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October 13, 2020

How Data Partnerships Add Value (Not Costs) To Your Benefits Plan

Artemis Health

At Artemis Health, we talk to a lot of self-insured employers about how they approach benefits planning, strategy, and data analytics. One thing we hear a lot is, “I don’t have the budget for a data warehouse.” We understand that budgets are tight, and the dollars often go to specific programs that offer care management, disease management, digital physical therapy, or wellness coaching for employees. 

However, all of those other programs are also expensive for employers. Some disease management programs can cost employers hundreds or thousands of dollars per employee per month! Before investing in point solutions like this, employers and advisors should invest in data warehouse partnerships. Here’s why. 

What is a benefits data partnership? 

A benefits data partnership is a relationship between an employer, their consultant or broker, and a data warehouse solution. While some employers use a data warehouse in-house, many will rely on benefits advisors for access to data analytics. A great data warehouse will offer not just access to data or analytics software, but will also offer: 

A benefits data partnership provides more than just a static look at employee benefits data. It allows users to dive deeper with custom reporting, proprietary data models, and an evolving toolset that keeps up with industry trends. Additionally, employers and brokers should look for a data partnership that values their feedback and expertise. Artemis Health includes current clients in our product design process, gathering their feedback, asking for input, and testing new ideas with a customer advisory panel. 

Why is benefits data valuable? 

Benefits data is the key to justifying everything else you do as a benefits team. Did you know the average self-insured employer has 10+ benefits programs? Think about all the aspects of your benefits plan: 

  • Medical coverage (with multiple carriers)
  • Prescription drug benefits
  • 401k and retirement 
  • HSAs 
  • Wellness or fitness programs 
  • Care management programs 
  • Second opinion services 
  • Onsite clinics 
  • Short-term and long-term disability 
  • Disease management programs 
  • Mental health wellness 
  • Telemedicine vendors 
  • Life insurance 
  • Health assessments and risk surveys 
  • Smoking cessation support and addiction programs

And many more. Each of these programs offers different services for employees and their families, and each one also comes with its own data. Advisors and employers spend a lot of time and effort mining that program data to find out if these initiatives are effective for members. 

For some employers, carrier reports and program reporting is how they get a look at the efficacy of their benefits plan. However, these aren’t always enough. It’s difficult to compare across different feeds to see if something is truly working. For example, if you have a member enrolled in a smoking cessation program (point solution data), you would have to do a lot of manual work to see if that same member was taking a prescription to help them quit (prescription claims data) or visiting a specialist to help with lung disease (medical claims data). 

A data partnership makes this easy and fast, allowing employers to see data from all three sources (the program, prescription claims, and medical claims), all in one holistic view.

How can benefits data help with program ROI? 

Here’s an example of how benefits data can help self-insured employers and advisors determine the return on investment in a benefits program. 

Comparison of members with diabetes and members without.
Comparison of members with diabetes and members without.

This dashboard shows an in-depth comparison of members with diabetes and members who don’t have this condition. You can see a number of data points that come from a number of different data feeds: 

  • Pharmacy compliance (whether or not members are taking their diabetes medication) 
  • LDL and HDL values (a measure of cholesterol) 
  • Primary care visits 
  • BMI (body mass index) of diabetic vs. non-diabetics 
  • Average disability days 
  • Hospital admission rates 
  • Specialist visits 
  • HbA1c testing (for blood sugar levels) 
  • Emergency room visits 

These metrics come from several different benefits data feeds, including medical claims, pharmacy claims, disability claims, and possibly wellness program participation (for the BMI data). Without all of these data points in one central place, it would be much harder for the employer or advisor to get a clear picture of how their diabetic members are doing. It would be nearly impossible to see if a disease management program was actually helping these members get better over time. 

Program metrics: cost and utilization
Program metrics: cost and utilization

While many employers rely on data from their programs to determine ROI, it’s a best practice to compare that data to other benefits data points. In the charts above, you can see that members participating (vs. those who are eligible but not participating) in a diabetes care management program aren’t doing so well. They have higher costs for medical and Rx claims, and they’re visiting the emergency room more than ever. 

Get more tips on how benefits managers can address diabetes here.

A savvy benefits team would look at data from this program and perhaps begin evaluating alternatives. This one isn’t showing great results for participants, and benefits data was the key to finding this insight. 

How to Take Action with Benefits Data 

This leads to another frequently asked question from self-insured employers: now that we have access to benefits data insights, what do we do with them? It’s not always easy to take action with benefits data, and sometimes employers don’t want to cut programs, reduce benefits, or jeopardize the happiness of employees. However, taking action doesn’t have to mean eliminating a program or removing a medication from your formulary. 

Employers can take action with benefits data in a number of ways: 

  • Justifying a new program to fill a gap in care 
  • Setting metrics and goals for their programs 
  • Eliminating wasteful spending 
  • Finding and evaluating vendors 

Let’s look at one example from Artemis Health customer, Portico Benefit Services. Portico is the benefits arm of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and they serve more than 46,000 individuals, including rostered ministers, church workers, social-ministry employees, and their families. They noticed a few trends in their data related to mental well-being: 

  1. Higher-than-average Employee Assistance Program utilization
  2. High levels of self-reported anxiety and depression
  3. Behavioral health conditions were identified in Portico’s top-five diagnoses by cost
Top 5 chronic diagnosis groups by employer paid med
Top 5 chronic diagnosis groups by employer paid med

This data led them to two new behavioral health wellness solutions for their members. 

  • A video-based video learning platform called “Being,” offered by The Big Know, which helps members learn coping skills through video courses. 
  • A clinically validated online, self-directed Cognitive Behavioral Therapy mental health program offered by Learn to Live, which offers five different treatment tracks: depression, anxiety, sleep, stress/worry, and substance abuse.

After evaluating their efficacy using data, Portico implemented both of these programs in 2020. Artemis Health helps them track program utilization, participation, and ROI. We’ll monitor employee mental disorders, costs, and participation in these programs alongside our clients at Portico to ensure they’re delivering results.

This is just one example of how to take action with benefits data. Check out our popular ebook, “How Benefits Data Becomes Actionable,” for other examples and tips for putting your benefits data to work. 

Data partnerships aren’t a “cost center” for self-insured employers. In fact, they’re the key to making the most of all your other benefits programs. They help you measure program ROI, look across your entire benefits plan, and implement employee benefits solutions that work. 

Want to learn more about how a modern data warehouse can help? Watch our 2-minute demo video to see what Artemis Health can do. 

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