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Catholic Benefits Trust

Creating Better Health Consumers Through Benefit Communication

Studies show that 50%* of employees don’t understand their health benefits.  As a human resources or benefits manager, this may be especially apparent to you during open enrollment or after the first of the plan year.  Employees usually begin asking questions after they receive an Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) statement or medical bill they don’t understand. And by this time, the employee and you, the employer, may have been impacted financially, maybe even unnecessarily so.

When diving deeper in trying to understand what, specifically, about their benefits employees don’t understand, we often find lack of understanding in:

  • Employee responsibility of copay, deductible, out-of-pocket maximum, and co-insurance amounts
  • In-network healthcare options
  • Which facilities are covered (labs, outpatient facilities)
  • When to seek care, and with what urgency
  • How to make the best healthcare decisions based on medical condition
  • Which prescriptions are covered
  • Which pharmacies are covered, etc.

 

When viewing this list, it may be easy for benefits managers to wonder “Well, how do they still not understand their benefits when we have an extensive employee education program, we distribute a large booklet during open enrollment, provide information with every pay check, send them email reminders …” The answer to this is quite simple—until employees are actually faced with the financial impact of their healthcare decisions, all of the above may be information overload, and they may not take the time to prepare.

For example, imagine waking in the middle of the night to an inconsolable toddler who has a high fever and a rash, but they can’t tell you “what hurts.” As a parent, your first instinct might be to take them to the emergency department (ED) because you have no idea how sick they are. Upon arriving at the ED, you discover that your child has a virus, which needs to be remedied with plenty of fluids, fever reducers, and rest. While you’re relieved that your child is going to be okay, you may be wondering if there are ways to avoid such a scenario in the future, with finances and time in mind.

Rushing to the ED during times of after-hour sickness used to be a fairly common practice, but can be a costly option. With the advancement of technology, there are resources available, now more than ever, that can empower employees to take charge of their healthcare by making better, more cost efficient decisions that save both you, the employer, and them valuable resources. For example, calling a nurse advice line in the above scenario would have afforded the opportunity to speak with a trained medical professional who could better assess the need to report to the ED versus waiting to be seen at primary or urgent care the next day.

Costs vary depending upon the type of facility the patient visits. For comparison, here are the average costs per visit by setting:

Emergency Room            $619
Urgent Care Center        $132
Primary Care Doctor       $78
“Virtual” Doctor Visit      $35

One way employers can challenge employees to be prepared for any healthcare decision, whether emergent or not, is to pose questions that create a mock health scenario, such as the one listed above. Employees should be able to answer questions like:

  • Where is the closest in-network urgent care facility? Where is the closest emergency department? (In relation to home, school, or work)
    • What are the copays?
  • Does the employee know where their insurance cards are?
    • Are insurance cards available in a digital format on an app, for example, or stored on their phone as an image?
  • Does the health plan or the employees’ primary doctor’s office offer a nurse advice line or care management services? These services are designed to alleviate some of the burden in determining how urgently a patient needs to be seen.
  • Are telehealth services available?
  • If a prescription is needed, does the employee know which drugs are covered or where to locate a list of covered drugs?
  • Which pharmacies are in-network?
    • What are the copays for each tier of medication prescribed?
    • Is it more cost-effective to pay a cash price? (Paying for prescriptions out-of-pocket as opposed to using insurance coverage. See “Pharmacy Apps” below.)
  • Is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) available?

 

This is just a small sample of questions, but may be enough to get employees’ wheels turning so they are prepared in the event of a healthcare emergency or urgent care need.

Benefits managers can make employee education activities engaging and rewarding. Perhaps every employee who completes a mock healthcare scenario–and is able to answer pertinent healthcare questions, such as those above–is entered to win a giveaway. Or those who download the health insurance carrier’s mobile app get a coupon for free ice cream. The possibilities are endless, but the end goal should remain the same—to help employees understand their health benefits.

There are many tools and resources in the form of apps available to assist employees in taking control of their healthcare decisions. Keeping all of these resources together in one folder on a mobile phone is a great way to be prepared.

