employee wellness program

9 Tips to Upgrade Your Employee Wellness Program

The effectiveness of an employee wellness program is dependent almost entirely on who you ask. If you ask an employer, they may point to an ambiguous ROI as a reason why they dislike employee wellness programs. Ask an employee, and they may tell you a wellness plan is not just essential but is an employer’s responsibility to provide.

According to the 2019 Staples Workplace Survey, 78 percent of employees say it’s their employer’s responsibility to help them stay mentally and physically well. Your employees want wellness plans, even if you don’t.

But, for all those business owners and CFOs, it’s important to know that your organization, not just your staff, benefits from an effective employee wellness program. In this article, we’ll tell you what a wellness program is, how it helps both employees and employers, and what you can do to build the best version of one of these programs.


What is an Employee Wellness Program?

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a wellness program is a coordinated and comprehensive set of health promotion and protection strategies implemented at the worksite. These programs are designed to encourage the health and safety of all employees.

healthy foods


How Does a Wellness Program Benefit Employees and Employers?

The first benefit of employee wellness programs is the most obvious. If your wellness program is working, your employees will be healthier. As employees improve their health, they also spend less money on their healthcare.

This reduction in healthcare costs also improves employee’s financial health which reduces their financial stress. And this financial stress is likely weighing on many of your staff. Per the Financial Fitness Group, over 80 percent of employees have been affected by stress.

Both advantages to employees are also benefits for employers. When your employees reduce their healthcare costs, your company’s overall healthcare spend decreases. Similarly, any significant reduction in employees’ financial stress is impactful. Financial stress costs U.S. businesses close to $300 billion a year in unscheduled absenteeism, employee turnover, and reduced employee productivity.

Read more about the adverse effects of financial stress and how you can conquer them.

Employee wellness programs also help to align employer and employee values. A wellness plan demonstrates your business cares about the well-being of its employees. Hopefully, this sense of well-being is shared with the individuals. The more your employees feel aligned with their employer, the more likely they are to be satisfied and productive in their role.

woman doing yoga

Also, engagement in a wellness plan translates to increased loyalty which can contribute to improved productivity and a stronger bottom line. Even employees who work at an organization with a wellness program, but don’t participate, are more likely to recommend their company as a place to work.

According to a 2019 Optum survey, 29 percent of these employees said they’d recommend their company as a place to work. Only 18 percent of employees who aren’t offered programs at all would suggest working for their employer. So, providing a wellness program helps retain talent, even if they don’t always use it.


9 Tips to Make a Rewarding Employee Wellness Program

1. Make Your Program Holistic

The first tip to improve your wellness program is to make it holistic. Your plan needs to address every facet of well-being: physical, mental, emotional, financial, and social health. In fact, according to BenefitsPro, more than 60 percent of workers think employers’ wellness offerings should support total well-being. So, make sure your wellness program uses a holistic view to address employees’ health.


2. Utilize Technology

Technology allows your company to provide employees with instantaneous, up-to-date information and wellness updates. The better and quicker you provide relevant information to employees, the more they will engage in their wellness plan. Plus, your company can use technology to gather valuable data throughout the wellness process.

One such piece of technology that’s relevant for wellness programs is wearable fitness trackers. These fitness trackers serve as a visual reminder for employees to be healthy and collects valuable personal data about their health. Your company can use this data to monitor the wellness plan’s overall effectiveness.

wearable technology

Virtual reality, gamification, and mobile devices are all examples of technology that can boost engagement in your wellness program. Technology makes your wellness program more fun, easier to use, and allows for increased focus. Integrate technology into your wellness plan to maximize employee engagement.


3. Personalize Your Program

Another tip for improving your employee wellness program is to personalize your plan as much as possible. Today’s employees demand their benefits, including your wellness program, to be personalized and relevant to their experiences.

For example, advanced analytics can help you better understand your employees and identify gaps in their care. This identification, in turn, allows wellness coaches to provide support and resources that have the most substantial impact.


4. Measure Plan Engagement

The next tip to boost your employee wellness program is to measure your plan’s engagement. It’s imperative your firm defines precisely what engagement means for you, and how you will measure it. Additionally, your business must standardize its engagement measurements to ensure these measurements don’t change from person to person.

measuring tape

There are two different levels of engagement your company must recognize. Administrative engagement, such as enrolling in a program, measures how often a participant is in contact with his/her wellness coach. Value-based engagement is the degree of interaction required to achieve critical health, behavioral, or cost outcomes.


