23 Dec 2017

A Culture of Health Reaches Far Beyond the Doctor’s Office

A Culture of Health Reaches Far Beyond the Doctor’s Office

By Henry Cha, Chief Executive Officer, HCIactive

It used to be, you went to see your family doctor for everything. The stereotype is of a kindly physician who handled checkups, shots, and illnesses for the whole family, often for many years. Maybe they even made house calls. These days, though, medicine has become a lot more compartmentalized. You may see one doctor for preventive care, another for cardiology, and still more for allergies, dermatology, etc. Medicine has made incredible strides in the past 50 years, but it’s also lost that individual, personal touch that the stereotypical family doctor was so good at.

One of the lessons I’ve learned in my time as CEO of HCIactive and founder of Habeo Health Plan is that no matter how great new technology and initiatives are, they only work if members engage with them. That’s why fostering a culture of health—whether through a PCMH, a workplace wellness program, or preferably some combination of both—is vital to improving outcomes and lowering costs.

By fostering [a] culture of health at work and providing tools like PCMHs and online member portals to manage patient care, employers create a flow-on effect from members to their dependents.

For example, let’s take a sample employee. Say he’s 45 years old, overweight, and a smoker. He’s likely at risk for a number of health conditions and potentially seeing multiple doctors (who may or may not be communicating with each other). But let’s also say the company he works for has committed to fostering a culture of health. They’ve implemented a workplace wellness program with incentives, resources (including a smoking cessation program), and a self-service online portal to make self-care easier and less confusing. As part of his employer-sponsored health plan, our employee is now able to see doctors at a PCMH. Although he still may be seeing several specialists as well as a preventive care practitioner, they’re now all part of one organization, working together to treat the patient holistically.

Our sample employee is certainly receiving better care under this new model, but his actual medical care is only a small part of a true culture of health. Health isn’t just associated with the doctor’s office anymore; it’s where we work, live and play. By living and working within a culture of health starting at the company level, he is learning new habits and being rewarded for healthy behaviors, like quitting smoking or losing weight. His self-care is likely improving his productivity and lowering his healthcare costs—not to mention the effect it’s having on other members of his household. Studies have shown that behaviors (healthy or otherwise) are often shared among people who live together. If the employee is learning to eat better and exercise more, he’s likely passing on those commitments and better results to his family who, as members of his health plan, also affect healthcare costs. By fostering that culture of health at work and providing tools like PCMHs and online member portals to manage patient care, employers create a flow-on effect from members to their dependents.

Health isn’t just associated with the doctor’s office anymore; it’s where we work, live and play.

It can be scary and confusing for patients and their families to deal with doctors, hospitals, and health insurance. But the education and point of care offered by a strong culture of health can alleviate a lot of those stresses. By helping patients take a more active role in their own care, plan providers and employers can improve outcomes not just for employees, but for families and their communities. It’s the 21st century equivalent of the old family doctor.

13 Oct 2017

Employee Wellness Programs Increase Efficiency and Enhance Corporate Culture

Employee Wellness Programs Increase Efficiency and Enhance Corporate Culture

By Erica Solomon, Human Resources Director, HCIactive

As a wellness company, we know that we must practice what we preach. In our case, that means running a successful employee wellness program, from both a financial and company culture standpoint. As HCIactive’s Director of Human Resources, it’s my responsibility to manage our own wellness program. Of course, I have an advantage: my co-workers work on wellness initiatives every day, so they understand the value of the programs we offer. I don’t have to prove to my employees that wellness programs work, but I do have to make sure our program is interesting, challenging, and beneficial to both the individual employee and the company.

From a financial perspective, the best value of a wellness program is not so much in dollars saved, but in increased efficiency. Because my employees are healthier and more proactive about healthy diet and exercise, I have significantly fewer unplanned absences, on average. My employees take fewer sick days, which means less scrambling to cover for absent co-workers and increased productivity across the workforce. We’re also seeing a decrease in prescriptions for chronic conditions and a decrease in doctors’ visits. It’s important to note the reason for those decreased doctors’ visits, by the way. Not only are members getting sick less, but they’re taking control of their health. They are more knowledgeable and communicative with their medical professionals, leading to more efficient and effective visits. By taking an interest and an active role in their own healthcare, my employees are getting healthier and saving the company money.

The best value of a wellness program is not so much in dollars saved, but in increased efficiency.

