Unsurprisingly, the first question many employers ask when planning for next year is, “Where do we start?” The answer: employee healthcare data.

In a podcast episode hosted by Leader Edge, Penny Moore, Chief Commercial Officer, provides insight into the role data analytics has played during a national health crisis and how to use this information to pivot your benefits offerings for the year to come. Below are a few questions from the conversation:

Q: 88% of participants in a national survey reported experiencing moderate or extreme stress since the onset of the pandemic. How can behavioral health data be used to reach those employees who may have a mental health issue but are not raising their hands asking for help?

A: Our 2020 Health Trends report, based on the collective data of over 2,500 employers using the Springbuk health data analytics solution, showed the average monthly health benefits costs for a plan participant with a mental health condition is 2x that of a participant without. And that was data from before the pandemic.

We see our employer clients taking two key initiatives, through a combination of employee education focused on available benefits and programs to support mental wellbeing. Employers have an incredible opportunity to re-communicate any existing mental health service – be it an Employee Assistance Program, educational resources, or external vendor. By re-introducing these to your population through this, “hands-off” approach - employers can ensure their employees are equipped with the resources and support they need at any moment’s notice.

As employers look to 2021, they must understand how they can offer employees as much support as possible. This is where employers also have an opportunity to understand what has happened to utilization, plan design, and how access to care has been impacted over the past nine months. By leveraging the data available, employers can track different claims and utilization patterns to best position themselves to provide on-going support to their employees for the years to come.

Q: What are lessons learned so far when it comes to the role of data analytics during a national health crisis, especially one that threatens to force employers to pivot or restructure their companies (and their employee populations/benefits offerings)?

A: With our team of data scientists and clinicians, we have leveraged the Springbuk Health Intelligence platform to generate data-driven COVID-19 predictive insights for our customers, supported by risk change analysis and other COVID-specific reports. In addition to automatically identifying and surfacing these members, the COVID-19 Insights cards also provide recommendations to be proactive in protecting those individuals. In fact, the Springbuk Health Intelligence platform was among the first to identify COVID-19 risk factors in our clients’ workforce.

At Springbuk, our Health Intelligence platform equips our clients with the tools necessary to build specific focus groups and begin to track who is contributing to utilization spend based on diagnosis, benefit package, and location of care. More than data alone, these curated insights and strategies have empowered employers to take measurable action. These analyses provide direction for companies interested in identifying members who would be at risk for more severe complications if they were to contract COVID-19.

Q: Your white paper notes that before COVID-19, 11% of employees members had a gap in care related to chronic conditions. Besides monitoring claims data, what can brokers/consultants and employers do to close that gap in care?

A: As we begin to think about closing gaps in care, the first area that comes to mind is going back to this concept of micro-trends. Throughout the global pandemic, we’ve seen COVID-19 impact subsets of the population in various ways. With that in mind, as you’re looking at a particular population, understanding how COVID-19 has impacted employees from various genders or geographical locations, we’ve seen differences in avoidance of care or utilization vary greatly from one location to another. So understanding some of those trends in overall utilization, or lack thereof, can begin to help employers understand how you help your populations with chronic conditions have access to the care they need.

Furthermore, consider applying targeted communication strategies, telehealth opportunities, and disease-management solutions to help your employees stay or get back on track. Our clinical experts have seen telemedicine usage in our data increase 2,000%, from 3 telehealth visits per 1000 members to 75 visits throughout the pandemic.

Additional education on telehealth usage for your employees with chronic conditions could help ensure you stay on track with labs and other aspects to manage these types of conditions. In doing so, employers can help employees get the right care at the right time.

Additional resources:

  • Listen to the podcast
  • For more information on COVID-19, check out this White Paper filled with additional trends we’re seeing during the pandemic and a COVID-19 Healthcare Trends Tracker, which is a useful scorecard that can help provide the information you need to guide your 2021 planning – right at your fingertips.