June 28, 2022
The COVID-19 pandemic and recent global economic challenges have altered the ways businesses prioritize health care services. Business leaders are looking for new ways to offer their employees affordable medical solutions. These include offering telehealth options and finding more value-based solutions for medical conditions.
During the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's 9th Annual Health Summit, leaders from the business, health care, and wellness industries participated in discussions about the future of providing care for the employees while minimizing costs for employers. Here are some key takeaways from the event's virtual sessions.
Businesses Need to Address the Opioid Epidemic
During a keynote address, Lisa McLaughlin, Co-CEO of telehealth addiction treatment center Workit Health, said the opioid epidemic was responsible for more deaths globally than COVID-19 over the last year. Many of those deaths were people who never tried to seek treatment for their addiction.
"[They] might have been nurse practitioners, doctors, teachers, lawyers, [or] individuals in sensitive high-stress positions that often drank or used drugs to cope with ongoing challenging issues that they faced in their day-to-day lives, but who were not super comfortable feeling safe in a recovery setting," said McLaughlin.
Workit Health helps reduce that stigma by helping employers meet their employees where they are to get them help. They partner with employers to provide resources on introducing tough conversations in the workplace environment around addiction and offer training for HR teams and managers.
"If you meet people where they are with harm reduction [and] focused care, you're going to get them to a great future in six months or less and give them a pathway to recover over their life course," said McLaughlin.
More Data Leads to Better Consumer Decisions
A person's ability to access their health care data has increased in the digital age, leading to more transparency between patients and providers. Dan Mendelson, CEO of Morgan Health at JPMorgan Chase, advocated for more providers and companies to increase this transparency.
"The more data that we have available, the more individuals own their consumer data and have access to that data in an accessible, seamless way, [and] the more likely it is that we're able to train and equip individuals and their families to make more empowered decisions for themselves," said Mendelson.
"Over time, that means more consumer-driven decisions, understanding where to get the care, what the quality outcome of that care is, and importantly, them having visibility and transparency into what the cost of that care is … [and] where they can actually make an elective choice ahead of time," Mendelson added.
An Increase in Competition Helps Lower Costs
During the Summit's fireside chat, Sean Robbins, Executive Vice President of External Affairs for BlueCross BlueShield, discussed how the government should be playing a more significant role in keeping health care costs down.
Robbins talked about how policies establishing standards for record transparency keep patients informed and active in the system. He also suggested the federal government should encourage competition between providers.
"There's been a lot of mergers and transactions that have reduced competition in markets that we see," said Robbins. "When you go from four hospitals to two, prices go up, and it's really problematic. We need a different framework for thinking about competition in the system and a very application of that framework to make sure that we continue to have competitive markets in this country in health care."
Patient-Centered Care Is Critical for Chronic Illnesses
In a live panel discussion, health care professionals discussed how employers could address chronic illnesses, primarily obesity and mental health. Chronic illnesses can be debilitating for a person and lead to a decline in their overall health and professional productivity. Many employers would, in theory, like to support their employees through their chronic illnesses; however, many fear the cost would be too high.
Dr. Amy Frieman, the Chief Wellness Officer of Hackensack Meridian Health, said employers need to remember that medical issues like obesity are patient-centered care issues. Employers need to address the whole person and all of the contributing factors leading to their condition, said Dr. Frieman.
Susan Ellender, the Vice President & Principal of Client Relations for Associated Benefits Consulting, added that employers should be creating personal incentives for employees.
"From an employer standpoint, it is to have the ability to help their employees," said Ellender. "To give them support, whether that's time off to be able to have the surgery, if that's to be offered, [or time for] therapy, whether its in-office therapy or digital health and counseling."
"I don't think we have seen enough of that uptick yet," she continued. "I think that's just from fear, particularly from an employer, as well as the lack of [financial incentive for a] small employer to do that."