Health Insurance Apps

Does the health insurance carrier offer a mobile app? If so, the employee can easily access lists of in-network providers, copies of insurance cards, access customer help representatives, wellness incentives, etc. Encourage employees to download the app and take a look around. They might discover resources they didn’t know existed and may be left feeling empowered to handle whatever health incidents may come their way, even if they are traveling or need information on resources quickly.

Pharmacy Apps

GoodRx is a helpful pharmacy resource. On this free app, patients can look up specific drugs and then use the location search feature to determine which pharmacies nearest to them carry the drug at the lowest cost. In addition to a list of locations, the app reveals any current coupons or discount codes which can be applied to the cost of the drug. If the cash price of the drug (not using insurance) is cheaper than a patient’s pharmacy copay, the patient can simply show the coupon from their phone at the pharmacy counter and purchase the prescription at that price if they choose.

Improving healthcare requires moving beyond the bottom line and implementing the right mix of benefits, education and guidance. Presenting employees with real-world examples of the financial impact their decisions can have is a great way to build trust with employees as it shows that you, the employer, care about their overall wellbeing—financial wellbeing included.

 

*International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP)

 

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Catholic Benefits Trust

Your Employees Need Help Understanding Their Health Benefits

I recently read an alarming statistic regarding the percentage of employees who fully understand their employer-sponsored health benefits. According to a 2016 survey by Policygenius, only 4% of Americans could define the following terms:

  • Deductible
  • Copay
  • Coinsurance
  • Out-of-pocket maximum

 

Benefits professionals and human resources personnel are well aware of these terms and their definitions, but perhaps might assume that plan participants completely understand the scope of their benefits as well. Often, employees find themselves taking a more active role in understanding their benefits when they or a family member experiences a medical crisis. Unfortunately, only when they find themselves up to their eyeballs in medical bills do they start digging into how much their healthcare actually costs them, from the deductible, to the copays, to the total out-of-pocket costs they can expect to pay.

Fortunately, with all of the great employee education methods available, employers can take steps to reduce “sticker shock” by adequately educating employees about their benefits package before any medical emergencies arise. In order to provide the highest value possible, it’s crucial that plan sponsors address and employees understand:

What portion of benefits does my employer pay for?

One of the biggest questions in a job candidate’s mind is “what are the benefits like?” Many candidates inquire about benefits during an interview, but are typically only told who the insurance carrier is and perhaps details regarding other fringe benefits, such as paid sick leave or vacation days. Candidates who are seriously interested in the total value of the compensation package, upon being offered a position, may inquire further about the monetary value of the benefits being offered. Many employers, however, aren’t prepared to disclose this information, whether they simply don’t have these totals in a presentable format or maybe because it’s not part of their on-boarding process. A great value-add to any current and prospective employees’ compensation package is to provide a statement of benefits which shows how much you, as an employer, have contributed to their benefits package during the course of the year.

What portion of my benefits do I pay for?

In addition to the amount you cover as an employer, do your employees know how much of their benefits costs they are responsible for? Typically, healthcare premiums are displayed on a paycheck stub or other online pay portal, but with the increased number of employers offering direct deposit over the past several years, employees might easily overlook these allocations. In addition to premiums, do employees know what they can expect to pay when they report to their doctor’s office, urgent care, or a lab for blood work? Usually, these costs are printed on the insurance card, but healthy employees who rarely go to urgent care, for example, might be alarmed to find that they owe something to the provider before being seen. This is just one small example, but it’s important to ensure employees are aware of all their co-pays, deductibles, and total out-of-pocket costs.

What physicians, laboratories, facilities, and pharmacies are covered on my plan?

Any plan participant who recently switched health plans might be surprised to find out that “their doctor” may no longer be considered “in-network” on their new plan. That’s why it’s so important to point employees in the right direction in obtaining this information, whether via newsletters or company intranet resource pages. Typically, health insurance carrier websites offer a comprehensive list of covered physicians and facilities by network. Also, many health plans now have mobile apps that make finding a doctor, pharmacy, lab, etc. very easy.

What services are covered on my plan?