Our wellness program is also a vital part of our company culture. While I wouldn’t say that the program alone attracts and retains top talent, it does play into the larger atmosphere of our office. It sets the tone for the type of company and employees we want to foster—and there’s good data to prove that programs like wellness initiatives and relaxed company dress codes create more efficient and engaged employees. Workers who take part in the wellness program and company challenges are showing boosted productivity and energy levels. We offer step challenges, nutrition incentives, and so on through our member portal, and we spice it up (pun intended) with events like a chili cook-off and a soccer team. The goal should be to leverage your wellness program to enhance company culture. While these particular events might not work for every company, maybe there’s an interest in a lunchtime walking group or a healthy cooking class instead. Again, the wellness program is only part of the larger corporate whole, but it helps us create the kind of environment where people want to contribute and feel part of a team.

 

I love my job

Implementing such a program seems daunting, but there are some strategies that will help overcome most obstacles. These days, nearly three-quarters of employers offer company-sponsored wellness programs, and even more—about 87%—are committed to improving workplace wellness [1]. There’s a wide disparity in the effectiveness of these programs, however, which leads newcomers to question the value of putting such a plan in place. With the right program and the right mindset, however, the Human Resources (HR) department can increase effectiveness and decrease the time requirement.

One of the biggest obstacles that the HR department faces in implementing an effective wellness program is, of course, the time that it takes to administer it. I’ll agree that a good program does take time and effort to manage. But I think about it this way: if I spend the equivalent of 3 days a month implementing this program, but save 24 hours of unplanned paid time off throughout the company, that’s a win from a productivity standpoint. Saving more than 24 per month of unplanned PTO, which we do, is a win for both efficiency and finance. Absenteeism is costly to a company, so by decreasing the amount of sick days my employees need and increasing the number of deadlines met (a productivity measure), my time investment pays huge dividends.

If a member can access their benefits information and incentives in the same place, it drastically cuts down the amount of time HR has to spend administering the program.

The HR department can—and should—use technology to save time and effort on wellness programs. If you ask me, self-service is the way to go. Offer a member portal so employees and their dependents can manage their own healthcare data and access challenges and resources. If a member can access their benefits information and incentives in the same place, it drastically cuts down the amount of time HR has to spend administering the program. Through our member portal, our employees can take greater control over their own health by knowing their numbers, learning more about preventable conditions, and communicating with health coaches to reach their wellness goals. Best of all, they are able to choose and manage their own benefits selections which previously would have required the assistance of HR staff.

There are significant investments in starting a wellness program, both monetarily and in terms of time commitment. These costs can be combatted by implementing an established self-service program. By using a healthcare technology company that specializes in supporting wellness programs, HR directors have the option to fully customize a program to their specifications, or to let the outsourced company handle programming, incentives, and so on through a pre-set menu. All your members have to do is access it, saving HR the time and trouble of creating a workable program. The larger savings, however, is in the way your employees will react to the program. Lower rates of absenteeism and higher productivity, not to mention health plan savings, leads to a healthier, more engaged work force and a more efficient company.

04 Nov 2016

Top 5 ACA Reporting Challenges to Avoid This Season

Top 5 ACA Reporting Challenges to Avoid This Season

By John H. Capobianco, President and CMO of HCIactive

The July 31st deadline for ACA reporting passed this year with an audible sigh of relief. For most companies, complying with the IRS reporting requirements was more difficult than expected, and they wound up outsourcing the process to payroll, benefits administration, or ACA reporting vendors. As one of those ACA reporting vendors responding to the call of duty, we at HCIactive witnessed and successfully addressed the challenges these companies faced. The good news is that these challenges were categorically similar and easily preventable.

 

Below are the top five ACA reporting challenges that companies experienced last season.

1: CALCULATING FTEs WAS COMPLICATED

Companies have long recognized that what the IRS defines as a full-time equivalent differs from what companies typically consider a full-time employee. Companies understood that they had to offer health insurance to workers who might not have qualified under in-house definitions, but when it came to documenting who those people were, and whether they received coverage, things got complicated. There were more employees who fell outside of standard definitions than expected, and it was not that straightforward to confirm who they were. The government offered more than one way to determine if someone is “full-time”, but neither method reflected how workers and their hours are represented within common payroll and benefits systems. This complexity created a lot of manual analysis and second-guessing.

2: TRACKING WAS TRICKY

In-house systems don’t “speak” ACA—they are not set up to keep track of everything your company needs to know to efficiently comply with the law. The difficulty of knowing who qualifies as full-time is just one of the tracking failures uncovered during the reporting process. Other tracking issues have to do with who was offered coverage, who accepted, and who rejected, who has taken a sabbatical or a leave of absence, or is out on disability. Some salaried employees sometimes produced ACA anomalies, as did seasonal employees or contractors whose hours flex up and down. This latter group may qualify based on a high-work period, but then have their average hours drop and not rise again within the timeframe necessary to maintain eligibility. Depending on how a company is tracking and when it runs the report, it may be out of compliance and not even know it.

