Why consider point solutions? (And what are they, anyhow?) 

Smiling businesswomen with digital tablet talking in office
April 26, 2018

In our 2017 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, we asked employers to rate the importance of strategies they will be using over the next five years to advance the triple aim of lower cost, higher quality, and a better member experience. This post on pulling point solutions into your benefits strategy is part of a series that looks at these six key strategies.

It seems point solutions are all the buzz these days. Since the term isn’t self-explanatory, it might be helpful to define it. A point solution is a specific service that a vendor provides within your benefits program. Typically, it’s offered by a new, innovative company that is looking to fill a gap in the healthcare system. A solution might address a specific condition, like Livongo for diabetes; or support lifestyle change, like Zipongo for weight and nutrition. It might be a technology play to drive engagement like Evive or the vendor formerly known as Jiff; or a specialized network to provide easy access to expert medical opinions, like Best Doctors. Within Mercer LABS in the Center for Health Innovation, we have evaluated hundreds of new programs over the past several years.

So how do you know whether point solutions are right for you? I hosted a panel of three employers at a conference recently and their use of point solutions ranged from 12 to 3 to none. And they all had good reasons for the approach they’d taken -- or hadn’t taken! Here are a few guidelines for making decisions about pulling point solutions into your program.

  • Consider your overall strategic approach. Point solutions need to fit your larger objectives, not the other way around. Here, there are no right answers – what works for you? Fewer partners, or “the more the merrier?” Programs that are narrow and focused, or that have broad population appeal? Standardized experience, or a more personalized experience? The answers to these questions (and others) will help you focus your area of interest.
  • Focus on opportunities – or gaps – within your existing program. Look at your data and identify where a point solution could be most impactful. Maybe there’s a big gap or need and a solution that could benefit a sizable group of plan members (like telehealth or weight/nutrition). Maybe there’s a narrow gap where a solution could make a very big difference in the lives of a small number of members (autism support).
  • Options exist for employers of all sizes. You do not have to be a large employer to implement point solutions. In some cases, it is actually more manageable to implement these solutions in smaller organizations. The important consideration is how many people could engage in the program, and whether it’s a big enough number to make sense for you and the vendor.
  • There is a “right way” to do it. Consider your ability to manage another vendor, how you would integrate the solution within your overall program, how you would approach implementation and ongoing support -- and how you would measure the impact. Adding another vendor does require effort to ensure you get the desired benefit.

For some specific examples, check out Leading the Way: Employer Innovations in Health Coverage to learn how Princeton University implemented an expert medical opinion program that resulted in 20% of patients using the EMO receiving a different diagnosis and two-thirds another treatment option to consider. PepsiCo implemented an integrated platform to support better access to programs, and saw a 61% increase in the use of their transparency tool and a 25% increase in telemedicine visits. A high-tech company implemented a new infertility point solution and reduced the rate of multiple-birth pregnancies to less than 3%. There are many more stories like these. What will your story be?

More posts on key strategies:

Related insights