#MercerChats brings together in-house experts, employee advocates and external thought leaders for an online discussion of the most pressing issues. The program is called #MercerChats and takes place entirely on Twitter, where individuals around the world engage with Mercer’s intellectual capital and other leading thought leadership to share insights and discuss the best solutions to help organizations thrive. Below is a summary of our most recent US-based tweet chat.
Never has healthcare been more closely followed than today. Between the power transfer in Washington to the ongoing pandemic that’s taken hundreds of thousands of lives in the US alone, access to quality healthcare is at the top of every mind and the tip of every tongue. But as speculation about the future of healthcare swirls in boardrooms and at dinner tables, changes to policy and practice have already begun to transform how Americans access care.
These evolutions have been subtle in some cases and industry-altering in others, but together they’re certain to define the future of US healthcare and how employers construct health benefits to maximize value for their workforce. To better understand these changes, we invited some of the US’s most prominent voices and thought leaders on healthcare to discuss the future of the sector and the priorities for US employers in 2021 and beyond. Below are some of the highlights from our conversation, including the most common topics that continued to arise throughout the event.
Waiting for Washington
For those who’ve been living under a rock for the last 12 months (and, really, who could blame you), January 2021 brought a change of power in Washington, with Democrats winning control of the White House and Senate and retaining their majority in the House. This political transition could open the door for considerable changed to the US healthcare system, including expansion of Medicare, multiple prescription drug cost controls, and the end to surprise medical billing.
While the scope and nature of changes to US healthcare legislation is yet to be determined, many of our chat participants were quick to point out that major systemic changes could soon come from Washington in an effort to improve the patient experience. As Donna Lenki pointed out, consumer demand for greater price transparency could lead to greater Congressional support, which Tamara McCleary noted should give consumers greater choice. Similarly, Dr. Ritu Thamman shared that changes to insurance billing has the power to reset the balance of power within the industry, while Dr. Salim Saiyed’s observation that the expanded use of tech could further improve the user experience. Any of these changes would have massive implications for how employers construct health benefits for their workforce, and all eyes are on Washington to see which may come to fruition,
“Regulators will support transparency and consumers will demand it.”
“[The end to surprise billing would mean patients are] not required to pay more than their insurance plan’s in-network cost-sharing amount, including deductibles.”
Dr. Ritu Thamman
“Greater price transparency may help along with giving consumers more choice in how they purchase.”
“Integration & data inoperability is key to making the pharmacy data flow, just like we do for clinical data.”
Dr. Salim Saiyed, MD
If 2021 presents an opportunity to restructure the pricing and cost model for healthcare in the US, than 2020 was a chance for the entire healthcare system to rethink the delivery of care. Stay-at-home orders led to a much heralded boom in telemedicine, and the need for reduced face-to-face interactions caused medical offices to go digital wherever possible.
During our conversation, Tracy Watts spoke to the “broad, positive, experience gained with telehealth” during the pandemic, and it’d be naïve to assume this revolutionary change in care will be dismissed once the more immediate threat of the virus has abated. But even beyond this, we’re seeing entire hospital systems, insurers, healthcare providers and employers are looking for ways to optimize the “clinical experience”, as John Nosta shared, for both providers and patients.
The disruptive force of the pandemic, married with the prevalence of reliable, quality tools for teleconferencing, data sharing and secure communication, has allowed healthcare to break outside the mold of traditional brick-and-mortar care. Dr. Geeta Nayyar touched on this during our conversation, as did Dr. Andrew Watson when he highlighted the growing interest in virtual first offerings for primary care. All of these changes are sure to have substantial impacts on the future of care, and forward-thinking employers would be wise to begin thinking about what they mean for them and their workforce in the months and years ahead.
“The broad, positive experience gained with telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic suggests its adoption as an important core element of care delivery going forward.”
“We need to create a better ‘clinical experience’ to optimize engagement and outcomes--for MDs and patients!”
“All about complimenting brick and mortar with telemedicine to create a cradle to grave outcome.”
Geeta Nayyar, MD MBA
“The growth of virtual first offerings and virtual primary care will be a quantum leap forward in the field of telemedicine.”