Welcome to our info hub. Here you can learn more about employer and employee health trends, along with ways you can address challenges to keep your employees healthy and better your bottom line.

High-Deductible Health Plans: A Key Component of Employer Health Benefit Strategies

Larry BoressHigh-deductible health plans (HDHPs) have grown rapidly in popularity among employers over the last decade. A tool that can potentially help reduce healthcare costs for both employers and employees, HDHPs must be implemented in a strategic fashion or they can actually lead to a substantial increase in costs.

Larry Boress, president and CEO of the Midwest Business Group on Health, recently discussed the topic with industry leaders in Charlotte, North Carolina, at a special event hosted by Carolinas HealthCare System HEALTHWORKS. In this video, Larry discusses the factors that employers should consider before implementing an HDHP, including potential benefits and risks for both the business and staff.

View video.

At HEALTHWORKS, we work directly with employers to assess the healthcare needs of employees and their family members, and then develop customized programs that improve health and reduce healthcare costs for everyone. In many cases, this may include offering an HDHP option for employees.

For more information on how programs and tools like HDHPs can help lower the healthcare costs at your company, please visit our website or follow us on Twitter @HEALTHWORKS and on LinkedIn.

Healthy Employees Make for a Competitive Advantage

Employees are a company’s most valuable asset. Your employees might be even more valuable than you realize. Studies show that there can be a great ROI by improving employee health. In our Employer’s Guide for Better Employee Health, we show you how to get started, how to motivate, and how to start saving money on healthcare.


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Five Things to Consider When Planning Your Wellness Program

By Dan Birach, president, Carolinas HealthCare System HEALTHWORKS Division

With the holidays on the horizon and winter nearly upon us, it is also the time when employees make their health insurance coverage selections for the coming year. For employers, this open enrollment period can be one of the most critical times of the year, both from a business and an employee engagement perspective.

Looking purely at hard costs, healthcare spending can be one of the largest single expenses for a business, next to payroll. Ensuring employees are educated on the best options for their needs and health – and not signing up for benefits that are not a good fit for their personal situation – can help keep these costs down. Connecting employees with proactive services such as coaching and screenings can also help lower costs by detecting and managing chronic health issues before they turn into larger, and more expensive, issues.

Beyond dollars and cents, employers also need to look at open enrollment season from an employee engagement perspective. Just as employers are feeling the pinch from rising costs, individuals are facing higher bills with seemingly reduced benefits. Add in the rapidly evolving marketplace of healthcare options, such as high-deductible plans and health savings accounts, your team will likely feel a heightened level of anxiety around their decisions. Ensuring your human resources team provides plenty of resources and opportunities for employees to ask questions about their benefits plan will go a long way toward reducing this angst.

As you enter open enrollment for 2017 and begin planning your compensation and benefits options for 2018, keep these tips in mind:

  • The Return on Investment of Healthcare Investment – In many ways, the dollars you invest in your employees’ health can return to your bottom line several times over. Statistics show that for every dollar an employer invested in areas such as wellness programming and disease management, they enjoyed an ROI of anywhere from $1.50 to $3.80. Healthy employees are more productive and miss fewer days. In addition to traditional health insurance, health coaching, nutrition counseling, onsite clinics and virtual healthcare are all new tools that can help your team stay healthy.
  • Establish Your Baseline – Biometric screening programs offer two immediate benefits. For employees, these quick checkups can help identify potential health issues and provide advice on how to treat or manage chronic health conditions so they can enjoy a healthier lifestyle. For employers, these screenings provide a baseline of health for your company. This may be able to reduce your costs if you are able to demonstrate a healthier-than-average team or improved health among your team members year over year. In addition, it can help you identify which supporting programs would be most beneficial to your organization.
  • Define Short- and Long-Term Goals – Improving the health of one employee can be an extensive process. Improving the health of dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of team members, can take considerably longer. Work with your healthcare providers to set realistic short- and long-term goals for your team, and provide the tools to help your staff make incremental improvements in their daily lives.
  • Incentives – While living a healthier lifestyle should be incentive enough to engage your staff, research shows that incorporating financial incentives significantly increases participation in these programs. In fact, in 2015, employers in the US spent an average of $693 per employee on incentives, according to the National Business Group on Health. Think of it as a way of sharing the cost savings the company receives for supporting these initiatives. Identify ways you can provide a significant financial benefit to participation, from reduced healthcare premiums to bonus vacation days to gift card raffles to health savings and retirement savings plan contributions.
  • Be Transparent – In addition to explaining the benefits enrollment process, take time to keep your employees updated on the ongoing health of your organization. Without revealing personal health details, share updates on the overall health of the team, set up internal resources for team members who need help navigating wellness resources and ensure that executives and team leads are visibly participating in company-wide health initiatives.