I think we’ve all been in a situation at one time or another where we’ve gone to the doctor only to be referred out to another provider, typically a specialist. And most of the time we just agree to the recommendation and proceed to schedule an appointment with that provider, hoping to be seen as soon as possible. But sometimes, we get a call from that physician’s office informing us that they don’t accept our insurance or our insurance doesn’t cover the services they offer. And so begins a seemingly endless cycle of phone calls in order to address our underlying medical condition, whatever that may be. Most of this perceived hassle could have been prevented had we thought to ask if these services were covered in the first place. Fortunately, these resources can also easily be made available on a company intranet page or benefits newsletter.

Providing valuable benefits information ahead of time not only properly educates employees, but also can eliminate a lot of the frustrations in dealing with any setbacks in seeking medical care, which can negatively detract from the value of your organization’s health plan. If you need more information on developing a solid employee education strategy, it would be my pleasure to assist you. Taking the time to put an education plan in place provides big value for your health plan and ultimately serves to help you recruit and retain top talent.

At CBIZ, we know the importance of developing effective communication techniques, coupled with the expertise necessary to execute and implement a strategy. Clear and effective communication is needed for a successful employee benefit plan. Health plans are expensive benefits that require employee decision-making, so it is essential to give employees the information and tools they need to enroll and make the most of the program. CBIZ will assess your population and identify the different employee segments and create a multi-channel employee education and engagement campaign tailored to those various segments.

 

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Catholic Benefits Trust

Benefits Managers: Big Data is Changing Healthcare

Traditionally a late adopter of “big data,” the health care industry has slowly been taking steps toward utilizing health care intelligence to shape the way care is provided. This shift may be in part due to the change from a fee-for-service payment model to a value-based one, and one where payer/provider relationships are slowly starting to change.

I remember walking into my physician’s office after they had remodeled in the mid-90s.  The main feature behind the reception desk was a wall of carefully organized patient charts, seemingly the focal point of the office. Each was colorfully coded with some variety of fluorescent colored stickers, and the file belonging to me would be pulled from the wall while I was sitting in the waiting room filling out updated medical forms, which would then be added into this very file. Filling out new paperwork each time I went to the doctor got to be a little redundant and, even worse, if I was referred out to a specialist, I found myself filling out the paperwork all over again, because none of my information was held in the same place. There was no central silo for all of my health data. Instead, the specialist would have to request my primary care file be faxed or mailed to their office for review.

Until now, much of any patient’s data–pharmacy, clinical, and financial/demographic data, etc.–has been held in separate silos, where information cannot be analyzed together. And yet today, with the use of an electronic health record (EHR), we’ve eliminated a lot of paper files, but the systems of information still aren’t talking to each other at the patient level. For example, if you’re only ever seen within the same health/hospital system, chances are good that your clinical file is fairly complete. If you’re seen at multiple places, information is still scattered and the complete picture of your health isn’t there. When all of this information is assessed collectively, however, payers benefit from lower costs, and providers benefit by having a more holistic view of a patient’s health, thus allowing them to make better care decisions.

Using big data in health care is referred to as population health management. Some of the specific benefits include:

  • Epidemic prediction
  • Improvement of care
  • Increased patient wellness/fitness
  • Lowered costs

 

The big data used to generate a complete view of a patient’s health, or trends within a group of patients, comes from many sources. One of the most well-known methods is through the use of wearable devices. These are the popular fitness trackers that count how many steps one has taken, heart rate, and even sleeping patterns. Also, the use of at-home medical testing is becoming more advanced, with most devices transmitting results directly to a physician’s office, as in the case of heart or blood pressure monitors, for example. But some of the most powerful and complete sources of data include Electronic Health Records (EHR), a patient record held by a physician. Each patient could have several EHRs based upon the number of physicians and specialists they see.

