Redesigning the Employee Healthcare Experience for Today’s Digital Consumer: When it Comes to Employee Healthcare, One Size Does Not Fit All

By Rob Cavanaugh and Jean Moore

In today’s ever-changing healthcare landscape, consumers are increasingly playing a key role in the management and maintenance of their own health. For employers, this means the time to revamp their approach to employee healthcare engagement and program design is now and the need to collaborate at the enterprise level is paramount.

In this Q&A, Rob Cavanaugh, president of field operations at Accolade, and Jean Moore, senior partner at Mercer, share their perspective on their companies’ new alliance and explore what it means to employers seeking to enhance their employee benefits offering while cutting costs and improving the health of their organization and workforce alike.

Q. We’re amidst a “Marketplace Revolution” in healthcare today. What does this mean for consumers in terms of managing their own healthcare?

There are many forces of change currently at work in healthcare, one being the shift to a more consumer-driven marketplace. Today’s healthcare system is growing in complexity, and yet consumers are simultaneously being asked to do more and bear the primary burden as decision makers. Whether navigating overwhelming healthcare benefits, managing chronic conditions, or evaluating wellness programs, consumers have an increased responsibility in the management of their health and wellbeing.

However, consumers are increasingly being asked to make these important care decisions in a vacuum. They often lack the resources, information and support necessary to ensure these decisions are optimal for their health and specific set of life circumstances. This approach is both ineffective for consumers and unsustainable for the industry.

Q. Why does the shift to a more consumer-driven healthcare market matter to employers?

Employers are trying to help employees navigate the increasingly complex healthcare and benefits landscape by launching numerous point solutions and tools; however, employer healthcare programs are woefully underutilized.

Forty three percent of employees surveyed say they have not used company-sponsored programs in the past year. Additionally, 32 percent of consumers lack knowledge on their plan options.[i] At the same time, healthcare costs are skyrocketing, driven in large part by a relatively small percentage of high-risk and chronically-ill patients who desperately need a new approach to care management.

Each of these factors means that employers — which provide healthcare coverage for 56 percent of the U.S. population — need to find ways to drive employees’ healthcare engagement. Employers must offer targeted, individualized programs while facilitating employees’ engagement in them across both digital and human channels. Employers also must ensure they are addressing their entire employee population’s needs across all stages of care, including behavioral health and general medical, preventative care and chronic care management. By providing employees with a comprehensive, foundational engagement platform that takes a holistic view of each employee’s health and circumstances, employers can in turn drive increased adoption of individual tools and solutions.

Q. How are digital health tools and technologies providing new opportunities for employers to engage their workforce in healthcare?

The industry’s ongoing digital transformation is redesigning the healthcare experience from the ground up and employers must take advantage of this shift.

Consumers are increasingly embracing digital health tools and technologies, including wearable devices and mobile apps. From the employer perspective, this provides new channels and a unique opportunity to spur employee healthcare engagement using tools and devices that they are carrying in their pockets or wearing on their wrists on a daily basis.

When taken with all else above and used as key healthcare engagement tools, consumer-facing technologies stand to directly impact critical elements like employee productivity and absenteeism, as well as company efficiency and innovation. If they haven’t already, employers need to get into the digital health game.

Q. How can employers — responsible for the healthcare of thousands and even tens of thousands of employees — offer that deep level of personalized support, enabling their employees to make optimal healthcare decisions?

Technology is an important piece of the puzzle. But, getting to personalized support requires not only the right technology set, but also the right data on each individual’s health profile, which isn’t found in existing claims and utilization reports, but through conversations and relationships with individuals themselves.

Employers need to take a comprehensive approach to their employees’ healthcare that is equally rooted in technology, science and human compassion. Advances in data science and technology combine with a human touch to make it possible to experience deeply personalized support, which leads to real engagement and behavior change that leads to better outcomes.

Q. How are enterprise alliances helping to enable this new targeted approach to employee healthcare engagement and care management?

This month, Accolade and Mercer are excited to announce a new alliance and service designed to put employers back in control when it comes to optimizing their employees’ healthcare engagement, all while lowering costs and improving care management capabilities. Combining the strength of both organizations, Mercer Complete Care delivers a comprehensive, high-touch healthcare engagement and clinical management solution for employers.

Mercer’s expertise in program design, clinical oversight and program valuation, paired with Accolade’s proven healthcare concierge model and technology platform, is giving employers the tools for complex case management and proven protocols for engaging high-risk and high cost employee healthcare recipients.

With a comprehensive approach built on technology, science and compassion — and by harnessing the power and expertise of key industry partnerships — both employers and employees will benefit from the forces of the Marketplace Revolution we’re experiencing today. Please see here to learn more about Mercer Complete Care or visit or for more information on how employers can get back in the driver’s seat when it comes to managing and optimizing their employees’ healthcare.

[i] Accolade Consumer Healthcare Experience, 2016.

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