5. Promote Health Literacy

Health literacy is the capacity a person has to manage and prevent disease. In America, health literacy has hit new lows. Per the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, only 12 percent of adults have proficient health literacy. For your wellness program to maximize its effectiveness, your employees must be as health literate as possible.

Boosting employee health literacy is vital because it’s a predictor of increased patient engagement and improved health outcomes. Conversely, low health literacy prompts high health costs through less use of preventative services, poor treatment plan compliance, and more emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and readmissions.


6. Social Recognition

Integrate social recognition in your wellness program to augment its success. Social recognition can foster a team-friendly atmosphere and encourage employees to perform to the best of their abilities. Posting, sharing, commenting, and other social interactions help motivate employees through a sense of collective encouragement and competition. This kind of social interaction can also boost intra-team competition which helps improve your wellness plan’s performance.


7. Get Employee Feedback

It’s vital to the success of your employee wellness program’s success to secure your employee’s feedback. But most employers skip this crucial step. Per a survey by LightSource, only 30 percent of employees say their employer asked for their input on a wellness program before implementing it.

woman listening

Gathering employee input also helps your organization to better personalize your wellness program, the importance of which we’ve already detailed. Additionally, this input can be used to gain a better understanding of why it is employees aren’t participating in wellness programs. Get your employees involved early and often to dramatically improve the results of your wellness plan.


8. Offer Multiple Plans

The number of different wellness plans you offer at work matters to employees. Per the Optum survey mentioned above, 53 percent of employees said they’d recommend their company if it provided seven to eight wellness programs. These percentages drop significantly as the number of plans drops. Employers with four to six programs were only 30 percent likely to get employee recommendations.


9. Improve Communication

The final tip to improve your employee wellness program is better communication. They say that communication saves relations, but they never mention it also saves wellness programs. It’s vital to educate employees on the benefits of your wellness plan for the plan to succeed. Your company must inform employees why good health is important, what your wellness program will provide, and how employees involvement is imperative.

MetLife’s Employee Benefits Trends Study discovered employees are most interested in one-on-one communications to help them understand their benefits. The second most popular option was through a mobile app. Ultimately, the best solution is to combine and use multiple methods of communication. The better you reach your employees, the more they’ll engage in your wellness plan.


The Wrap

If you follow these nine tips, you’ll have a solid foundation for your company’s employee wellness program. And the results of an effective wellness plan are more than satisfied employees. Research done by three Harvard professors found overall medical costs decline by $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs. Similarly, costs from absenteeism fall about $2.73 for each dollar.

return to work

Do You Know the Compelling Benefits of a Return to Work Program?

You’re in the hospital with a prolonged illness. Or, you’re at home recuperating from a severe injury. If you’re lucky you might have a short-term disability or emergency savings to help with expenses. But, eventually, you’re going to have to go back to work. Are you prepared to return? Does your employer have a plan ease you back into the workforce, or will you simply be thrown to the proverbial sharks?

If your employer doesn’t have an established return to work program, chances are the answers to the previous questions are both “No.” In this article, we’ll detail what a return to work program is and what benefits these programs bring to both employers and employees.


What’s a Return to Work Program?

A return to work program is a plan established by a business to help reintegrate employees who have been away from work, back into the organization. These programs also help employers better control the total impact and cost of employees being away from work. Employees who’ve experienced an illness or injury, or are new parents, are all prime candidates for a return to work plan.


What are the Benefits of a Return to Work Program for an Employer?

1. Improved Employee Engagement

The first benefit of a return to work program, for an employer, is improved employee engagement. When employees have a concrete plan to return to work, they’re better able to prepare and ready themselves for their return. Additionally, knowing they have the support of management, via a return to work plan, empowers employees and boosts engagement.

employees shaking hands


2. Proactive Cost Containment

A return to work program can help a business anticipate and control costs associated with workers leaving and returning. For example, if you have an employee out of work due to an injury, not bringing a worker back can add thousands of dollars to their workers’ comp claim. Consequently, the higher the claim, the more your company’s premiums will increase.

Utilizing a return to work plan helps you bring workers back into the fold quicker than what would otherwise be possible.


