May 22, 2014

Roundtable explores latest health trends for large employers

When it comes to episodic care for minor problems, patient convenience trumps provider convenience in today’s health care market.

When it comes to episodic care for minor problems, patient convenience trumps provider convenience in today’s health care market.

So-called retail clinics are popping up in pharmacies and grocery stores. Urgent care facilities are rising on every other corner. Sensing a shift, primary care practices that want to stay in business are experimenting with more open access for their patients with acute problems. Primary care/urgent care hybrids are forming.

C. Wright Pinson, MBA, M.D., speaks at the recent Employer Roundtable at Vanderbilt. (photo by Joe Howell)

Episodic care and on-site coaching for employee health plan beneficiaries were among topics discussed at the latest semi-annual meeting of the Employer Roundtable at Vanderbilt, May 14 at the Student Life Center. The roundtable brings large self-insured employers from the region into a dialogue with each other and with senior leaders of the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network. The focus is employee health benefits strategy, delivery and management.

Tom Charland of Merchant Medicine, a Minnesota-based consulting firm, spoke to the group about a convergence in the “acute episode space.” Retail clinics and urgent care providers have begun partnering with health systems. Those who are succeeding with episodic care are following lessons from the hospitality industry.

Rick Morrow, director of benefit strategies with Marriott International (which spends half a billion dollars per year on employee health benefits), spoke about his company’s experience with on-site clinics, near-site clinics and more. On-site health coaching from a nurse or dietitian appears effective for engaging Marriott employees in prevention.

“Under the influence of longstanding economic and social forces, our country’s wellness has declined,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, M.D., deputy vice chancellor for Health Affairs and CEO of the Vanderbilt Health System, during closing remarks.

“What is it going to take to move us back? I submit it takes all of us collectively working to shift the culture back. There clearly has been increasing focus on this issue from employers, state and local government and a variety of health-related organizations. Smoking rates are declining, for example. There is more attention on appropriate diet and exercise. And employers are actively figuring out how to care for their workforce.

“Our job here as health care providers and employers is appropriately to be part of the cultural shift,” Pinson said.