But, as mentioned previously, most of this information is held in separate silos. When all of this information is brought together, it’s known as data warehousing. The goal is to organize the data in such a way that decision makers can:

  • View clinical and financial data together
  • Create disease registries
  • View predictive analytics
  • Create population risk stratifications
  • View hospital admission and readmission rates

 

The end result of pooling all of this data is the ability to view all plan data at the patient level. Imagine being able to determine pools of high risk employees and providing them with resources to achieve the proper care, thus preventing the onset of a second chronic disease. Or imagine being able to encourage employees to be engaged with their healthcare decisions, which would lead to improved outcomes. What if you could determine that a plan participant wasn’t taking their medications and was possibly experiencing further health complications as a result? All of this, and more, is possible by using big data in the health care space.

Big data truly is paving the way toward lowering health care costs and improving patient outcomes, slowly but surely. Payers, providers, patients, and plan sponsors can all benefit from population health management. Benefits managers and HR personnel can make use of these powerful analytics by partnering with a benefits advisor who acknowledges the benefits of population health management and who actively works with reputable data management vendors to achieve cost savings and better health outcomes for plan participants and sponsors alike.

CBIZ and the Catholic Benefits Trust have worked with many employers to harness the power of big data offered through Conifer Solutions. We’d love the opportunity to further discuss how we can put this technology to use for you and your employee benefits program.

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Catholic Benefits Trust

What You Need to Know About the Chronic Disease Management Act of 2018

The Chronic Disease Management Act of 2018, which was introduced in the House of Representatives on February 8, 2018, is the latest legislation to address the growing concern over chronic diseases and preventative care.

“This bill amends the Internal Revenue Code, with respect to health savings accounts (HSAs), to allow the high deductible health plans required for an HSA to provide care for chronic conditions with no deductible. The bill covers care and prescription medicines related to the treatment of medically complex chronic conditions which: (1) are substantially disabling or life threatening, (2) have a high risk of hospitalization or other significant adverse health outcomes, and (3) require specialized delivery systems across domains of care.”

(Source: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/4978/actions)

Chronic diseases account for a large portion of medical and pharmacy spend in the United States, with costs rising yearly. The Chronic Disease Management Act would permit High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) to provide chronic disease prevention and management, as defined by the 3 criterion in the bill, prior to a plan participant meeting a deductible.

High deductibles often prevent patients from seeking the proper care they need to improve their health. But improper care also often results in the worsening of symptoms, and may even lead to the development of a second or third chronic illness.

Also included in the proposed bill is prescription coverage for those with chronic diseases at no deductible. Medication adherence can be extremely effective in improving health outcomes. Many prescriptions used to treat chronic illness are classified under the specialty pharmacy tier and are often quite expensive. Such expenses serve as a financial deterrent to patients who desperately need access to these drugs in order to improve their health.  More affordable access to prescriptions, as well as medication adherence, will pave the way for improved health outcomes and reduced hospital readmission rates/doctor visits.

Research has shown that patients with chronic conditions account for 81% of hospital admissions; 91% of all prescriptions filled; and 76% of all physician visits. Access to timely care and medications would greatly improve health outcomes and drive down health care costs for both patients and employers.

While this bill has just been introduced and will likely take some time to pass both the House and the Senate, employers can currently make good use of care management organizations, which strive to decrease costs and increase positive health outcomes by providing case management and preventive care services.

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Catholic Benefits Trust

Injunction Issued Against Contraception Mandate

The Catholic Benefits Association (CBA) recently won an injunction against the Department of Health and Human Services’ contraception mandate, which requires all health plans to cover some of the costs for contraceptives for plan participants. U.S. District Court Judge David Russell issued this permanent decision, noting that the mandate was also in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because it forced catholic employers to provide contraception and sterilization, despite their deeply held religious beliefs opposing these provisions.

The mandate, which went into effect in 2012, has provided a moral dilemma for catholic employers since its inception. Before the contraceptives mandate became applicable to all new health plans, in August of 2012, the Affordable Care Act mandated the coverage of contraceptives for all employers and educational institutions. Unfortunately, and controversially, the current contraceptives mandate still applies to Christian hospitals, Catholic universities, and other religious organizations who oppose the use of contraception.

