Employers who are considering an integrated health care program typically go through three stages during their search: development, implementation and post-implementation. Each stage will involve different consultative players, such as HR, finance, benefits consultants and others.

Integrated Health Care Primer

Benefits integration is an emerging employee benefits strategy that connects pharmacy, dental, vision, disability and absence management data to an employer’s health program to reduce costs and improve health outcomes. An integrated benefits program will provide multiple coordinated services offered by one insurance carrier.

To understand how employers develop an integrated benefits strategy for their company, Anthem Inc. commissioned SourceMedia Research and Employee Benefit News to conduct a study in November 2015 among 293 HR, finance and benefits professionals at organizations with 750 or more employees.

The first stage — development — can be broken up into three areas: defining a vision, assessing costs and potential risks, and creating a formal plan.

Defining a Vision

Beginnings can be difficult, especially if there’s no template or prior vision for an integrated health care program. This difficulty prompted half of employers surveyed to say they would use an employee benefits consultant to help define their vision for the program. Similarly, 43 percent said they would use a benefits broker or adviser (see Figure 1).

FIGURE 1. Key Resources Used by Employers When Creating a Vision for Their Integrated Program

integrated health care

Assessing Costs and Potential Risks

After creating the vision, the next big question is “What will it cost?” It’s no surprise that cost was one of the biggest challenges for employers in the development phase. Thirty-six percent of employers found it very difficult to estimate the costs and assess the potential risks of an integrated program. Also, employers are split on tackling costs and risks: Forty-two percent have completed this phase, while the same amount are still in the planning period.

Creating a Formal Plan

After defining a vision and assessing its costs and risks, employers move on to the last phase: creating a formal plan. Much like drafting the initial vision, most employers (47 percent) will rely on an employee benefits consultant, and 44 percent use a benefits broker or adviser. A quarter of the respondents found this to be one of the most challenging steps in the development stage.

Other challenges facing employers during the development phase include: starting the process from scratch, the time it takes to develop a plan, getting everyone to buy in to the program, making sure research is thorough, and meeting the needs of employees while keeping costs down.

Using benefits consultants, as well as looking at options via insurance carriers and even colleagues, can help provide the knowledge and assessment tools needed to meet these challenges. With the right information, HR and finance administrators can help secure buy-in and further development of the program.

We will explore the next step — implementation — in an upcoming blog post.

To learn more about the research and further develop your understanding of the integrated health care journey, see this 2016 Integrated Health Care Report.

Jason Kinzy is a marketing manager at Anthem Inc. and is responsible for the promotion of Anthem’s specialty business (dental, vision, voluntary, life and disability plans) to members, employers and brokers. He has 20 years of health care marketing communications experience.