3. Reduce Turnover

The longer a worker is out of work, the less likely they are to return to work at all. So, without a return to work program, it becomes increasingly likely your missing employees don’t return. An employee who’s out of work for six months has less than a 50 percent chance of returning to gainful employment. And, if this lost time reaches one year, the chances of successfully returning to work drops to 10 percent.

Businesses can use a return to work program to avoid turnover from employees who have to miss a significant amount of work. These programs keep employees in contact with the company. Maintaining contact with absent staff keeps them more engaged with the organization and more prepared to return when able.


4. Reduce Costs Associated with Turnover

Return to work programs help employees get back to the workplace more quickly than they would on their own. As your business returns employees promptly to work, you can avoid costs associated with hiring and training temporary or permanent replacements.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), employers need to spend the equivalent of six to nine months of an employee’s salary to find and train a replacement. A return to work program can help your company mitigate these costs.


5. Employer and Employee Alignment

The final benefit a return to work plan offers your organization is improved employer and employee alignment. When your business can align its values with its employees’ values, it enhances both employee engagement and satisfaction. A return to work program demonstrates your company values and supports its staff.


What are the Benefits of a Return to Work Program for an Employee?

1. Better Morale

If you sustain an injury, the last thing you want to think about is whether you’ll still have a job by the time you’re healed. A return to work program allows employees to feel safe knowing their employer will facilitate their return once they’re ready. Utilizing a return to work plan can decrease employee stress, which boosts overall team morale.


2. Improved Chance of Returning to Work

As previously stated, the evidence indicates that employees who leave work have a significant chance of never returning to gainful employment. A return to work plan can help employees return earlier than they otherwise would have. And, the longer an employee remains absent, the less likely they are to ever work again. So, a return to work plan helps speed up an employee’s return but also increases the chances they return at all.

arrival mat

3. Sustain Social Connections

Many people spend more time with coworkers than most others in their life. Because we spend around 40 hours a week with these people, they frequently become more than colleagues. Being forced from the workplace due to an illness, injury, or pregnancy can sever these social connections and isolate an individual.

A return to work plan can help employees stay connected the workplace and their coworkers. Similarly, these programs, and coming back to work, can give a person a more clear and a defined sense of purpose.


4. Build a Sense of Security and Stability

A return to work program can ensure a missing employee retains his or her position at their company. The more assurances a worker has, the more secure they’ll feel about leaving. In turn, these employees are more likely to return because they know exactly what they’ll be returning to. Without a return to work plan, your staff doesn’t have the sense of stability that is vital for employees.


5. Reduce Your Company’s Gender Pay Disparity

One of the biggest drivers behind the gender pay disparity is motherhood, especially in America. The United States ranks last out of 41 developed countries in the government-supported time off for new parents. As of 2017, only 15 percent of U.S. workers received any paid family leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The first step for improving the gender pay gap in your business is to offer paid parental leave. To reduce the motherhood penalty, it’s imperative that both mothers and fathers take parental leave. Maternal leave is a positive benefit but can work to further the motherhood penalty that exists in America.

But, a return to work program is also critical for ensuring working mothers retain their full earning capacity. Giving new mother’s a defined path for returning to work allows them to ease back into their jobs without being overwhelmed or lost.


Learn more about using your employee benefits to reduce the gender wage gap. 


The Wrap

Chances are you personally have experienced or know someone who has been through a serious illness, injury, or the birth/adoption of a child.  Return to work programs give employees experiencing any of the above situations, a chance to reintegrate into the workplace in a controlled setting, with a plan.

direct primary care

How Direct Primary Care Can Save Money and Boost Employees’ Health

Health insurance and healthcare costs overall have risen over the course of the past 50 years with a steady consistency. Neither the Affordable Care Act nor regulations from the Trump administration have been able to make a dent in the growth of these costs.

In 1960, national health spending equaled five percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). This figure ballooned to 17.9 percent of the United State’s GDP in 2016. Private-sector employers, alone, paid $665 billion in 2016 in health-related costs.

Of this total, $504 billion went to subsidize employees’ health insurance premiums. Employers typically pay about three-quarters of these premiums, according to the Society of Human Resource Management. And, the rise in the cost of health coverage is set to reach an all-time high next year.

According to BenefitsPro, the cost of employee health insurance will increase to $14,800 per worker next year. This exorbitant price has pushed spending on benefits to absorb compensation that could otherwise go to higher wages.

