Mobile technology is changing the face of our daily routines. We access information that changes minute by minute, locate a new restaurant, or even better, discover that a friend happens to be a terminal away at a coinciding layover.
The possibilities are limitless and mobile devices and interfaces are transforming us despite economic or social standing. The mobile, social and local implications of technology are especially powerful in light of healthcare changes. I met with my friend Jason Bibelheimer, Vice President, Global HR Operations at Western Digital Corporation. Jason is leading an initiative at WDC that is showing incredible early results in reducing healthcare spending and increasing employee “consumerism” due to education and incentives for healthy living options.
We sat down to learn more from Jason and a key strategic resource, John Halloran, CEO of Mobile Health Consumer, Inc, who has partnered with WDC to pilot a mobile application that provides a decision tool for employees as they take action in improving their own health.
SB: Tell us about your journey in achieving such impressive cost savings in your health plan renewals?
JB: We began this initiative three years ago when renewals were in the 18-19% range and when HSA plans were just not seen as an attractive option. We told employees in 2010-2011 that we were heading to an entirely new HSA plan with high deductibles balanced with a design to entice change that would reward healthy choices and fund their health spending accounts. The first year we experienced 4.2% reduction in our renewal costs and have been flat the last two years with no increase to employer or employee. We are way ahead of the benchmarks for other employers our size and driving even further for powerful improvements based on employee choice.
SB: What can you tell us about your strategy?
JB: It’s the three P’s – we want to Predict, Provoke and Provide.
Predict Health Risks – we want to predict risks before they become expensive health claims or chronic health conditions
Provoke Healthy Action – Once we have predicted a health risk, we then provide a prevention path for the employee that includes game dynamics so they can earn rewards by doing what is good for them.
Provide Consumer Guidance – Once the member understands what their health risk is and what rewards they can earn for taking actions to reduce their health risk, we then provide consumer guidance about where they go to get treatment near them, how their plan will cover services, and what their balances are in case they have to pay for the services.
SB: What was the other factor beside cost that drove this change?
JB: Our leadership has always been committed to quality care for our employees. With all the changes in healthcare that were seemingly beyond our control, the strategy of engaging employees by allowing them to make their own decisions about healthcare was aligned with our belief that everyone has unique needs. We sought to empower them with a choice that would result in greater satisfaction and retention.
SB: How did you decide to get “mobile?”
JB: We looked at the data. Over 70% of the people in the US have a smartphone. More importantly, people with smartphones check their smartphone on average 34 times a day. These devices represent a new frontier in personal management and interaction. First it was web-based tools, but now smartphones introduce a level of portability and access, which seemed a perfect platform for these services. We looked at how hard it is to get employees information about their health, and decided to put that information into a communications channel where the employee already is.
SB: Do you see a need to tackle this in a different way in you global business units?
JB: We are invested in making people aware of their numbers. Are you healthy or not? And if you’re not, what can you do about it? This is a concern that is applicable across the globe. At this point, we are focusing our efforts on the US because the cost of healthcare here is so high. If we can mitigate the escalation of the most expensive healthcare in the world, then that is a good, powerful thing.
SB: We see you as a “trendsetter” – how do you define success for end of this year and into 2014?
JB: Our success is defined in great part by engagement levels. Are people participating? Are they taking advantages of opportunities to increase their good health? If we can drop employees’ health risk factors then their healthcare costs go down. Engagement and participation are crucial to this. To monitor participation we utilize analytics that are embedded within the software to monitor health levels and medical visits.