How Healthfirst achieved a sevenfold increase in health benefits engagement

Vera Whole Health and Castlight Health are now apree health.

Health Benefits Engagement

Vera Whole Health and Castlight Health are now apree health.

author apree health

The COVID-19 pandemic tested employers in unprecedented ways, bringing to light—or further underscoring—many challenges that had gone unnoticed or been pushed aside in lieu of competing priorities. One of these challenges is consistently ensuring that the organization’s health benefits design is keeping pace with the diverse and ever-changing needs of employees.

In a webinar hosted by Castlight Health (now a part of apree health), Sean Grady, director of benefits at Healthfirst*, joined George Wilson, senior director at Willis Towers Watson, and Peter Hegi, vice president and general manager at apree health, to share how we helped Healthfirst meet its health benefits strategy goals.

Healthfirst’s Benefits Strategy Goals

Healthfirst is New York City’s largest non-profit health insurer, covering more than 1.7 million members. The company employs around 5,000 individuals, with half based in New York, over 1,000 working remotely, and about 900 in a Florida call center.

A few years ago, Healthfirst wanted to establish a modernized, long-term health benefits strategy that would allow the company to not just track and retain top talent, but to optimize healthcare spend.

To do this, Grady and his team identified three goals for a successful benefits transformation:

  • Achieve better digital engagement: Healthfirst wanted to create a more seamless, dynamic health navigation experience for employees by leaning into digital—an underutilized channel, despite the fact that most people have a smartphone—and providing one single place where employees could access and engage with all the different benefits programs.
  • Reduce costs: Broad-spectrum and unoptimized health benefits tend to hide high-cost drivers. After digging into the numbers, Healthfirst identified three major factors that were impacting the company’s healthcare costs: diabetes management, cancer (patients needed more guidance to find the best care), and maternity care (with almost 70% female employees, Healthfirst sees more pregnancies compared to a typical employer).
  • Provide customization: Healthfirst offers a lot of benefits “ingredients” to pick and choose from—four medical plans, two dental plans, two vision plans, pet insurance, and more. Despite so many choices, however, employees didn’t know how to create the ideal personalized health plan for their unique clinical profile, health needs, and preferences.

How Healthfirst Achieved These Goals

Partnering with Castlight (now a part of apree), the Healthfirst HR team took the following steps:

1. Provide a Single, Unified Platform to Easily Access and Understand Health Benefits

Leveraging Castlight’s Care Guidance offering (learn more about apree health’s updated solutions here) helped Healthfirst fill the digital engagement gap and provide Healthfirst employees with a single, unified platform where they could search for providers and better understand healthcare costs and their individual coverage, including viewing their HSA balance. This enabled employees to make smarter decisions about their health, and it also helped Healthfirst increase benefits engagement and address healthcare cost drivers.

2. Create a Highly Personalized Navigation Experience Focused on 360-Degree Care

Right before the pandemic, Healthfirst transitioned from Care Guidance to Castlight Complete in order to reach the company’s full employee population (Care Guidance only included those who were medically enrolled) and create a more unified benefits approach. This included:

  • Integrating Healthfirst’s existing wellbeing programs and activities with our platform and making it available to all employees—now including those not medically enrolled through Healthfirst—and their adult dependents
  • Incentivizing usage of our platform, completing a health screening, and participating in wellbeing programs with health credits, sweepstakes, and more
  • Leveraging Healthfirst’s population data and our personalization engine to monitor and engage with individual employees on a more personal level, such as sending emails and alerts about their specific health conditions or when they’re due for a wellness check

3. Provide Clinical and Benefits Care Advocates to Help Members Better Navigate and Engage in Their Health

Because digital doesn’t work for everyone, Grady knew it was important to have a high-touch, service-led solution, too. That’s where Care Guides, our team of highly trained and experienced clinical and benefits experts, comes in. When transitioning to Complete Navigation, Healthfirst chose this level of support to complement digital navigation, ease and enhance the employee experience, and potentially encourage those who interact with Care Guides to engage with other parts of the benefits program.

In addition, another major benefit Healthfirst’s HR team experienced after including this offering is that Care Guides could now act as “intermediaries” and help employees find solutions to a variety of benefits-related issues. Before, employees had to explain their medical history and situation to Healthfirst’s HR personnel, which created complex confidentiality issues.

Outcomes from Castlight and Healthfirst’s Partnership

Before partnering with us, employee engagement with Healthfirst’s health benefits was less than 10%. After adopting Care Guidance, it rose to 25%. And after embracing complete navigation, 69% of covered households—either an employee or a family member—have engaged with Healthfirst’s benefits program. That’s almost seven times the original rate.

Healthfirst is a great example of how our next-generation healthcare navigation solutions can help employers improve the employee experience, take some work off the HR team’s plate, and, ultimately, achieve better health outcomes and cost savings.

*Since the time this post was first published, Sean Grady moved on to a new role outside of Healthfirst. Healthfirst is still an apree health client.

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