For more information on programs and tools that can help lower the healthcare costs at your company, please visit our website, or follow us on Twitter @HEALTHWORKS and on LinkedIn.

Why Primary Care Providers Benefit Employers and Employees

By Charles Rich, MD, HEALTHWORKS medical director, Carolinas HealthCare System

Primary Care PhysicianWith the frequency of chronic health conditions and the cost of care steadily on the rise, proactive monitoring of health and preventive treatments have never been more important. As your organization works to design and implement a robust healthcare benefits program for your team, there is one step that employees can and should take right away: establish a relationship with a primary care provider (PCP).

There are substantial benefits to both your company and the employee when an employee works with a PCP. From a business perspective, you are likely to see an overall reduction in healthcare costs. Research shows that companies with employees who engage in preventive care and follow a healthier lifestyle enjoy a higher return on investment. This is because employees are more likely to seek treatment for chronic medical conditions and catch developing issues before they become problematic.

From an employee perspective, the benefits are also numerous:

  1. A PCP builds and maintains a long-term relationship with the employee, including a consistent monitoring of health patterns. PCPs can be a valuable resource, helping to detect and diagnose potential medical problems before they get out of hand and prescribing appropriate treatment.
  2. As the primary contact for medical matters, PCPs serve as a central location for all of a patient’s medical records. From blood work from a recent physical to the X-rays received after a nasty fall last winter to the results of spring allergy tests, a patient’s entire medical history will live in one place where it can be easily referenced.
  3. As chronic health conditions are treated, from asthma to diabetes, it is important to continuously monitor health markers to ensure the condition is improving and not getting worse. A PCP can help track a patient’s health month over month and year over year and make him or her aware if there are changes that should be of concern.
  4. Sometimes serious illnesses don’t show up with obvious symptoms. As the central monitor of a patient’s ongoing health, a PCP can help determine if a strange new symptom is a sign of something that should be checked out more aggressively.
  5. Ideally, employees will be seeing a PCP in network. In the event of a new medical issue that requires outside counsel from a specialist, the PCP can offer referrals who are more likely to be in network and more cost-effective.

Helping employers provide the resources to keep their employees healthy, while keeping costs, is a priority for our entire team at Carolinas HealthCare System HEALTHWORKS. Ensuring employees have access to and regularly visit a PCP is one of the first steps a company can take to achieve this goal.

For more information on programs and tools that can help lower the healthcare costs at your company while helping keep your employees healthy and fit, please visit our website, or follow us on Twitter @HEALTHWORKS and LinkedIn at HEALTHWORKS by Carolinas HealthCare System

3 Steps Employers Can Take to Reduce Healthcare Costs

By Dr. Larry Raymond, Medical Director, HEALTHWORKS division, Carolinas HealthCare System

Healthcare costs continue to rise and outpace inflation. After years of double-digit increases, experts estimate these expenses will grow by 6.5 percent in the next year alone. While this slowdown is a positive sign, it does beg the question: Why do we so consistently see the cost of health and wellness skyrocketing well beyond the increasing rates we see with other goods and services?

Unfortunately, there are several factors involved – from the way medical practices and hospitals compete to the parameters doctors must navigate when providing care. Addressing these challenges is no easy task and must be part of a larger conversation that engages a variety of stakeholders.

The positive news is that employers and employees can take steps today to help curb increases at their own company and reduce their shared cost burden. Here are three key factors that are driving healthcare costs that employers and employees can address together.

  1. Improve Employee Health – Healthcare costs are rising in large part because Americans have a high prevalence of chronic disease and medical issues, such as diabetes, obesity, asthma and heart disease. These conditions can lead to ongoing illness which hurts productivity, requires treatment and inflates overall costs. Employers and employees can help keep these numbers in check through preventive care, wellness screenings and health coaching.
  1. Newer Treatments are Pricier – As we see in other industries, a new offering can often be the most expensive. New treatments are commonly billed as the best option, but they also can carry the highest price tag. In many instances, a newer treatment does not necessarily equate better outcomes for the worker-patient. While we never discourage any employee from pursuing the best care available, it’s important that employers help educate employees on the options available and the pros and cons of each treatment. Similar to selecting a generic prescription over a name brand, some careful shopping can uncover a less expensive choice that will produce the same health result. Encouraging employees not to press for antibiotics for cold symptoms can be another win-win strategy.
  1. Employees are Disconnected from the Purchase Process – Insurance programs can be complex. With many employers managing the details of a company plan, employees often do not invest the time to truly understand the intricacies of their plan or shop for procedures and tests the way they would any other product. By providing price comparison resources and offering guidance on navigating insurance options, employers can help their employees research and find the most cost effective care options within the market.

