Chris Jessop: Health moves up agenda

This article has been supplied by the sponsor of the Employee Benefits Health and wellbeing supplement 2012

As 2012 winds down, it is time to pause and reflect on an employee health and wellbeing agenda that is facing considerable change.

We have a real opportunity to establish employee health management as a credible business strategy that can genuinely contribute to business performance and shareholder value. Equally, greater investment and agility will be required of providers to meet the evolving needs of corporate purchasers. A challenging, yet exciting, 2013 awaits.

The strategic impacts on the sector are well documented: reduced state healthcare funding, a more diverse and ageing workforce, the epidemic of lifestyle disease, more knowledgeable consumers and the impact of technology. All these overlay the fundamental economic pressures as organisations challenge the value of their benefits spend, contain costs and seek to maximise return on investments.

Equally, investing in human capital has never been more relevant. Whether underpinning the corporate responsibility agenda, helping to show the employer is a great place to work, building employee engagement or driving improved performance and productivity, focused employee health management strategies can play an important role. So what are some of the key trends we are likely to see in 2013 and beyond?

First, there will be a much sharper focus on the objectives of employers’ healthcare programmes. Associated with this is a greater emphasis on demonstrating the commercial benefi ts, both financial metrics and health outcomes. Employee health and wellbeing management will become more of a science and less of an art.

Second, the Holy Grail of integrated services will come of age. This is much more than having one-stop providers for ease of management and better price negotiation. It is about added-value delivery: integrated care pathways to accelerate better health outcomes, data analytics to evidence returns and pinpoint future intervention priorities, and more cost-effective service provision.

Third, a more proactive approach to health management is likely. Health advocacy and directed care will help add value to the employee experience, help resolve health issues sooner and reduce
insurance-related costs. More sophisticated tools and greater personalisation will help reduce the incidence of lifestyle disease and risk-manage chronic issues better.

Fourth, more flexible models will be required; one size will not fit all. The diverse ages, roles and geographies of employees will require more bespoke services to ensure effective engagement.

Fifth, there will be an acceleration in the use of technology. Online interventions will be used more widely in areas such as chronic disease management, personalised lifestyle management, e-therapies and primary care diagnostics. Better infrastructure platforms will enable more online engagement between management and providers, facilitate integrated case management and data analytics, and improve service standards and efficiencies.

Underlying all this will be the raised expectations of both employers and employees on service levels, clinical quality and data security. The price to play gets higher, making it an exciting time to be in the sector, with huge scope to innovate and improve health outcomes. A time when employee healthcare can, at last, arrive on the boardroom agenda.

Chris Jessop is managing director (UK and Europe), Axa PPP Healthcare Health Services Division