Expanding the conversation about employee engagement

Every touchpoint, inbound or outbound, live or digital, from insurers, providers or employers themselves, should be viewed as an opportunity to engage employees to help them make more informed health choices.

When employees are proactively engaged, outcomes improve, costs may come down and employees may be more productive. There is even a connection to stock market performance.1

The idea is that the engaged employee will better know how to use their benefits programs to full advantage; choose the optimal care providers and paths; adhere to those care paths; and be proactive about their health and wellness. The challenge is that engagement rates, while slowly improving, remain low.

That’s why it’s time to expand the conversation about employees’ engagement with their health care. A two-part formula for employee engagement is emerging. The first focuses on proactive, upfront and visible engagement mechanisms that some employers are offering today like the 3 strategies outlined below. The second part of the formula, to be detailed in Part 2 of this article series, is about the importance of building and offering a system that works better for everyone—one with a keen focus on access, quality and cost-effectiveness for both employers and their most valuable asset, their employees.

Overall, UnitedHealthcare has found that integrated, personalized and high-touch programs can be a critical factor in fostering engagement.  

“You really need to help guide employees today to engage them,” said Rebecca  Madsen, chief consumer officer at UnitedHealthcare. “Make it personal and relevant to them.”

That fact is why every touchpoint, inbound or outbound, live or digital, from insurers, providers or employers themselves, should be viewed as an opportunity to engage employees to help them make more informed health choices.2

Here are 3 strategies for driving greater engagement:

Make information more integrated and personalized.

Engagement preferences are vast among employees. Some prefer in-person touchpoints while others engage through digital channels only. Technology and human interaction can work together to help employees take ownership of their health care, understand their benefits, and make more informed health care decisions. For example, UnitedHealthcare’s Advocate4Me® program helps connect employees to an advocate who can provide them with health, wellness and benefits support — including answering their questions about claims and benefits, helping them find a doctor, guiding them to self-serve tools, providing health education and more.  Advocate4Me has a 91 percent satisfaction rating among our members.3

Focus on providing more high-touch support, especially for patients with chronic disease or serious conditions.

With cancer patients, for example, a way to help members make informed decisions about their cancer care is to provide them with a list of cancer centers that offer -quality, appropriate and cost-effective care, and connect them with personal cancer nurses to help support them in those care decisions. UnitedHealthcare’s Cancer Support Program does just that, and its participants have a 10 to 20 percent lower cost than non-participants, and the program has saved $29,000 more per participant versus patients managed by a general case management team.4

Likewise, diabetic and pre-diabetic members often need help to reduce financial barriers to care and comply with evidence-based, diabetic preventive care guidelines. The ultimate goals are to improve health outcomes and reduce medical costs for diabetic and pre-diabetic members by preventing type 2 diabetes and slowing the progression of disease. Those who enroll  in UnitedHealthcare’s Diabetes Health programreceive diabetes-related doctor visits and select medications and supplies at a reduced cost, or no cost in some circumstances when completing key program requirements.

Incentivize health and wellness. 

One 2017 survey shows that employees are four times more likely to be engaged at work if a company has a strong culture of health.5 Yet employee participation can pose a challenge.

Wellness programs that offer financial rewards have shown promise. One study found that incentives are associated with higher participation rates in wellness programs, by about 20 percentage points, but that comprehensive programs show the highest participation rates. Another found that 45 percent of employees said they would only participate in a wellness program if they were offered an incentive for participation.6

Through providing personalized information high-touch support, and incentivized health and wellness, members may become  engaged in their own health. And, ultimately, that may lead to better health outcomes, lower costs and happier, more productive employees.

This is the first of 2 articles to look at expanding the conversation about employee engagement.  In this first article, we considered engagement solutions designed to help people make more informed choices about their health and health care. Next month, we will explore the reality that, despite best efforts from insurers, employers, and providers, many people don’t engage with their health until they have to. We’ll illuminate behind-the-scenes strategies to help everyone—even the disengaged—get quality, cost-effective care no matter how they enter the system.

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