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Making it Count: The Future of Data Analytics and Employee Benefits (Part 4 of 4)

oswaldcompanies February 24, 2016

We count steps and we count calories. We monitor our heart rate and how much we exercise each day. Individuals and organizations are collecting untold amounts of data, but what do we do with it?

The future is here today. Some organizations offer unique plan designs involving personal data transmitted to primary physicians. Devices like Fitbit and Jawbone monitor every movement and are being tested by transmitting data to physicians’ offices. This could be too invasive for many people, but the technology is here.

Pay for performance models could offer another solution. This model, which integrates data from multiple sources, allows health organizations to offer their patients better service. Insurers will pay physicians for improved health outcomes, stabilizing chronic conditions and lowering other health risks. In this model, your health data will be integrated. Again, it’s happening now.

One employee recently went to a CVS Minute Clinic for strep throat. A week later, she went to her family doctor, who said, “I see you went to the Minute Clinic for strep throat and are taking antibiotics.” Through full data transparency from the insurance carrier, the doctor had a full picture of the employee’s medical care—even for health services outside of her office. This affords her the opportunity to treat health needs holistically.

What you do with data matters

Yes, data is everywhere. It can overwhelm even the brightest of us. What it requires is succinct analysis. We can tell how many employees in a given area had strep throat in August 2015, but how relevant is this information? Employers need actionable, meaningful data. They need solutions that help employees improve their health and lower health plan costs.

Or maybe those cases of strep throat in August are extremely relevant once you have context. Through a holistic view of data, you might find a higher rate of absenteeism in August. Is there a trend with the medical claims? Was there a pattern with medical claims and absenteeism? If so, why was there an outbreak?

Working backwards, schools begin in August—every August. Let the illnesses begin. Start a communication campaign in July to educate employees how to prevent the sharing of germs, including those leading to strep throat. Next, take actionable steps. If, for example, your workplace doesn’t have hand sanitizers, install them. Although this is a minor example, it can have a profound impact on productivity and the health of employees and their families.

Now, you are taking steps that are impactful, specific and truly meet a specific health challenge. Now you are looking at employee health—and your plan costs—holistically. Now, you are establishing strategies and following through to control your health plan costs.

Changing behavior is difficult and people don’t always like change. But when clear data analysis can predict future health trends and lead to suggestions that improve employee health, Big Data is just the right amount of data. When interpreting that data identifies areas of improvement in your plan and reveals those employees who can realize better health outcomes, you better control your plan’s costs. When your employees reduce their health risks and take advantage of quality health services, everyone wins.

That’s what is possible with an integrated approach to the solutions that data analytics can provide.

This is part 4 of a 4 part series containing excerpts from the Oswald and Assurex Global data analytics whitepaper, Health Plan Secret Weapon: Integrated Data Analytics – Making Sense of Data to Make More Informed Benefit Plan Decisions. View Part 1 here: How Analytics Helps Make Sense of Health Plan Components ; Part 2 here: The Human Touch: Using Data Analytics to Integrate Findings And Solutions; and Part 3 here: The Costs of Inactivity: Wellness Programs and Data Analytics.


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