#MercerChats Rewind:
Reinventing Healthcare to Deliver Greater Value for Your Workforce

#MercerChats Rewind: Redesigning the Work Experience in the Future of Work

Each quarter, Mercer 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.

The idea of picking something because it’s good, fast or cheap can apply to a multitude of things in our daily lives like food and clothes, but rarely can you experience all 3 at the same time. Healthcare tends to get bucketed in the same way, but what if it didn’t have to? Today’s healthcare providers, employers and insurers are constantly looking for ways to reinvent the patient experience in a way that achieves that perfect balance and delivers high-quality, accessible and affordable healthcare.

In some cases, this search for value requires upturning the status quo and reimagining what healthcare entails. Through this type of radical thinking, HR professionals and other stakeholders are questioning whether an in-person appointment is the best way to manage your wellbeing or whether the healthcare system should only kick into gear when you’re already sick. While none of these notions are particularly groundbreaking on their own, when exercised together and at scale, they can fundamentally transform the way we deliver healthcare in the US.

As luck would have it, there’s never been a better time to implement these new approaches. Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the already skyrocketing cost of US healthcare, all parties are now looking for creative and innovative solutions to bring greater value in healthcare. To make the most of this moment, we invited some of the US’s leading minds together to have a conversation on what it will take for employers to derive greater value in healthcare. Below are some of their key insights and takeaways.

Better Benefits do not mean higher costs

The first step in understanding healthcare value is dispelling the misconceived notion that value is tied directly to cost or a budget. When it comes to healthcare (and particularly for employers), value encompasses so much more than medical expenses, and in many cases is incredibly difficult to measure. Think, for instance, about the cost of regular health screenings versus the cost of treatment. The cost of wellness and lifestyle programs versus the cost of insuring and treating a population with chronic conditions. Or even the cost of comprehensive, holistic coverage versus the cost of lost time due to absenteeism. Sure, any conversation about healthcare can begin with costs, but it needs to encompass so much more.

This wasn’t lost on our #MercerChats participants — nearly everyone endorsed the idea that healthcare costs don’t begin and end with premiums. Jamey Edwards noted that the cost of early and easy access to care can prevent minor issues from becoming acute, thereby delivering a favorable ROI – both from a human and economic perspective. Similarly, Margaret O’Kane pointed out that the rise in telehealth carries remarkable potential to monitor and treat patients remotely, and Dr. Andrew Watson noted that telemedicine could be instrumental in bringing down the cost of care. This type of transformational thinking benefits not only patients, but the healthcare providers, employers, and all other stakeholders along the way. 

Better data is key to better care

If employers want to deliver better care and better value, it’s imperative that they understand the cost and impact of the care they’re already providing. Nothing improves on its own, and to drive better results they need to know what’s working and what’s not. That’s why it’s shocking that employers are only now beginning to ramp up their data analytics and reporting around healthcare and wellness.

Our participants had much to add on this point — Donna Lencki shared that now is the time for employers to update their benefits infrastructure. Without cost-quality data, it’s impossible to construct solutions that deliver better care at greater value. Luckily, there’s already progress on this front. Tracy Watts and Glen Gilmore shared that from early stage solutions — like health and benefits Centers of Excellence — to more sophisticated approaches — like tech platforms and formal audits — employers and human resources professionals are ramping up their healthcare programs to ensure they’re providing the right care to their employees at a cost they can manage.

No better time than now to invest in people

What’s prompting this surging interest in healthcare value and quality? For starters, there’s one of the greatest health crises the world has ever seen, but that’s just the beginning. The shift to decentralized workforces and a new employee experience has been top-of-mind for employers for years, and COVID-19 has only accelerated that shift by forcing a large number of people around the world to adopt remote working overnight. Couple this with a down-market cash crunch, a major US election, and the much-anticipated expansion of telemedicine — it’s safe to say that we’re living in perhaps the most volatile time for healthcare in the history of the US.

The good news is that employers seem to recognize this, and many are seizing the moment to show they care about their people by investing in their health and wellbeing. Mental health awareness and holistic wellbeing have never been prioritized like they are today. As Dr. Salim Saiyed shared, employers are responding to their workforce needs with new solutions and innovative programs that were nearly unheard of 10 years ago. Tamara McCleary noted that companies must look at what their workforce needs and craft a program to match it. Healthcare isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution and employers should endeavor to provide the coverage that suits their people. 

Danielle Guzman
by Danielle Guzman

Global Head of Social Media