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June 22, 2021

Roundtable Discussion: How Companies are Changing Goals, Motivations, and Measures of Benefits Success [Part 4]

Artemis Health

Artemis Health and World at Work recently collaborated on a webinar featuring a panel of benefits leaders from different areas of the industry. We talked through how motivations are shifting, how COVID-19 has changed the industry, and how employees are demanding more from their benefits packages. 

The webinar was hosted by Haley Eckels, Content Director at Artemis Health, and featured three panelists: 

  • Emily Munroe, Senior Benefits Manager at Wayfair, one of the largest online retailers of home goods
  • Betsy Nota-Kirby, Vice President of National Health Management Consulting at Marsh & McLennan Agency 
  • Kelly Blue, Principal Data-Driven Insights Consultant from Mercer’s Data, Technology, and Analytics team

Now let’s dive into part three of our discussion. Catch up on Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. 

Haley Eckels:

Our next finding from the survey was really on the challenges that employers are facing with their benefits data. These are some of the things we heard from the survey, and we've heard them from our own clients too over the years at Artemis Health. Emily, I'd love to hear your perspective on what are some of the ways that employers can overcome these challenges?

Emily Munroe:

Yeah, I think that I'm pretty lucky because I have Artemis, and I have somebody who is my account manager and can help me consider what the data tells me because I don't have a biology degree. So sometimes things do just pass me by. I don't realize that maybe this diagnosis is going to lead to a high-cost claimant. And I don't think that benefits managers are equipped with that naturally. So having a strong partner is really helpful. 

I know I have somebody on my broker team who specifically focuses on data and supporting me. So I appreciate that I have that person on my team who can help support. And then just making the investment to focus on it. I have a benefit analytics manager. Maybe not every team has the ability to focus specifically on data, but if you can make the case, I think it makes a lot of sense.

So if I'm going to invest in a person to focus on the data, like this is what the outcomes could be versus we're all going to take a piece and try to do this together, I think that that's really important. You can't just implement a benefit and hope that it works. So having that investment in a person who's going to manage it and focus on it, I think is really important because yeah, honestly, I agree with these pieces; it's really hard to draw meaningful conclusions if I don't know everything that goes into every claim. So I think it's important to have them.

Haley Eckels:

Yes, I hear you. In addition to not wanting to add a program that might not work, we hear a lot from employers that they don't want to make a change that will negatively affect members on their plan, that would take away something that they currently have access to, or that would upset them. I think that's a very good point that the clinical resources are really key to helping you make those right decisions.

I'm going to skip to the next slide here in the interest of time. A similar question that we asked around what they want from their data warehouse. High-quality data is by far the most important feature employers look for in this benefits data analytics partnership, followed by access to data in one place, and ease of use. So Betsy, let's start with you. How important is benefits analytics to the success of your clients' benefits strategy now, and what do you think the role of data will be in the future?

Betsy Nota-Kirby:

Well, I think it's extremely important for our clients that have already invested in putting their data into a data platform or a data lake. It's important for them to continue to add other data sources to allow them that more holistic view of their population. So even though the average Artemis platform has 10 data feeds, our clients have at least three, sometimes up to six, but we're not near that 10 yet, but we're certainly working towards that with some of our larger, more strategic clients.

I guess “leverage what you have” is my message. If we take the focus away from the data platform, and we look at our clients who aren't yet engaged in the data platform, my thought is, if they want to draw meaningful conclusions, at least put their carriers or point solutions on notice to say, I'm going to need reporting, and I'm going to need it on a quarterly frequency or an annual frequency. 

I'd like the data to all come in and be set up in a similar waterfall flow of our logs, who's eligible for the program? Who is identified for the program? Who would we actually reach out to? Who’s engaged, so that you can get an easier picture of what is happening with your programs? What does your data look like even if you don't have that data lake? And that takes thought, it takes planning, and it takes time. Your brokers can help you with that as well if you don't have access to the data platform. So I guess that's my thought.

Haley Eckels:

Interesting, you’re saying the future is putting vendors on the hot seat to make sure they're providing the answers that you need from them. Kelly, let's hear your perspective on that same question. What is the role of data in the future?

Kelly Blue:

I would just say it's just going to continue to play a bigger and bigger role in how we identify, prioritize the actions that we're taking and determine what impact it can have. I know we need a strategy for everything these days, but honestly, if you don't have a data strategy about how you're going about putting together all these different pieces of information and how you're making some of these decisions, then you could spend day after day for months or even years trying to sort through and eliminate the insights I can see from over here. But if I look at this data over here, it negates that, and trying to make sense of the data. 

So I think having the things that are noted here on the page, access to data in one place and ease of use are incredibly, incredibly important so that you can make decisions in efficient ways that will have an impact. You don't want to just use data and spin on it. You want to be able to actually use it to take actions that are meaningful.

Haley Eckels:

Great. And Emily, as the employer representative, I'll give you the last word. What do you think the role of data will play in the future?

Emily Munroe:

I agree with Betsy and Kelly. Just making your needs known to your providers, making sure that they know what you're going to be measuring as success too for them. Setting that up, sets me up for success. I’m starting to look at my population instead of just one big community, but narrowing it down by location. 

As we've seen with the COVID-19 vaccines, things are distributed differently in different states. I need to really pinpoint which group needs what and be a little bit more agile in the way that I'm delivering it, and to do that, I'm going to need really accurate data and access to it when it's important to me, not when it's important to my provider. Like Betsy said, planning is important.

Haley Eckels:

Yes, so instead of big data, we're looking at tiny data, localized data. That's certainly been an interesting learning from the pandemic too: how different the situation can be in different parts of the country and for different micro-populations.

Let’s go over a couple of key takeaways from the study really quickly here in our final minutes. So we think the COVID pandemic may have caused a caring revolution for large employers. They're now prioritizing employee health over productivity, or even reducing turnover, mental health, quality of care, and employee well-being are more important to them than ever before. 

We also found that the most innovative employers are the most likely to rely on their benefits advisors for decision-making. They see advisors as crucial partners, not just as a resource to tap during busy times like open enrollment. And they also expect data analytics from their advisor partners. 

And then finally, data warehousing or data lakes are not enough benefits leaders. They need help interpreting the data, finding insights, and taking action, and they want both advisors and data analytics tools to step up and provide more value for them.

Finally, I'd invite you all to take a look at the full research paper. We've only covered some highlights today, but there are many other little tidbits that can help you plan for 2021, and see how you stack up against other employers. Check it out at\research and connect with the Artemis team for answers to questions, or to share insights of your own. We thank you all so much for joining us today.

This discussion with World at Work and Artemis Health really helped us gain perspective on how employers and advisors are shifting their strategies in 2021. Want to see more on these topics? Check out our full research paper here

Want to learn more about Artemis Health? Watch our 2-minute demo video to see the data analytics tools in action. 

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