Many Catholic organizations, besides the CBA, have filed similar contraception relief suits, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, who were recently permitted by a federal appeals court to join the current administration in fighting the ACA’s contraception mandate. The Little Sisters, previously part of a larger suit, filed motions in November of 2017 to join two mandate suits, one in California, and the other in Pennsylvania, however the Attorney General for Pennsylvania objected to their inclusion. Now they are being given a fair chance to be heard thanks to the ruling of the federal appeals court late last month.

While this CBA decision does not apply to all catholic organizations, it is a step in the right direction, and a huge victory for the hundreds of employers belonging to the Catholic Benefits Association. Until and if the current administration is successful in rolling back the mandate, we’ll be monitoring the developments and passing the information along to you.

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Catholic Benefits Trust

How Telehealth Is Improving Care and Reducing Costs

When you think of telehealth, you probably think of communicating with a doctor remotely–over the phone or via a mobile device, as opposed to being seen in an office setting.  And while this is a likely scenario, telehealth is actually so much more than just a means of communication between healthcare professionals and patients. According to the Center for Connected Health Policy, telehealth is a collection of means or methods for enhancing health care, public health, and health education delivery and support using telecommunications technologies. Diagnosis, management, education, counseling, home health, chronic disease monitoring/management, and consumer/professional education are many of the other aspects of telehealth which work together to make healthcare more accessible and to lower healthcare costs.

There are several widely used methods of utilizing telehealth.

Live video provides a 2-way interaction between a patient and a provider where a patient can be “seen” and evaluated without an actual trip to the doctor’s office.

Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) is the transmission of data between electronic technologies, and is often used after a hospital discharge to monitor a patient’s recovery.

Store-and-forward is a technology primarily used between providers and specialists. Examples include forwarding X-rays to a specialist for review as opposed to having a specialist on site, or a physician taking photos of a patients’ skin condition and forwarding to a dermatologist for review.

Mobile Health (mHealth) accounts for the dissemination of healthcare data between a provider and a patient via mobile or wireless technology and is commonly used as a part of employee wellness programs.

Telehealth allows for the improvement in quality of care, and the reduction of healthcare costs. Here are some of the benefits employers should be aware of:

Reducing Hospital Readmissions

Hospital readmissions account for some of the largest healthcare costs. It costs, on average, approximately $14,200 to readmit a patient to the hospital when using a private insurer. (Source: Agency for Quality Health). Depending on the diagnosis, readmission rates can run as high as 20%.

Telehealth allows for Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) after a hospital discharge to ensure patients are recovering as they should be. From a medication reminder being sent to a patient’s cell phone, to a blood pressure monitor that delivers results back to the physician, telehealth allows a provider to administer appropriate follow-up care depending upon how a patient progresses in their recovery, thus lowering the possibility of a hospital readmission.

Reducing Unnecessary Trips to the Emergency Department (ED)

According to a study in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, telehealth intervention—a pre-hospital emergency services consultation—was able to reduce unnecessary trips to the ED by 6.7%. “For patients with non-urgent conditions, the EMS physician scheduled alternative transportation to an affiliated primary care clinic, rather than providing all patients with ambulance transportation to an ED.” The average cost of an emergency department visit is roughly $700, with urgent care visits averaging $150. The average cost of a telehealth visit is $40. (source)

Increased Access to Specialists

Imagine traveling between 2-3 hours one way to see a specialist every month, or being able to video chat with that same provider for 1 hour out of every month. Telehealth allows for greater access to specialists. It provides more convenience for the patient, and it gives specialists, who are often in high demand, the opportunity to see more patients.

Adding Value to Employee Benefits

Telehealth also plays a big role in employee benefits packages and wellness programs. From the integration of wearable technology, such as fitness tracking apps, to the use of weight loss trackers, employees are more vested in their care and committed to achieving positive results. Apps may also provide prerecorded educational videos sent along to the patient, which may provide important health information to employees, such as reminders to get a yearly flu shot, tips to lower blood pressure or even healthy recipes to try with their families. mHealth, as it’s called, is becoming increasingly popular, and many employees are beginning to view telehealth as a value-add to their health insurance plan.

