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Developing an Integrated Benefits Plan to Better Support Employees

There are scores of different kinds of doctors who all specialize in different areas, and we often need to see multiple providers at one time.

For example, a woman in her 30s who is trying to have children may be referred to a fertility specialist by her OBGYN. If she gets a cold, the same woman will need to schedule an appointment with her general practitioner. If the cold ends up being something more serious, she would be referred to yet another facility for imaging and labs. She’ll need to consult with pharmacists and her fertility doctors before taking any medication for the problem. If she’s stressed out from being sick and trying to conceive, she might decide to reach out to a counselor or other mental health provider.

Achieving whole health is a complex task. In recent years, there has been a shift in the way we approach healthcare to make the process of staying healthy more comprehensive and accessible. This is known as integrated healthcare. The new trend is having a big impact on how employees use their health benefits, which could ultimately result in lower costs for employers.

In this blog post, we’ll explore how the full integration of medical benefits such as doctor’s visits, pharmacy needs, mental health, and other specialist care can radically improve the value of your employee’s benefits offerings.

What Is Integrated Healthcare?

According to the American Psychology Association, “Integrated healthcare, often referred to as interprofessional healthcare, is an approach characterized by a high degree of collaboration and communication among health professionals. What makes [it] unique is the sharing of information among team members related to patient care (e.g., physicians, nurses, psychologists, and other health professionals), and the establishment of a comprehensive treatment plan to address the biological, psychological, and social needs of the patient.”

The Value of Integrating Health Benefits for Individuals and Employers

Earlier this year, Cigna Health released their Value of Integration study based on analysis of more than 2.2 million medical claims from Cigna customers who receive coverage through their employer. Other employers and benefits providers can learn from their results on how taking an integrative approach to benefits can help reduce costs for employers.

They began with a basic hypothesis: employers who integrate their benefits coverages will experience lower total medical costs than those who carve out either pharmacy or comprehensive behavioral coverage (or both) and purchase this coverage from another vendor.

Increased Savings

When employers integrated their health benefits, they realized the following results:

  • Employers saved an average of $227 per year for each user.
  • For individuals identified as having a health improvement opportunity, average cost savings increased to $4,741 annually.
  • Savings can be even more significant when looking at customers living with high-cost conditions. The study shows total medical cost savings exceeding $6,700 for individuals with an oncology diagnosis and over $2,700 for individuals diagnosed with diabetes.

Increased Engagement

Taking an integrated approach to health benefits can result in increased employee engagement, which has a positive impact on health outcomes. The study found:

  • Higher engagement for employees living with depression (21%), diabetes (11%), or an oncology diagnosis (10%)
  • A 25% higher employee engagement in other health benefits programs such as counseling, lifestyle or wellness coaching, and smoking cessation

The study also suggests engaged customers are:

  • Less likely to have emergency room visits, especially those living with depression (16%), diabetes (14%), or musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis or back pain (11 %)
  • More likely to use in-network, high-performing providers (7%)

By working with providers and pharmacies and promoting whole-health engagement among employers, benefits providers can help identify potential health problems early and drive more lifesaving, early medical interventions. Encouraging employees to take a comprehensive view and play an active role in their health journeys helps promote better health outcomes, which ultimately drives down medical costs for employers.

Learn how to boost employee engagement while minimizing healthcare costs for your organization.

Related Categories

Employee Health & Wellness

Blake Herring

Blake Herring is an Employee Benefits Executive who joined SWBC in 2021. He strategically consults and partners with employers across all industries, with a strong emphasis on mid to large-sized employers. Blake is a Licensed General Lines Agent—Life, Accident, Health, and HMO

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