Daily Briefing Blog

What can make (or break) a hospital-employer partnership

Hanna Jaquith, Daily Briefing

The interesting trend of employers partnering with hospitals to control costs seems to have only gathered steam lately. We've written a number of Daily Briefing stories in recent weeks on efforts by Ford Motors, Wal-Mart, and Boeing to reduce their health costs.

But what's the story behind the headlines? And are these partnerships a harbinger of what's to come?

I recently spoke with the Care Transformation Center's Megan Clark about the myriad ways employers are partnering with hospitals, with on-site wellness clinics, chronic disease management, and work-sponsored patient portals. You can read that Q&A in today's Daily Briefing.

But Clark also directed me to Emilia Thurber of the Marketing and Planning Leadership Council to discuss how hospitals can position themselves to engage local employers, who are becoming more proactive in seeking out these programs.

"Hospitals should see this as an opportunity to build new relationships with purchasers," Thurber told me. Nonetheless, hospitals do face competition from disruptive innovators—that is, health care firms that are offering new employer services and inserting themselves between purchasers and providers.

What makes a hospital attractive to employers?

Hospitals must be willing to address local employers' concerns, Thurber says. In many cases, this means creating a main point of contact for employers, avoiding the need for potential partners to navigate across many different departments and contacts in siloed organization.

To that end, some providers are establishing dedicated employer liaisons that are ready to help employers with any health-related issue and act as a single point of contact. Others are implementing customer relationship management (CRM) systems—the collection and analysis of different data sources—to coordinate employer outreach across service lines.

Establishing value

Overall, Thurber says, it's crucial for a hospital to establish its value at the outset. "The best approach," she told me, "is to use hard data from your own employee health programs or past employer partnerships that show lower costs, reduced utilization, and/or improved health outcomes."

Some hospitals are starting to make this information easily accessible on their websites, she points out.

Meanwhile, other providers have proven value by offering complimentary and low-cost services based on specific employer concerns. Or, they've offered free educational opportunities where key decision-makers can learn about current health care issues and network, Thurber says.

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