3: COMPLETING THE FORMS WAS CHALLENGING

The IRS forms 1094 and 1095-C were not easy to complete. The information entered on those forms needed to be recorded as specific codes. The codes reflected an employee’s status, their eligibility for certain plans, whether the employee enrolled and whether they qualified for an affordability safe harbor, among other details. Companies were challenged by the effort of choosing the right code. Technology might have helped, however their systems weren’t ACA compatible and many still aren’t.

Few if any companies have HR, payroll, benefits administration, or other in-house systems capable of reporting employee-related information in terms that can be easily queried and converted into those codes. More commonly these systems report data in native formats that differ even from each other. It’s no wonder that filling out the forms ended up being much more difficult than companies thought.

4: ENCOUNTERING LOTS OF ERRORS

Finally, you document everything you need, code it accordingly, and transmit the whole package to the IRS, only to see that dreaded message: ERROR. Even companies with the best of intentions and the most ACA-friendly systems still encountered errors in transmitting their forms. The IRS’ electronic submission platform gets a lot of blame for the error frequency, but there is good reason to suspect that most of the errors are the result of dirty data. Employee record systems sometime contain incorrect information. The wrong birth year for an employee, or an incorrectly transposed social security number, or a misspelled name—any anomalies will flag that ERROR message.

5: CONTRACTING THE WRONG VENDOR

As the deadline approached, employers realized they were in over their heads and turned to trusted service providers to help. It was logical to think that benefits administrators, payroll companies, and other third parties would know how to help, and many jumped on the business opportunity. Unfortunately, the lack of experience that employers had with the reporting requirements extended to third parties as well. This was the first time for everyone. The same challenges around tracking, translating data into the right codes for the forms, and data access applied as much, if not more, to third parties as to the employer itself.

LOOKING FORWARD

The challenges companies faced for 2016 share a common theme—they all stemmed from a lack of knowledge and technology needed to define, track, record, and report information about their employees.

Experiences from the past should make companies better equipped to address the challenges ahead. Most companies know by now that the process is not one that is best handled manually or in-house, but rather outsourced to experienced ACA reporting vendors. A trustworthy vendor should provide expertise, along with the integrated technology needed to execute and provide a system of record for tracking, reporting and filing the required information and forms. Additionally, with the last season behind us, the vendor should have a proven track record for achieving a high IRS acceptance rate for its current clients proving that their technology actually works.

To learn more about the tips and technology needed to overcome ACA reporting challenges, download this free webinar or contact us!

HCIactive relieves administrative burden and takes the guesswork out of ACA reporting and compliance with a robust integrated technology solution.

14 Oct 2016

Webinar: The Solution to Simplifying ACA Reporting

Webinar: The Solution to Simplifying ACA Reporting

You Survived Year One…Now what?

If you’re like many employers, complying with IRS reporting requirements was more difficult than you expected.  Now you’ll have to do the process again, but in much less time and under greater IRS scrutiny, increasing your risk for penalties. The good news is that we’re familiar with your challenges, and we have the solution you’ve been seeking.

Learn how HCIactive’s ACA Reporting Dashboard addresses these common employer challenges:

  • Accessing Critical Data – aggregate benefits, payroll, and HRIS data to simplify ACA reporting compliance
  • Tracking FTEs – establish measurement and tracking periods for part-time or seasonal employees to determine FTE status
  • Filing by the Deadline – generate and e-file IRS Forms 1094/1095 Series B and C, and track status
  • Addressing IRS Inquiries – store and retrieve compliance documentation, including offers of coverage, to address possible IRS inquiries

Plus, our software has a 98% IRS acceptance rate.  Don’t just take our word for it – see for yourself in this informative webinar.

 

Register today!

Webinar: How to Simplify ACA Reporting with HCIactive

October 27, 2016 at 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm, EDT

 

 

12 Sep 2016

What Makes a High Performance Wellness Plan?

What Makes a High Performance Wellness Plan?

By John H. Capobianco, President and CMO of HCIactive

Wellness plans have become a necessary component of corporate health benefits. Yet not all wellness plans are equal. The benefits of wellness plans come faster and make a greater impact when the plan is designed to be what we call ‘high performance.’ These plans engage more directly and individually with the employee to signal that the plan is for them and tailored to their needs.

