November 26, 2019

What Employee Benefits leaders Should Measure With Healthcare Data Analytics

Benefits leaders understand that they should “measure what matters.” But it's not so simple. How do you know what matters for your unique population? How do you know what matters for the healthcare coverage, wellness initiatives, and benefits programs that you have already implemented?

Healthcare data analytics can be a daunting task. The best benefits leaders are focused on measuring a few, key impactful metrics that help them gain:

  • A holistic view
  • Fast answers
  • A true partnership
  • An action plan

Let's dive in to some key healthcare data points and discover what successful benefits leaders should measure. 

Use Healthcare Analytics to Track Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is one of the primary measures of benefits success. There are numerous ways to measure employee engagement. Here are a few that work well for Artemis Health clients:

  • Wellness program participation
  • Enrollment in benefits by location
  • Utilization of voluntary benefits, including life insurance, dental, 401k, telemedicine, etc.
  • Year-over-year participation in chronic condition or care management programs
  • Prescription drug compliance for chronic conditions
  • Participation in employee feedback surveys

These measures and others can give employee benefits leaders a holistic view of how their employees are engaging with their benefits. You may find, for example, that employees are participating in a “steps” or fitness challenge at higher rate in one office location compared to another. That gives you valuable data that you can use to target the right employees in the right locations at the right time.

Here's an example from the real world. One Artemis client used employee engagement and feedback metrics to find out where they should spend their time during Open Enrollment. They looked at telemedicine utilization, claims for fertility, emergency room and urgent care visits, and a few more. Then they broke down the frequency of these claims by office location. They found which work sites needed better member education and help to understand how to efficiently use their benefits programs. 

During Open Enrollment, they sent benefits specialists to the office locations with higher or lower utilization as appropriate. Locations with higher fertility claims got a visit from a new fertility care program, while those with high ER visits heard a targeted message about telemedicine options.  Members are getting information about the programs that matter to them most, and the benefits team is spending its time where it will have the highest impact. 

Analyze Employee Healthcare Costs

Healthcare costs are one of the easiest things for benefits professionals to measure, but they're also one of the most important. It's not a matter of calculating just the total employer paid amount, though. Benefits professionals must also keep an eye on employee paid amounts, costs per procedure, variances by service location, provider billings, and future costs for the organization.

One of the most difficult things to measure with healthcare data analytics is spending that hasn’t happened yet. While many other business units are able to forecast next year’s budget, HR doesn’t have that luxury. We've heard from employee benefits leaders that they are often called to the table at the end of the year by the CFO and asked why their benefits spending accelerated at the end of the year. You just don’t know when people are going to get sick, or when they’re going to use their healthcare coverage. Cancer, musculoskeletal diseases, diabetes, and other high-cost conditions just aren't predictable. But healthcare data analytics can help.

Artemis’ data analytics tools are helping benefits leaders track costs in a number of different ways. Our Executive Summary Standard Story (an out-of-the-box report) gives a great view of overall costs, trends, and changes over time. 

A view of the Artemis Executive Summary Standard Story report.

Measure Employee Healthcare Outcomes

Measuring healthcare outcomes is not easy. It involves cross comparing data from several different sources, working with hospital systems, and understanding which metrics actually indicate better health. The Artemis Platform provides thousands of measures of healthcare outcomes to help employee benefits leaders get a sense for the success of their programs and the health outcomes of their members.

Here are some metrics you want to keep an eye on around healthcare outcomes:

  • Emergency room visits per thousand
  • Hospital admissions and readmissions
  • Risk scores over time
  • Participation in wellness programs and initiatives
  • Chronic condition prevalence
  • Prescription drug compliance and utilization
  • Care management program participation

And many more. It’s critical to compare across data feeds when measuring healthcare outcomes. For example, if you want to see if your population is successfully treating chronic conditions, you’ll need to look across medical and prescription data feeds at the very least. You may be able to pull in data from care management programs as well. Let’s say you have six members being treated for multiple sclerosis. You can use the Artemis Platform to create a cohort of the six members and look across various metrics to see how they are doing over time. Cohort functionality allows you to isolate specific members, compare their health to other members, and see trends and changes over a set time period. You can learn more about cohort analysis in our recent blog post. 

Alignment of healthcare data analytics with organizational goals 

A recent Artemis Health research study found that 32% of employers are primarily motivated by helping their organization meet its goals.

When designing a data analytics strategy, benefits leaders should take into account how their metrics tie into other departments and showcase their alignment with their company’s larger objectives. Whether it’s employee health, costs, employee engagement, productivity, or some other measure, benefits leaders must be prepared to demonstrate how their healthcare analytics strategies affect and influence other business analytics.

Artemis Health helps organizations achieve just this with both Standard Stories and Custom Stories. Standard Stories include a number of out-of-the-box reports that offer a larger, 30,000 foot view of employee health and wellness. The Executive Summary Story focuses on costs, risks, and overall measures of health. The High Cost Claimants Story (with both medical and prescription included) gives a solid look at which members need extra care as well as a foundation for predicting future costs.

Custom stories also offer a view into organizational goals. Let’s look at an example. One Artemis Health client wanted to address opioid addiction in their member population and their larger community. They started by measuring morphine milligram equivalents in their prescription drug claims. Then they looked more widely at doctor shopping and pharmacy shopping (seeking opioids at multiple points of service) to measure how many of their members were at risk of substance abuse.

On the surface, these might not seem like the kind of metrics that tie into larger organizational goals. However, these specific, prescription-focused claim metrics are exactly what the organization needed to find out how opioid addiction was affecting their members and their wider community. This client took steps to limit morphine milligram equivalents on their pharmacy formulary, add programs for substance abuse, and work with hospital networks in the community to educate providers on opioid addiction. Not only are they addressing the health and wellness (and employee productivity) of their population, but they are also contributing to their community’s efforts to fight addiction.

“Measuring what matters” isn’t always easy for employee benefits leaders. Brokers and consultants also struggle to get access to the right data at the right time for the right people. Smart benefits leaders will focus on employee engagement, healthcare and wellness costs, healthcare outcomes, and alignment with organizational goals when designing their healthcare data analytics strategy.

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