HR Answers: 4 Health Management Trends Execs Need to Know in 2021

stethoscope arranged around a red heart on a table
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3 minutes

AI-powered analytics will predict health events and lower costs, but employers can do even more to promote physical and mental wellness.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Wellco blog. Read the original here.

In the words of actress Lauren Bacall, “Standing still is the fastest way of moving backward in a rapidly changing world.” Businesses today face many challenges in their efforts to keep moving forward. One of the most pressing efforts, especially for organizations with their eyes on the future, is to offer a strong health management strategy.

These are the four health trends that matter this year:

1.  Apply AI-powered Analytics to Identify Opportunities

Artificial intelligence-powered analytics are developing sophisticated algorithms from medical claims, biometric screening data, health risk assessments and pharmacy claims. These algorithms can predict with 95% accuracy if someone will experience a major health event that will land them in the emergency room within the next 12 months.

Analytics dashboards allow companies to filter by location, demographics and health condition to determine gaps in care for at-risk populations. For example, the dashboard might reveal that that males over the age of 40 are at a high risk for heart attack in the Atlanta office while the Houston office is at risk for diabetes. Companies the implement such dashboards and analytics tools will know exactly where to invest money that will make a true impact on healthcare costs and support employee well-being.

2.  Restore Focus on Neglected Health Issues

A lot of “medical distancing” went on during the pandemic. In short, people drastically distanced themselves from doctor visits, screenings, procedures and treatment they actually need for physical and mental health. Employers can help employees:

  • understand the importance of catching up on health screenings and visits;
  • recognize how safe in-person medical and wellness visits are;
  • remember preventive services and wellness programs are covered by insurance at 100%, even prior to deductible; and
  • consider using telehealth and telebehavioral health services in between in-person appointments.

3.  Expand Well-Being to Include Behavioral and Mental Health Concerns

The rates of depression, anxiety, burnout and social isolation are on the rise. Your organization can do even more to address chronic issues by simply expanding your definition of risk determinants to include lifestyle factors such as stress level at work and on-the-job satisfaction. Lifestyle choices, social determinants (conditions in the places where people live, learn, work and play) and genetics impact health outcomes—and this is where some corporate wellness offerings can really move the needle. A more intrinsic understanding of risk determinants is critical to addressing treatment gaps for the behavioral health epidemic. Expect more organizations to prioritize behavioral and mental health screenings and solutions.

4.  Prioritize High-Value Health & Wellness Care

High-value care is an approach designed to improve health outcomes by educating patients about the importance of proactively seeking appropriate care and making this care more affordable and accessible. A 2016 study published in JAMA found that simply reducing spending on low-value medical services and unnecessary medical procedures could save employers millions. Low-value medical services are those that offer limited benefit to the patient but come at great expense to employers and insurance companies. In contrast, HVC services often cost far less than some low-value care services but offer significant long-term health benefits.

HVC aims to reduce emergency department overuse, antibiotic overuse, vaccine under-use and unnecessary hospital re-admission. The result: an estimated $500 billion in savings, according to the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation.

HVC also remedies the tremendous failure rate of wellness programs and boosts financial performance for employers who avoid the most common and costly mistakes. The vast majority of chronic conditions and costs are caused by a small number of preventable risks and behavior such as lack of health screening, inactivity, poor diet and smoking. Employers have an opportunity to customize their benefit design to encourage benefits proven to make a difference and to discourage the opposite. Examples of HVC include preventive screenings, vaccinations, education about medication adherence and proper use and chronic disease treatment. HVC initiatives can be rolled out in conjunction with workplace wellness programs that offer free or reduce care for preventive services.

The future of corporate health management is here. Businesses that fail to move their strategy forward stand to be left behind by those that do.

Scott Foster is president of Wellco. Scott is a frequently invited expert and speaker regarding wellness, engagement and leadership. Wellco provides award-winning solutions to measurably improve health engagement and outcomes. For more information, contact Wellco.

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