Employers Curb Health Costs, Improve Employee Health with Hospitals' Help

A Nashville company is helping hospitals help employers save money on healthcare costs.

As employee health insurance costs continue to spiral upward, many companies, large and small, are looking for solutions. Have you ever thought of trying to partner up with your local hospital to reduce health insurance costs?

Aegis, an 11-year-old Nashville firm working with hospitals in nearly 100 markets, has developed a program for its hospital clients that is designed to assist them in better understanding and helping businesses in their service area get meaningful control of their employees'' health issues. Aegis found that when hospitals helped local businesses enhance the value of workplace education, early detection and prevention programs for workers, employee health improved and health-related claims dropped.

As part of the program, which is called "workforce health management," Aegis and its hospital clients survey area businesses ranging in size from 50 to 10,000 employees and with employer and employee approval, collect confidential health information from each employee on lifestyle characteristics including nutrition, family history, smoking and exercise routines.

Within days, employees receive a personalized health report, analyzing their health and lifestyle characteristics compared to local and national guidelines. As an advocate for employee confidentiality, Aegis only aggregates data of the health reports to the employer, who is then counseled by hospital professionals on meeting and exceeding the guidelines specific to their own workforce.

"It''s a win-win situation for employers, employees, and the hospital," says Robert Chamberlain, president and chief executive officer of Aegis. "The employer receives meaningful data regarding his most important asset - his employees - and how he can impact their lifestyles by working with the local Aegis hospital client and physicians to improve productivity, diminish lost time due to health reasons, improve morale and of critical importance, begin leveling the bargaining table when it comes to health insurance costs, which are frustrating to control and erode profitability."

Chamberlain says that the cost of health benefits for the average employer have increased 1,142 percent since 1980, and some predict doubling of that number in the next five years.

"Why? It''s simple," Chamberlain says. "Most employers are experts in what they do, but that doesn''t include being properly prepared for their annual meeting with their health insurance carrier."

Employers generally have relied on claims data to identify health risks and, using this information, fashioned workforce health initiatives intended to reduce claims, says Chamberlain. While claims data provide an historical perspective, such data do little to identify employee health risks before they result in claims, he adds.

Chamberlain notes that employee wellness programs spurred by government and the HMO movement over the past 20 years have met with varying success. Today, to spur profits, employers have begun to shift the cost of health benefits to employees in the form of higher deductibles, co-pays, and, at an increasing rate, asking employees to pay a greater percentage of their premium.

"We believe that workforce health management affords employers a measurement opportunity they have never had before," Chamberlain says. "By partnering with their local hospital and physicians using Aegis technology, they are now able to participate on the front lines of the health care cost battlefield with the right resources, tailored for them."

Chamberlain said that Aegis has pioneered the workforce health management model since early 2000 in markets ranging in size from 107-bed Crockett Hospital in Lawrenceburg, Tenn., to 791-bed Loma Linda Medical Center in California. As part of the relationship with each hospital client, Aegis provides full-time, on site professional staff to work with employers in the market with responsibilities for all aspects of the program. Based on the positive response it has received in those markets, the company now offers the program to hospitals nationally.

by Sandy Smith

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