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Employers Attempting to Improve Health-Care Access

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Many employers are planning to provide their workforce improved access to high-quality and cost-effective health care by 2021.

This is according to Willis Towers Watson’s “Health Care Access and Delivery Survey,” which found that 45% of employers surveyed intend to adopt a myriad of solutions to accomplish this, compared to the 32% that have already done so.

Some of the solutions employers have pinpointed are high-performance networks, centers of excellence, onsite or near-site health centers and accountable care organizations.

Notably, the survey also uncovered employers’ top concerns around delivering high-quality, comprehensive health care to their workforce and found they’re most concerned about inadequate access to mental health services (54%) and substance abuse treatment (47%).

“Employers understand the key to better care and a healthier workforce is to focus squarely on quality and a better patient experience, supported by provider contracting that aligns with financial incentives,” said Mark Hope, national health plan relations leader at Willis Towers Watson. “To bring about this meaningful change, companies are seeking innovative solutions like care navigation and high-quality, efficient networks. This drive to try new models has the potential to deliver lower costs and, more importantly, make a difference in the lives of their workers and their families.”

Top of mind for many employers is to ensure their workforce can weed through the historically broad set of network providers to identify quality practitioners. To address this barrier, more companies are expanding the use of high-performance networks (HPNs) and centers of excellence (COEs). These solutions offer a narrower set of health-care providers and facilities with proven track records of offering high-quality care at a competitive cost.

By 2020, 80% of respondents plan to include COEs within a health plan — up from 51% in 2018. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of respondents plan to include HPNs — more than double the number of employers (28%) that had HPNs incorporated into their plan last year. Employers ranked quality of care as the most important feature when deciding to leverage HPNs (54%) and COEs (66%). On the other hand, a surprisingly low 20% of those surveyed ranked cost savings as the most important feature for considering an HPN.

In many cases, employers are taking matters into their own hands by offering onsite and near-site health centers as a solution not only to improve employee access to quality, convenient health-care services but also to boost workplace productivity. Nearly four in 10 employers (38%) are considering opening a health center at their workplace location to provide preventive, primary and urgent care by 2020 — a jump from the 26% that offer this today. Furthermore, about one in four employers (26%) plan to offer near-site health centers by 2020 — an even greater jump from the 8% that offer this today.

Employers are also expanding the types of care offered at health centers, adding mental health services such as behavioral health counseling, in the next few years. Roughly half indicate they will offer onsite or near-site mental health services through the vendor managing the health center or through a community provider by 2020.

This desire to bring health-care services directly to employees is paying off. Of the employers that offer an onsite or near-site health center, 87% indicated they had succeeded in improving employee access to convenient health care services, while 81% touted enhancing employee productivity and bringing absenteeism under control. And 84% of employers with health centers made good in delivering and promoting preventive health screening and services, getting ahead of medical issues through early detection and by instilling healthy habits.

“Employers want to establish solutions that improve the value of health care for employees,” said Kara Speer, national onsite health leader for health and benefits at Willis Towers Watson. “Onsite and near-site health centers can play a role in this not only by the care delivered within the walls of the center but also by improving the health outcomes resulting from referrals to high-performing providers and COEs in the community.”

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