Fortunately, there’s a relatively new way for employers to keep from overpaying for employee health benefits. This new method of cost-containment is called direct primary care (DPC). Below, we’ll detail what direct primary care is, its advantages and disadvantage, and how it can help your employees and business overall.


Direct Primary Care Definition

Direct primary care is a form of health coverage but isn’t health insurance. Under DPC, plan participants pay a flat membership fee, which typically ranges from $25 – $85 a month. DPC differs from standard health insurance through its alternative payment model.

Because it technically isn’t health insurance, claims under direct primary care aren’t sent to insurance companies. By avoiding insurance contracts and third-party billing, DPC providers can give patients more time with a doctor, as well as a more customized and personalized service.


Advantages of Direct Primary Care

1. More Time with a Physician

The first advantage of direct primary care is it gives patients more face-to-face time with a physician. Studies have shown, in the traditional system of care, 43 percent of physicians spend more than one-third of their day on data entry and other administrative tasks.

doctor with stethoscope

Similarly, other studies have found primary care physicians spend upwards of 50 percent of a patient’s office visit on the computer. And, a whopping 87 percent of surveyed physicians feel professional burnout due to these administrative demands.

Today, doctors must see more and more patients, to generate a healthy revenue. The more patients a doctor must see, the less time they spend with each one. Now, family doctors must see 25 to 30 patients a day. And, the average physician has 3,000 total patients.

This number of patients increases the amount of administrative work they must do and decreases the time they get to actually spend with their patients. In 2017, the average length of an appointment with a primary care physician was only 15.7 minutes.


2. No More Insurance Hassle

Again, direct primary care isn’t insurance. While this feature may seem like a negative, it helps DPC providers stay more profitable and effective. Healthcare’s conventional system of insurance demands and limited patient interaction make it difficult for physicians to practice to their full capabilities.


Because direct primary care isn’t insurance, care providers can opt out of traditional insurance contracts. Instead, direct primary care providers receive a retainer fee. DPC practices, through their compensation structure, can pay physicians to provide comprehensive care rather than only care during a visit.

Under direct primary care, claims aren’t sent to an insurance provider. This lack of insurance allows providers to not only eliminate insurance contracts, which eliminates third-party billing, fee-for-service payments, and insurer relationships.

Without the costs associated with the traditional insurance system, DPC providers can cut their spending on administrative overhead by 30 to 40 percent. Consequently, direct primary care physicians can see four to six times fewer patients and remain profitable. Having less patients allows DPC physicians to spend more time with each patient, as detailed above.


3. Better Quality of Care

Another advantage of direct primary care is an increase in the quality of care for patients. For a broad swath of the country, visiting a primary care physician is difficult. Thirteen percent of Americans, or 44 million people, live in a county with a shortage of primary care physicians, according to a 2018 UnitedHealthcare study.

Without a nearby or available primary care physician, many people struggle to receive thorough and timely care. Luckily, direct primary care can help. For a monthly DPC membership fee, employees get a direct relationship with a primary care physician.

doctor with patient

And, as previously mentioned, DPC physicians can spend more time with their patients which improves quality of care. Similarly, patient panel sizes for direct primary care doctors are 70 to 80 percent smaller than those for traditional primary care physicians. DPC doctors can spend more time with their patients, and have more availability, overall.

Those who suffer the most due to a lack of a primary care physician, are patients with a chronic disease. A 2017 RAND study found 60 percent of Americans live with at least one chronic condition. And, these people account for hundreds of billions of dollars in healthcare spending, every year.

These patients with chronic conditions would benefit the most from access to direct primary care. Because DPC physicians have more time, and fewer patients, they can better coach and monitor patients with chronic conditions.

According to Qliance Medical Management, Inc., the use of services rendered outside of a primary care facility, drop precipitously once direct primary care is introduced. Patients enrolled in a DPC program have 59 percent fewer ER visits, spend 30 percent fewer days admitted to a hospital, are referred to specialists 62 percent less, and have 80 percent fewer surgeries.


4. Reduces Cost of Care

One of DPC’s most significant advantages for employers is that it can help reduce the cost of care for your employees, and consequently, your business itself. Healthcare in the U.S., according to BenefitsPro, is expensive because third-party insurance carriers obscure the actual cost of healthcare.