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Catholic Benefits Trust

Collaboration & Communication: The Development of Payer-Provider Partnerships

In 2017, one of the biggest developments in the healthcare industry was the change in population health management. Through the use of big data, we saw the integration of many different electronic health records (EHR) with the goal of better understanding a patient’s health and the costs associated with their care. Additionally, we started to see collaborative partnerships develop between payers and providers, each previously operating in separate channels.

Payers and providers each benefit from strategic partnerships. As they continue to come together in 2018, payers will likely see reduced costs, and providers will be able to provide better quality of care by identifying and potentially slowing the progression of chronic illness, such as diabetes and heart disease. In light of the switch from fee-for-service to value-based reimbursement models, providing the best care possible is especially important for providers.

Approximately 45% of the population has at least one chronic illness, such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer that may lead to deteriorating outcomes. We know that the inability to identify individuals with chronic disease states may lead to unnecessary emergency room visits, more frequent visits to a number of different providers, and possibly an increase in the number of hospital admissions/readmissions. All of these factors drive up healthcare costs.

In taking a look at data available to them, both payers and providers can analyze population health data to identify high-risk/high-cost patients. An even deeper look at the data may reveal overlaps in care, as well as gaps in care. Payers and providers can then work together to develop preventive care offerings and establish appropriate care plans.

Another factor influencing payer and provider relationships is the presence of HDHPs (High Deductible Health Plans). Now more than ever, patients are interested in pricing transparency for the services related to their care. They often inquire about costs before procedures or office visits with the deductible in mind. Thus, engaging patients in their healthcare provides a level of proactivity and better outcomes. Payers and providers are working together to provide patients with accurate information—the provider should be knowledgeable of the cost to the health plan and patient, and the payer should be able to provide patients with cost projections for  the medications/tests a patient may be prescribed.

While not long ago payers and providers operated very separately, in 2018 we will continue to see an increased number of Payer-Provider partnerships. We’ll also see the optimization of population health data systems from which payers and providers can glean the insight needed to provide better care at a lower cost. Patients will also continue to be invested in their healthcare decisions, especially those with HDHPs.  Collaboration and communication will be the key ingredients which garner positive results in 2018.

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Catholic Benefits Trust

Changes Ahead: The state of population health management

If you’ve been to the doctor recently, you may have noticed that the nurse or medical assistant who took your vital signs possibly entered those stats directly into a computer or tablet. And if you’ve visited a provider who is traditionally a late adopter of new healthcare technology, then you may have experienced a staff still adjusting to the change of keeping an EHR, electronic health record, a key component of population health management.

The healthcare industry has been one of the slowest industries to jump aboard the big data train. But, amidst all of the changes, population health is here to stay. And, in the changing medical reimbursement landscape, from volume-based to value-based, it’s a needed and beneficial change.

With an emerging emphasis on payer-provider relationships, population health plays a very important role in reducing cost and improving patient outcomes. Payers and providers, traditionally operating separately, are coming together for the benefit of the patient, and it benefits each of them as well. Payers are paying less, and providers are benefiting from seeing an overall picture of health, which allows them to provide better care.

While some healthcare providers are just now jumping on board, population health continues to evolve. Until now, many clinics and practices may have used several different EHR systems (eClinicalWeb, MyChart, etc.).  In 2017 and beyond, we’ll see the converging of many different systems under one roof.  As the systems “talk to each other”, providers will be able to glean a much broader sense of a patient’s overall wellbeing.

Many kinds of information can be made available through population health—Clinical, financial, sociodemographic, and geographic data. For example, socioeconomic data, which goes beyond ethnicity and home language, may provide insights such as housing stability or access to reliable transportation. This allows providers to look for care gaps—things that may prevent a patient from receiving the best care possible.

Beyond pulling much data together, population health will continue to develop and transform the healthcare industry in the coming years. Other developments and trends in the PHM space include mobile visits—talking to a physician over the phone; apps—the ability to email a physician or refill a prescription from a mobile app; and mental health—integrating behavioral health into the physical health picture.

Population health management, though not currently a well-oiled machine in the healthcare industry, has the potential to immensely improve health outcomes and lower costs in the coming years. As population health continues to march forward, payers and providers should both benefit from these technological advances, which allow for a complete picture of a patient’s health.  Change is inevitable, but keeping up with the trends and benefits makes it an easier and more meaningful transition.

