We all rely on data to inform many aspects of daily life. From minor things, such as checking the traffic report before leaving the house, to high-stakes situations like presenting revenue goals at work, data allows us to make informed decisions.

Now, imagine the reaction from your boss if you said, “I have no data to back up my plan, it just seems like a good idea.” It probably wouldn’t go over well.

Without data, we can only make assumptions — and unfortunately for HR and business leaders — employee health data typically falls short. Claims data is often convoluted, and rarely actionable. It’s definitely not personable. The key takeaways: healthcare costs continue to rise, while health outcomes stay the same or become worse. It’s a vicious cycle that repeats year after year, and a key reason health plan costs rise by more than 4% on average each year.

Data can drive how healthcare providers engage with employee populations to improve health outcomes and get employees on a track to a healthier life.

At Marathon Health, for example, we use technology and innovation to unlock real-time patient insights and inform personalized engagement campaigns to get more employees leveraging our healthcare offerings. Our in-depth reporting includes more than 100 unique metrics so we can work with our clients to make actionable healthcare decisions to improve their overall care strategy and reduce costs.

Employee Health Data Unlocks Insights to Improve Outcomes

Darleen Pierce serves as the Senior Benefits, Compensation, & Payroll Specialist at Lee County Electric Cooperative in Florida. Her supervisor tasked her with finding a solution to reverse the cooperative’s sky-high health costs and improve employee health outcomes.

“I’d never seen claims so high from a company so small,” Pierce says. “We’d just switched to being self-insured, so we thought, ‘Okay, we have to do something to control costs.’”

Pierce vetted several care solutions, and says she ultimately chose Marathon Health due to the company’s forward-thinking data insights and innovation.

“I’m a data person,” Pierce says. “I like to see the numbers and see where the impact is, and which things have gotten better over the years. Marathon’s data helps drive what’s going to make our employees healthier.”

Pierce says LCEC regularly reviews its Marathon Health data to look for insights on how to optimize the cooperative’s benefit offerings. She says they routinely make changes to their programs based on intel gleaned from their population data.

“We changed our wellness incentive a couple of times based on the data we got from Marathon,” Pierce says. “The data showed employees who had two health coaching sessions were more successful in achieving their goals. So, the next year, we changed the incentive where you had to complete two coaching sessions in addition to the biometric screening.”

Population health data can also reveal trends that may lurk unbeknownst to the organization. In Pierce’s case, she tweaked her communication plans after noticing a massive spike in employees seeking mental health services due to the pandemic.

“Stress was just unbelievable this past year,” Pierce says. “Almost everything we did as a wellness committee and all the communications we put out talked about mental health and how it’s okay to ask for help. That all came from the reports we get from Marathon.”

Employee Health Data Informs Targeted Outreach

Our data clearly shows how employees become healthier the more they engage with Marathon Health services. But getting employees to engage with available services requires a data-driven, laser-focused approach. You can’t simply blast out a company-wide email or hang a poster in the break room. You need to target the right services to the right employees at the right time. Data makes this possible.

Employers must approach engagement from the mindset that each employee requires different needs, and strives for unique outcomes and goals. An employee with high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes will require a different approach than a healthy employee who may just need some allergy medicine or a flu shot.

By analyzing patient data and segmenting employees into various cohorts, you can more proactively connect employees with needed services, such as chronic condition management, health coaching, physical therapy or mental health services.

“The key is to align the interventions and services with the level of patient need,” says Michael Gonzales, Executive Vice President of Growth and Strategy at Marathon Health. “You want to keep the chronic population out of the hospital, so you want to get them on remote patient monitoring devices, connect them with behavioral health counselors, and start them on chronic condition management programs.

“Whereas, the somewhat at-risk population — maybe they don’t have a primary care physician — you’ll want to ensure they don’t develop chronic conditions. It’s important to get them in a primary care program, starting with an annual assessment including a health risk assessment, biometric labs, and a comprehensive health review with a provider,” Gonzales adds. “For healthy employees, you want to keep them healthy. It’s important to make them aware they have access to care, so they stay out of the ER or urgent care center.”

Data can also help you optimize engagement efforts. If you see low engagement from sending emails — maybe the employee drives a truck or works on an assembly line — you can test other communication efforts. Again, data informs these decisions.

Data-Driven Decisions Lower Health Costs for Employers and Employees

At the end of the day, Pierce says the cooperative’s Marathon Health data helps LCEC make decisions to truly help employees become healthier, which in turn keeps costs down. In fact, because of Marathon Health, she says employee premiums have remained the same three years in a row.

“If we can turn one employee around or stop one chronic condition, the money we can save is just astronomical,” Pierce says. “Our claims for the past three to four years have been less than the market trend, which is about 7%. Ours have been 3% or less, and when you’re talking about a $4 million spend, that’s a lot of money.”

About the Author: Kristy Esch

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