Driving home from work this week, I was once again stuck behind that driver who was going 10mph under the speed limit. As I passed them, this will shock you, they were busy texting on their phone. If we use our phone for everything, shouldn’t we use it for healthcare? While working in San Francisco for a few digital health startups, I saw first-hand the impact they can potentially make. There has been a surge over the past decade in companies that offer solutions for a specific chronic condition or well-being issue, and in 2017 alone there was almost 6 Billion (yes, that is a B) invested in digital health companies. From my vantage point, I feel like we should have saved the world by now and we’d all be downloading every solution available, but I still consistently see the same claims for the same diseases.
As an employer, can you offer 5—10—30 solutions for each individual need? This seems like an improbable proposition for most employers at this point in time. Likewise, there would be fatigue and information overload for employees navigating an already difficult healthcare landscape attempting to find the solution they may need most. To date, what has occurred is that we focus on the costliest diseases and look for solutions for those and rollout a solution or two as we think makes sense. Perhaps this has been an appropriate approach given bandwidth and cost considerations. I think one only need look at the success of many of the diabetes management companies as examples.
Speaking of cost, I think digital health companies are realizing that employers are being PEPM’d (Per Employee Per Month and I made this ‘word’ up) to death and are beginning to see the light that this approach can’t work. Many, and the most successful, earn their money when members become active participants, or even better, have outcome-based pricing as their business model.
The most effective organizations rolling out digital health solutions have created a strong framework that helps employees truly navigate both digital solutions and the traditional healthcare system. Giving employees access to 400 different features on a website is ineffective (looking at you BUCAs) if you just confuse everyone before they even begin. The solution implemented by an employer needs to become each employee’s trusted resource and the employer needs to build this into their workflow and point employees to this resource on a consistent basis. Need an ID card? Have to find a doctor? What is my deductible? Go to this resource. These solutions bring the opportunity to communicate to employees on a 24/7 basis, becoming an extension of the human resources team, alleviating the daily task work. This allows more strategic and thoughtful work to take place. I’m not sure there is one perfect solution for every employer, but we’ve built relationships with a few of these companies and are excited to see how we can actually change behavior and bend the cost curve for employers.
Our goal at Group Alternatives is to help employees either stay healthy or become healthier. As phones have become part of everyday life, let’s solve for how to get employees the information they need, how they want it, at the appropriate time. And, when we do, please don’t drive while searching for the nearest urgent care facility.