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Catholic Benefits Trust

Important Data in Population Health Management

Between patient data, electronic health records, and more, healthcare providers sift through a great deal of data each day. While some data is useful across the board, other bits of information are better used for specific purposes, one of which is population health. Population health management requires providers to obtain data from a number of different sources, such as hospitals, primary care physicians, patients, public health organizations, and payers. While having more data can be beneficial, not all data is created equal, so it’s essential to know which pieces of information are needed for success in population health management. Here are three data sources that seem to do the trick:

Claims Data – A Good Starting Point

This standardized structured data is the most readily available and one of the better places to start gathering population health data. This data includes demographic information of patients  and what their health concerns may be, as well as costs and dates of service. Because most patients use one payer, it’s often easier to obtain this data from one source, which eliminates any interoperability issues that could arise. However, claims data is often months and sometimes years old, which is not the most proactive solution for managing population health on its own.

Electronic Health Records

Also known as EHRs, this data is picks up on some of the loose ends that claims data may have forgotten. EHRs go into more detail about the care process for patients, patient concerns, medical history, lab results, provider impressions of patients, and more. This data can provide answers to common population health questions such as, “How many patients are using tobacco and how many of them have attempted to access resources to help them quit? How many are quitting after taking classes or receiving treatments?” One downside of this data collection is that it tends to contain unstructured data that can be incomplete or more challenging to read.

Socioeconomic Data

This form of data is one of the richest, most telling forms for population health management. Average income of a patient’s living area, literacy levels, proficiency in English, crime rates, access to transportation, and education levels are all important indicators of patient outcomes. Currently, many EHRs do not allow providers to access this information at the point of care, but this information is being made available as the industry continues to realize the importance of socioeconomic data.

Managing population health can be done most effectively when using the right tools and technology. At Catholic Benefits Trust, we understand how useful these technologies are and how they work to benefit patients everywhere. Some of our benefits for members include valuable benchmark data, lower fixed costs, asset protection, and flexibility in choosing the right plan for your employees. Contact us today for more information on our plans and how we can help.

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Catholic Benefits Trust

Preparing for 2018: Monitoring Health Spending for Employee Benefits

It’s never too early to start thinking about next year, especially when it’s less than six months away. Each year offers new ideas, new goals, and new ways to set up financially reasonable benefits plans. When making a new year’s resolution, many consider the idea of decreasing spending or improving the ways in which they spend money. A 2016 Gallup poll showed that more Americans were concerned about finances than in previous years. In 2015, health care spending in the United States rose to $3.2 trillion and that number continues to increase as the years go by.

Check Health Care Costs in Advance

Advise employees to check out health care options that will be both financially reasonable and beneficial to them prior to receiving treatment. Some employees could be overwhelmed by the myriad of options available, but this enables them to customize their plan and it provides you with the best value. Be sure to share some health care comparison tools to allow employees to find the best quality care before they need it.

Watch Health Spending

As mentioned previously, health care spending in the U.S. is in the trillions, so closely monitoring this is crucial. Be sure to remind employees to tracktheir health care costs, particularly in areas where they are spending the most money on care. This way, employers can better understand their employees’ needs, and consult an advisor to formulate the most beneficial, cost-effective plans.

Keep Employees In the Loop

Educating employees on benefits plan options is one of the best ways to be familiar with employee needs. This way, employees can better understand what they are getting out of a plan, and have the opportunity to voice their concerns and needs. Employees should be educated on the “Four W’s” of a plan: who is paying for it, what is it covering, when can services be used, and why certain products are used in certain instances.

Planning ahead goes a long way, particularly when you have the health needs of your employees to focus on. At Catholic Benefits Trust, we like to be sure employers are able to provide their employees with the best wellness plans to fit their needs and provide them with the best resources to start planning for next year. Some of our benefits for members include valuable benchmark data, lower fixed costs, asset protection, and flexibility in choosing the right plan for your employees. Contact us today for more information on how we can help you come up with the best plans.

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