whole person health care can play for their company in recruitment and retention efforts. The research shows clearly that a robust integrated health care program could provide employers with an important edge.

Health insurance providers are working together with employers and employees to improve care and coverage and reduce costs. These partnerships enable employers to invest in their employees’ health and financial security, empower employees to take an active role in their health, and provide a source of innovation in health care.

For more information on how employer-provided coverage delivers value for business, patients, and the health care system, visit AHIP’s Coverage@Work campaign.