Five questions every employer should be asking about healthcare data

Published November 21, 2016

Health and well-being are critical components of a productive workforce—and by extension a healthy economy. C-suite leaders in companies of all sizes have long sought innovative solutions to manage healthcare costs, provide benefits that help recruit and retain top talent and promote a healthier workforce. 

Employers are responsible for the health benefits of nearly 157 million Americans and are increasingly recognizing the unrivaled ability of healthcare data analytics to identify utilization patterns, assess the effectiveness of wellness initiatives and develop recruiting and benefit design strategies. Despite a rapidly changing business environment and rising healthcare costs, the National Business Group on Health finds that employers remain strongly committed to the health of their workforce. They are sharpening their focus on new strategies and tactics to improve worker health and productivity and mitigate costs.

More and better solutions are possible today with the help of large data sets and sophisticated analytics to understand and support the healthcare needs of employees.

Through data analysis, we can draw important insights to help us build on what’s working well in healthcare—and make needed improvements. Those insights translate into action for employers, allowing them to design benefits that support a real shift toward improving the quality of care with greater cost accountability. 

As employers seek data-driven healthcare solutions, they should ask themselves five questions:

What every employer should ask about healthcare data: 1. How do you know if you have the data you need? 2. Is it rich enough for you to plan your benefit strategy? 3. Does it help your employees make informed, personalized decisions? 4. Is it representative of the geographies and demographics of your work sites? 5. Does it help you and your employees address quality as well as the cost of care?

As the nation’s largest system of health insurance companies, we have seen first-hand the importance of having comprehensive data on the utilization of healthcare and provider capabilities across the country down to the ZIP code level.

For example, one large national financial services firm with 12,000 employees in 20 states worked with a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan to analyze data on more than 1,600 treatment categories. The plan used sophisticated analytics to calculate “what-if” scenarios, showing what would happen if procedures done at medical facilities with above-average costs were instead done at those with a history of average costs. The results showed savings of more than $3 million—5.7 percent of the company’s total medical costs—without compromising care quality or health outcomes for patients.

Data will play an increasingly important role in helping companies develop forward-looking healthcare options with the least disruption to employees. And by giving employees consumer-friendly tools that tap into rich data sources, workers can access clear information to help them take a more active, informed role in choosing their doctors and treatment options. 

Innovation and efficiency in delivering high-quality care for employees is one of the hallmarks of a successful business. Working together, businesses, insurers, doctors, hospitals and employees can move toward a healthcare system that consistently delivers high-quality, accessible and affordable care, resulting in healthier Americans and a stronger American economy.