For more information on programs and tools that can help lower the healthcare costs at your company while helping keep your employees healthy and fit, please visit our website, or follow us on Twitter @HEALTHWORKS and LinkedIn at HEALTHWORKS by Carolinas HealthCare System

Lead Differently - Looking Ahead to the NCSHRM State Conference

By Jeff Thoms, assistant vice president, HEALTHWORKS Division, Carolinas HealthCare System

Today’s employers feel the pinch of rising healthcare costs more so than ever before. After a 6.8 percent increase in 2015, experts anticipate costs will rise by another 6.5 percent this year. While there are several factors driving this growth, there are steps employers can take to mitigate the impact. In fact, by making alterations to their healthcare plan, such as using higher deductibles, a company can reduce the 6.5 percent increase by almost a third.

Providing employers with plans, programs and strategies that help reduce their healthcare costs while ensuring their employees stay healthy is at the core of our mission at HEALTHWORKS. Much of our time is spent working directly with a company’s HR leadership to better understand the unique needs of their workforce, as well as the financial and logistical parameters facing the organization.

Time and again we are struck by the dedication and passion we see from these departments. We find that, as a group, HR representatives are simultaneously dedicated to ensuring the health and well-being of every employee in an organization while also securing the success of the company from an infrastructural, financial and operational perspective. It is an incredibly difficult role that is vital to the success of any company.

This is why we are thrilled to continue to support the North Carolina Society for Human Resource Management (NCSHRM). This organization is dedicated to providing HR professionals with the latest tools and materials available to maximize their impact on their own companies.

One of the signature resources for NCSHRM members – the annual state conference – will be held September 28-30 at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville. Encouraging attendees to “Lead Differently,” this three-day event will help members rethink how they engage with colleagues and how they approach the infrastructure of their organization.

We have no doubt that healthcare and wellness policies and programming will be key topics of discussion over the course of these three days. As the 2016 presenting sponsor of the Lead Differently Conference, we look forward to connecting with these organizational leaders, learning more about their current challenges and identifying ways that HEALTHWORKS can serve as a resource in future planning. Our team will be on hand at the event and we invite all attendees to come by our table to pick up additional information on our offerings, as well as see how our tools save companies money.

For more information on programs and tools that can help lower the healthcare costs at your company, while helping keep your employees healthy and fit, please visit our website, or follow us on Twitter @HEALTHWORKS

Let’s Talk Better Employee Health for Your Bottom Line

By Daniel J. Birach, President, HEALTHWORKS Division, Carolinas HealthCare System

Over the past two decades, the number of companies providing employees with wellness resources and information has skyrocketed. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 72 percent of employers provide these resources today, compared with only 54 percent in 1996. SHRM’s most recent Employee Benefits survey found that in just the past 12 months, 45 percent of survey respondents said they increased their wellness benefit offerings.

What’s going on?

As a professional with an interest in workplace healthcare benefits, you know that there’s a dramatic shift happening in wellness programs and care models. More companies are self-insuring or partially funding and have a vested interest in more comprehensive employee healthcare programs that contribute directly to the bottom line. That’s exactly the reason we are launching this new information hub platform.

The HEALTHWORKS hub will provide you with insight into what trends are hitting the employee health benefits world, pain points that we’re seeing in the market, and how you can address them for better return on your investment. Our goal is to share knowledge that can help you make better, educated decisions about employee healthcare that positively impacts your company’s financial stability.

In the coming months, you’ll see regular contributions from our team of experts on such topics as:

  • Key drivers for lowering healthcare costs and realizing better ROI
  • The importance of employee access to healthcare resources
  • The value of health coaching and adding remote and virtual options
  • How to spark better engagement numbers for true cost savings

We’ll also share case studies and interviews with your peers to find out how they are innovating when it comes to wellness programs.

In the employee healthcare field, I’m seeing a lot of noise and confusion in the marketplace. I’m also observing that when professionals like you cut through the fog, you see that there are real and innovative solutions available for achieving positive results. Together, we’ll explore the landscape and talk about these solutions - and more - that are right for you and your employees.

Finally, we want to hear from you. If you have topics that you would like to see addressed on this hub, drop us a line at healthworksinfo@carolinashealthcare.org and be sure to follow us on our new Twitter account, @HEALTHWORKS, and on LinkedIn to keep the conversation going.