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What qualities transform a wellness plan from ho hum to high performance? Consider these five:

1: EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP SUPPORT

Leaders of companies with High Performance Wellness Plans view these plans as an essential contribution to a productive, effective working environment. These leaders don’t just want to check a box. They actually want a culture of wellness, within which employees take steps to improve their physical, mental, and social health with the full support of their colleagues, bosses, and the company as a whole. To do that, executive leaders communicate through their actions and words. They make budgetary decisions that protect the effectiveness and integrity of their wellness initiatives. Perhaps more important, they take part! They show up at the wellness fairs, get their blood pressure checked and their blood glucose tested; they show up for lunchtime Yoga and the company fun-run. In other words, they literally walk the talk of wellness.

2: TOOLS TO BUILD A CULTURE OF HEALTH

Anyone who has ever tried to quit smoking or lose ten pounds knows how hard it can be. Even the most motivated people could use a little help. High Performance Wellness Plans provide that help at various stages of an employee’s wellness journey.

As a first step, these plans provide in-house screening events where employees can check their weight and blood pressure, as well as get basic blood tests to check levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood glucose. Once participants have that data, they are eligible to meet with a health coach who can provide practical advice and a personalized plan. For those employees who are not yet ready for one-on-one support, or just want a refresher, there are health education seminars or even digital coaching options available to provide generalized advice.

High Performance Wellness Plans also provide a range of tools for ongoing support and day-to-day feedback, including online integration with the most popular fitness apps and wearable devices.

Last, the best wellness plans understand that wellness can be social. People who exercise with a partner are less likely to bail on a workout; people who make a public commitment to losing weight or quitting smoking are more likely to meet their goals. High Performance Wellness Plans incorporate these social nudges to help people stick to their plan.

3: HIGH PARTICIPATION AND ENGAGEMENT

Wellness plans are driven by the engine of human motivation and engagement. When employees see their colleagues participating and reaping positive results, they get motivated to take part too.


“…plans designed with an incentive achieve a 60 percent participation rate, compared to 24 percent average participation for those plans with no incentive.”


How to get that participant base? Research shows that plans that provide incentives for participation reach higher participation rates. For example, an HCIactive study of 116 employers showed that plans designed with an incentive achieve a 60 percent participation rate, compared to a 24 percent average participation for those plans with no incentive.

The most effective incentive plans have a monetary component. Some plans give participants a gift card or make a contribution to a health savings or flexible spending account as a reward for getting certain screenings or reaching a health goal. Still other plans give the incentive first, but with the stipulation that it will be taken away if participants don’t fulfill certain requirements within a given timeframe. The experience of our corporate clients suggest that a $75 monetary incentive is the threshold level beyond which companies see relevant increases in participation.

4: ACTIONABLE DATA

Even healthy people generate a lot of medical data, from lab results and x-rays to pharmacy prescriptions. The problem for patients is that all this information resides in different systems that the patient can’t necessarily access. High Performance Wellness Plans resolve some of that pain. They provide an integrated platform where participants can access data from different sources—your general practitioner, your radiologist, your pharmacy—and even integrate it with data from proprietary sources like fitness apps.

For the employer, High Performance Wellness Plans provide access to anonymized, aggregate data about participation rates, the results from incentive plan effectiveness, and health outcomes. Employers can use this data for long-term plan design and management.

5: SCALABILITY AND FLEXIBILITY

Companies change over time. They engage in mergers or acquisitions; they develop new product lines and expand their talent base. High Performance Wellness Plans should grow with them. They need to be able to handle more scale as a company’s employee base grows or becomes more diverse.

Health provision is also changing. The proliferation of walk-in urgent care facilities, mobile clinics, and pharmacy-based labs are just some examples of the decentralization of health care. Within this changing environment, employers are playing a more active role in providing health resources for their employees. Employers such as Walmart and Lowe’s, for example, are contracting directly with care providers, a trend which is expected to grow in the coming years. In response to this trend, several of our Health System clients are rolling out new direct contracting models for employers in their regions.

Beyond that, companies need to be able to add new functions such as access to electronic records from multiple sources, and integrate with new online tools such as provider electronic medical records (EMR) systems, as doctors come online and are able to share data across digital channels.

SUMMARY

As wellness plans become a near-ubiquitous addition to corporate health benefits, plan design becomes more important. Companies can differentiate their plans and engage their employees by paying attention to small details that make a large difference. Clear executive leadership commitment, tools and resources for increasing employee engagement, helpful data integration, and the ability to grow and change with your population will allow your plan to produce the benefits that High Performance Wellness Plans are capable of. Make sure you push the limits to lead the way in driving change in the industry.

About the Author

John Capobianco is President and Chief Marketing Officer of HCIactive, a provider of advanced health planning services. John has more than thirty years of executive experience growing large companies such as Hewlett-Packard, SAP, and Computer Associates; as well as high-growth companies such as BlueStone Software and MEDecision in the IT infrastructure and healthcare IT industries.