By Clive Riddle, April 30, 2012
Sander Domaszewicz is a Principal with Mercer well-versed in employer and employee health benefit issues, and is a noted national speaker on topics related to this arena. Recently, MCOL’s ThoughtLeaders publication asked it’s panel about the recently observed trends regarding a dip in various utilization metrics. We didn’t connect with Sander in time to ask him this question for the current issue of ThoughtLeaders, but I asked him if he wouldn’t mind doing a short guest blog with his thoughts on the issue.
Question: A number of recent studies have indicated a modest decline in several key patient utilization metrics since the onset of the great recession. Will a long-term change result, or will utilization increase as the economy improves – and what are the implications?
Sander Domaszewicz, Principal, Mercer:
Many of the plan sponsors we work with are busy moving forward with strategies that will right-size utilization now and in the future, making sure that their workforce gets the care they need at a good value, and no more. Some of the most powerful efforts in this area started to blossom during the great recession, and our expectation is that long-term change will result.
Employers' focus has shifted to almost equal attention now being given to both the Demand-side and the Supply-side of the care consumption equation. On the Demand-side, employers are investing in keeping healthy folks healthy and keeping illnesses well-managed for those that have chronic conditions. This Demand-side aligns with "wellness" or "health management" initiatives and is trying to reduce the demand for health care services in the first place. If the Demand-side of the intervention breaks down, employers are also addressing the Supply-side of the care utilization equation. So if people do need to seek health care services, let's make sure we get them the right care, at the right time, from the right provider, for the right price, with the right outcome. In other words, how can we get the most total value for the health dollar spent. Consumer-directed health plans, centers of excellence, narrow networks, patient-centered medical homes, ACOs, medical travel, telemedicine, retail/onsite clinics, and other interventions all have Supply-side impact.
Both the private and the public sector purchasers of health services are working diligently to optimize necessary utilization and prevent unnecessary utilization, so better control over time may be more achievable now than at any time in the past.