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Leveraging Healthcare Data

Data - noun

  1. a body of facts; information.

Metadata - noun

  1. a set of data that describes and gives information about other data.

Where a stock broker would say, “let your assets go to work for you,” healthcare analysts often make the same claim for your healthcare data. Every day, your employees are utilizing their healthcare coverage. Whether it’s a quick trip to the pharmacy for a refill on maintenance meds, or going under the knife for a life-changing surgery, every action generates data.

For most HR professionals, this data can be (and often is) aggregated, summarized and distilled into a concise report that ends up buried in the depths of your inbox. And while these reports often go overlooked, they usually can provide genuine, actionable information that is extremely valuable to employers. The actionable bit comes from the metadata or analysis distilled from the data itself. Looking at raw data, you’ll observe rows and rows of individual claims, but looking at it in aggregate, trends and opportunities begin to appear.

Let me provide you with a hypothetical example:

Shred Sticks, Inc. manufactures skis in their Northern Vermont shop. They are a tight-knit group of 65 employees, creating and testing a product they love. The company has seen rapid growth as their products have gained traction in the winter sports marketplace, but they have only been hiring for operations positions and neglecting departments like HR. The leadership has a family-like mentality when it comes to their employees and strives to provide a top notch benefit package. They call for a leadership meeting to discuss further additions to the package and want a data-driven strategy to do so. 
The HR director, Kim, doesn’t have the time to conduct surveys and focus groups. And she certainly doesn’t have the time to aggregate all that information once it’s gathered. The leadership continues to press HR for opportunities. Instead of making assumptions about the employees’ interests and pain points, Kim reads through her monthly reporting packages and asks her broker to summarize some of the information she found to stand out. The broker and the insurance carrier aggregate the claims data and discover an elevated prevalence of high blood pressure among the male employees. They also provide data to show that there is a significant savings potential by switching members to less costly generic drugs. Kim reports these findings to the leadership, who agree to install a no-cost, targeted wellness program to take action on these opportunities. 
Leveraging the carrier and broker resources, Kim launches an awareness campaign surrounding heart health and pharmaceutical consumerism. She sees on her reports that most of the male employees are between 24 and 38 years old. By using this demographic data, she targets these employees via mobile videos and online resources that touch on the topics identified as their biggest opportunities. This continues on for many months with increasing participation.
After two years of this wellness program, participation has reached 85% and wellness has become a part of the overall corporate culture at Shred Sticks, Inc. The ongoing reporting shows a substantial drop in average blood pressure, overall healthier and less costly employees and thousands of dollars saved in pharmacy costs. 

The moral of the story is that skimming or ignoring your monthly reports definitely won’t give you immediate and quantifiable savings, but by leveraging the metadata and your broker’s resources to find the “best bang for your buck” opportunities, companies can more successfully create effective and cost-efficient benefit strategies. Data is much more than rows in a spreadsheet, it’s the insight companies need to make informed and strategic decisions.