Developing Next-Generation Employer Partnerships

Learn best practices for engaging employers, positioning against potential disrupters, and expanding partnerships.

Executive Summary

As health care costs continue to rise, employers watch with growing concern as health benefits expenses follow an increasingly unsustainable upward trajectory. To manage health care spending, employers are pursuing nearly any means available: redesigning benefits, partnering with payers and new innovators, and pushing employees toward insurance exchanges. These changes can shift large patient populations among providers, sometimes quickly and without warning.

Although employers are largely dissatisfied with employee health programs delivered by payers, they remain skeptical that hospitals and health systems can do better. Employers perceive provider organizations as difficult to navigate, slow to innovate, and uninterested in managing care costs. Moving forward, marketers and planners will be charged with changing these negative perceptions and engaging stakeholders in partnerships and collaborations to protect share and position themselves to capture populations that come into play. To accomplish these goals, providers must develop a coordinated, purposeful strategy to strengthen ties with local employers through the following four imperatives:

1. Implement an employer-centered infrastructure

Many provider organizations continue to take a hospital-centric approach to employer relationships, forcing employers to navigate across fragmented departments for multiple services and accept a generic suite of services. To streamline employer outreach, progressive organizations should implement relationship management resources to help employers navigate confusing and expansive networks. Providers must also customize services and care models to address specific employer health needs and add surplus value.

2. Position against potential disruptors

Brokers, payers, and health vendors can easily use their existing relationships to block or disrupt employer-provider partnerships; however, these competitors may also be amenable to working with hospitals and health systems, provided that the relationship is structured for mutual benefit. Providers should assess the competitive landscape for opportunities to assist potential competitors in addressing specific challenges or to develop complementary services. Where collaboration is not an option, providers can successfully compete by emphasizing care continuity and community ties.

3. Prove internal, external value

Health system executives are understandably hesitant to devote sustained resources to employer services programs that cannot demonstrate ROI. Likewise, employers also seek proof of value to ensure a return on their own investments. Employer services leaders can demonstrate value to both internal executives and employers by defining concrete success metrics and regularly tracking and presenting program performance data. Leaders can also reassure employers of their commitment to value by offering complimentary services at the outset; showcasing specific examples of past successes; and offering detailed reports on program utilization, care quality, and cost savings.

4. Maximize partnership returns

To maximize benefits for both parties and develop more exclusive relationships, providers must actively facilitate employees' use of services and proactively identify opportunities for growth. Providers can drive onsite utilization through strategic use of incentives and strong communication strategies. To maximize partnership benefits to the health system, providers must proactively connect employees with system resources and expand partnerships to include additional services.

This study presents four key strategies, with associated case studies, for engaging employers and expanding relationships to secure patient populations.

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By reading this study, members will learn how:

  • OhioHealth's training program prepares internal staff for Employer Account Executive roles
  • Rush Health and Marshfield Clinic use complimentary education to demonstrate partnership value
  • Froedtert Health collaborates with payers to strengthen employer connections
  • ProHealth Care proactively connects employees with appropriate system services

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