Wisconsin Health System Keeps Employees in Local Businesses Healthy, Builds Relationships with Current and Prospective Patients: How They Do It—and How You Can, Too
ProHealth Care in Waukesha, Wisconsin has been working with Aegis Health Group for 15 years. Aegis is a provider of population health and employer relationship management (ERM) solutions that help hospitals and health systems connect with employers and employees around wellness initiatives.
The rationale for ERM is twofold, explains Aegis Senior Vice President Yale Miller. “Hospitals and health systems need commercially insured patients to be sustainable,” he says. “More health systems recognize now that employers are their customers. They’re the ones ultimately underwriting the cost of healthcare, whether it’s self-funded or they’re paying for the health insurance benefit for their workforce.”
The second dynamic driving partnerships between health systems and employers is that employer healthcare costs have been escalating for the past decade at twice the rate of inflation. “Employers have traditionally struggled with how best to manage and control the cost of providing health benefits to their employees,” Miller says. Wellness programs can help stem the tide. By deploying these programs, employers are able to reduce healthcare costs and sustain a more productive workforce. ProHealth Care initially worked with Aegis to improve the health of its own workforce. “We started off with getting our own house in order, improving our wellness and health functions through their health risk appraisal program, and quickly launched into the employer product,” says Vicki L. Dallmann-Papke, RN, BSN, M.Ed., COHN-S, Director, Population Health & Employer Services.
ProHealth Care currently works with 835 employers, and 35,000-40,000 individual employees. About 150 of the employers—12,000 workers—are enrolled in Aegis’ consumer engagement portal OneCommunity, which launched two years ago. “Very few [solution providers] have the type of capabilities they have, from online health questionnaires to scheduling, to tracking your results, to incentives, to aggregate data,” says Dallmann-Papke.
Aegis is in the background. “We work on their behalf, really in a transparent way, meaning that Aegis is sort of invisible,” says Miller. Aegis places an employer relationship development person or team in the hospital and works with the hospital to create wellness solutions tailored to each individual employer group.
Dallmann-Papke supervises a team of 68. “We have dedicated individuals that present OneCommunity and the value of wellness, the value of direct-to-employer contracting, self-insured on-site health … for employers who are looking to improve the health and well-being of their employees as well as decrease costs over time,” she says. Employees take health risk assessments and receive personalized information on their own health as well as recommended interventions. “[Employers] can put in place education, prevention, early detection programs, effectively what we would now refer to as population health,” says Miller, “whether that’s through health coaching strategies, connecting them with primary care physicians, helping them get regular checkups, or getting them into appropriate treatment programs earlier rather than later.”
Access to aggregate data about the workforce helps employers plan effective programs. “I can let the employer know where their risk lies, and if risk isn’t changed, where they will be in year one, two, or three,” says Dallmann-Papke. Milliman, a respected actuarial consulting firm, has validated the model.
Employers may offer substantial incentives for participation in wellness programs, or tied to outcomes. “Employers can provide specific incentives to their employees up to 50 percent of the cost of each individual’s annual health plan,” Miller says.
ProHealth Care charges employers $52 per person per year. “It’s a comprehensive service that’s very cost effective,” she says. The cost covers the health risk assessment and a complete profile. “We have to draw the blood, the labs, the lipid profile, and glucose. We have to have the nurse there for coaching, doing the height, weight, and blood pressure.”
Dallmann-Papke says ProHealth Care loses money up front, but the program gives the organization the opportunity to forge connections with existing patients as well as consumers who are not yet patients. She says, “These folks are having babies, they’re going to a primary care physician, they’re having surgeries, and they need pharmacy. Our goal is to be the front door to the health system.”
Miller believes hospitals are in a unique position to provide services to employers. “Most of the large insurance companies have some sort of an online platform for wellness administration,” says Miller. “But employees tend to respond more positively when that sort of a program is brought to them at the local level by a trusted healthcare provider.” Aegis Marketing Director Debora Glennon says, “Employers usually change insurance companies about every two to three years, so whenever that happens, the historical data goes away, whereas if it stays with the hospital, the hospital brings continuity.”
Miller stresses that OneCommunity is a consumer portal as opposed to a patient portal. Dallmann-Papke has been able to integrate the two at ProHealth Care, and as a result, has increased the number of patient profiles in Epic. “We use Epic MyChart so all data that’s completed in OneCommunity is in Epic,” she says. “Of the 5,000 folks that went through the program this fall in a test for Epic, I signed up 80% of those people to be in MyChart who were not in it before.”
Patient or consumer engagement is a major goal of wellness and population health programs, and OneCommunity has garnered very positive results. “A lot of it depends on the incentives that the employer puts in place, but at the low end we see about 65% engagement in this online portal, and at the high end in the low 90s,” says Miller.
Dallmann-Papke stresses that this is not just a collection of programs cobbled together. “It’s really a complex care delivery model that improves the health outcomes of the community,” she says. “It’s a tool that the hospital systems can use to continue to engage and activate patients within the community.”