This post is contributed by Brian Marcotte, principal at BJMarcotte Consulting LLC and the former President and CEO of Business Group on Health. For more than 20 years, Marcotte served as the Global Vice President of Compensation and Benefits at Honeywell International.
Most employers offer healthcare and wellbeing resources to help their employees stay healthy and maximize their healthcare experience, but engaging employees in these valuable resources remains a significant challenge.
Consumerism was supposed to be the engagement answer for healthcare, but the grand experiment to turn employees into engaged, sophisticated consumers by combining the price sensitivity of high deductible plans with healthcare information didn’t quite pan out the way employers hoped. What did we learn?
Healthcare is too fragmented, self-navigation is too complex, and employees do not seek care with enough frequency to ever be engaged, sophisticated consumers.
Consequently, there has been a shift in employer strategy away from consumerism. Rather than put the burden on employees to navigate the delivery system, employers have looked to healthcare navigation solutions to simplify the employee’s healthcare experience. These “Navigators” provide a single point of entry to guide and support employees throughout their care journey while introducing resources along the way to help them maximize their benefits and health outcomes.
While Navigators have grown significantly to meet this demand, the challenge of engagement persists because most employees do not access healthcare very often, if at all. Infrequent access typically means employees forget that navigation is a resource that can help them when they need to seek care. We all know that 20% of employees drive 80% of healthcare costs but who is in that 20% differs from year to year.
The engagement challenge pushes employers to continue deploying traditional broad-based communications to remind employees of the resources available. This tactic, however, only engages employees who need access to care at that time and does little to engage people who don’t have an immediate healthcare need. So how can we keep navigation in front of employees who don’t use healthcare today but could become a “twenty percenter” tomorrow? Perhaps looking at online shopping can provide some answers.
There was a time when online shopping was as foreign to consumers as Navigators, but today it is a routine part of everyday life. Amazon cracked the online shopping engagement code by figuring out how to increase the traffic and frequency with their website. They simplified and personalized the shopping experience, pushed communications based on search history and consumer data, offered free shipping via Prime, and made purchasing as easy as pushing a button. Increased frequency builds routine, and routine has kept Amazon top of mind, making it not just the “go-to” site for online shopping but shopping in general.
There are lessons we can learn from the Amazon experience. If the employer strategy is to simplify the employee experience, having all health and wellbeing resources and all point solutions sit behind a single navigation engagement platform would streamline communications and simplify messaging. It would create an opportunity to leverage data to more personalize the employee experience. It would allow for better integration of all solutions across the health and wellbeing spectrum, bringing together physical, emotional, financial, and social resources to support the health, chronic, and acute care needs of the population.
A holistic navigation solution may never become as routine as online shopping, but if we can leverage a Navigator that provides an end-to-end, personalized healthcare and wellbeing experience—one that includes incentives, wellbeing challenges, integration of point solutions, steerage to best providers, targeted recommendations and communications, and so forth—perhaps we can increase the engagement frequency to make navigating healthcare a little more top of mind and routine. (One example of a holistic navigation solution is Castlight Health—now a part of apree health—whose data-driven navigation platform helps drive an end-to-end integrated health and wellbeing solution.)
The more value the Navigator provides, the more likely employees are to use it regularly.