Posted on November 11, 2011
John Corpus, Vice President, Client Services at Legato Marketing & Communications
IT IS NOT JUST THE END CONSUMER
CONSUMERS PAY for healthcare, BUT THEY DO NOT BUY IT. Employers are the major buyers of health insurance, the decision makers. Employees only choose whether to participate in whatever plan the employers have chosen.
Consumers over the last five years are however, buying lower-cost healthcare services, due to employer cost shifting of healthcare expenses via higher deductibles (first dollars out-of-pocket) and HAS/HRA plans. Employers have also transitioned to benefit plans based on healthy behaviors: healthier employees (and spouses) may purchase richer benefit plans. As more consumers enter the "buying" phase of healthcare transactions, they are beginning to recognize the real cost of healthcare.
Smart employers recognize that the inherent cost shifting of higher deductible HSA or HRA plans is not the same as cost-savings: it is simply a change in the payer mix, more by the employee and less by the employer.
Smarter employers educate their employees regarding cost-saving behaviors, e.g., exercising, diet, annual age/sex related check-ups, smoking cessation, etc.
The smartest employers however, educate employees, in
conjunction with the aforementioned smart tactics, about
appropriate access of care, e.g., going
to a retail clinic for a sinus infection instead of the emergency room; utilizing an urgent care clinic for stitches or x-rays; heading to the emergency room for serious/traumatic injuries or conditions. For those who are unsure as to when an emergency room visit is necessary, think of it this way: you will decide when
to visit a retail clinic, a primary care clinic, or urgent care; others usually decide upon the emergency room because you are in no condition to do so.
Employers are the buyers, yet health systems focus the bulk of
their marketing on the patient only and rightly so. Health
systems however, need to leverage
their relationships with employers. A complete health system's marketing plan requires a focus on developing strategies to demonstrate their commitment to 1) reducing employer healthcare costs, and 2) partnering with employers to develop their workforce health strategies.
Constructing strong healthcare savings partnerships with employers creates another vehicle for marketing to the consumer.
- Imagine having an employer choose you as its healthcare partner because it believes in your mission, your vision, your philosophy, your integrity, and not because you are the lowest-cost option on its broker's menu.
- Imagine an employer serving as your advocate when holding its open enrollment sessions, instead of handing out a packet of information without regard for what is inside.
- Imagine an employer working with your health system to define and design the future of healthcare in your community, from the perspective of all stakeholders versus the perspective of the health system itself.
- Imagine the employees of business & industry voicing their preference for your health system to be the provider of choice or at least one of the providers in their employer's health plan design.
Healthcare is not a game anymore. In fact, it never was. So let us stop playing the cost shifting games and the "cliché" games of quality and care, to focus on what really counts: healthcare versus sick care and meeting the needs of the buyers and the payers of healthcare through partnership, respect, and a sincere desire to provide the best experience possible for all concerned.