This price obfuscation prevents consumers from comparison shopping. Overutilization is another driver of the price of healthcare. In 2010, for example, $29.7 billion was spent on hospitalizing patients for potentially preventable complications. As previously stated, DPC can help patients avoid unnecessary treatments and procedures.

When combined with a transparent Rx program, direct primary care can reduce your firm’s healthcare spend by 15 to 20 percent in one year. Similarly, some self-insured employers who implement a DPC program, have saved as much as $260 per member per month.


Not Actual Insurance

It’s important to note one of the advantages of direct primary care can also be a disadvantage. We’ve already covered the fact that DPC isn’t insurance. This status allows DPC providers to avoid all the expenses associated with insurance.

But, it also means an employee with DPC only would be on the hook for all the expenses due to seeing a specialist or being hospitalized. It’s essential for any employer implementing a DPC program, to educate your employees about the differences between DPC and traditional health insurance.


The Wrap

Direct primary care isn’t a cure-all for the rising cost of health insurance premiums and healthcare overall. But, DPC does offer your business the opportunity to cut down on healthcare overutilization, save money, and improve your employees’ health.

employee benefits survey

5 Numbers That Explain SHRM’s 2018 Employee Benefits Survey [Infographic]

Once a year the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) meets at its annual conference. Every year this conference delivers insights into the latest HR trends. One of the methods SHRM uses to explore these trends is through the SHRM Employee Benefits Survey.

The 2018 Employee Benefits Survey brought a handful of key insights to this year’s conference. Here are 5 simple numbers that explain the 2018 Employee Benefits Survey:

34 Percent

Thirty-four percent of organizations surveyed increased their benefits offerings in the past year. But if costs of benefits are increasing, how are benefits offerings increasing?

The answer is voluntary or enhanced, benefits. These benefits help attract job seekers without raising your benefits’ fixed costs. Through enhanced benefits, your company can support employees in multiple facets of their lives, without breaking the bank.


Read more about the positive impact of voluntary benefits.


62 Percent

Sixty-two percent of employees offer, “health care services such as diagnosis, treatment, or prescriptions provided by phone or video.” This is an increase of 28 percent over last year’s survey. The continued rise of mobile technology has coincided with the rise of telemedicine.

And telemedicine can have a multitude of practical benefits for your business. For example, most employers are able to offer a virtual physician and a 90-day generic prescription, for the same price as one in-person doctor’s visit.


Learn how telehealth can support your employees. 


70 Percent

Seventy percent of employers offer some form of telecommuting option to their employees. The work environment is a critical component of any organization. And telecommuting can help improve your company’s work environment.


In addition to your culture, telecommuting options can improve both your employee retention and productivity. A previous study from SHRM found 89 percent of HR professionals reported an increase in employee retention by implementing flexible work arrangements.

A 2015 Collaborative Worker Survey, found similar results for employee productivity. Out of employees who worked remotely, at least a few times per month, 77 percent reported greater productivity while working offsite.


Read more about the advantages of flexible work.



Six different parental leave benefit categories saw increases in organizational offerings, compared to last year. Maternity, paternity, adoption, parental, foster child, and surrogacy leave all grew in use, last year.

Parental leave, of any sort, is an extremely important employee benefit. According to the Harvard Business Review, 42 percent of job candidates say paid maternity/paternity leave is an important factor when choosing a job opportunity.


Four Percent

Only 4 percent of respondents said they’re offering a company-provided student loan repayment benefit. Student loan repayment, while potentially costly, is invaluable to many employees and candidates. Especially for younger professionals or those who have recently graduated.

Students in the U.S. have now taken out a collective $1.3 trillion in student loans. It will take the average student over 21 years to pay off their student loan debt. In fact, several of your employees are likely struggling with this type of debt, right now. Consequently, student debt loan repayment will only grow in importance.


Read how student loan repayment can benefit your business.


The Wrap

These five statistics show us the state of employee benefits currently, and where the industry will go in the future. Employee benefits are as vital to your business success as they are ever-changing. Come back to The Olson Group to keep up with all the latest employee benefits news.

what is telehealth

What is Telehealth and How Can it Support Your Business?

Let’s imagine you’re sick. Your face is pounding, and it’s impossible to breathe through your nose. You have mucus running down the back of your throat with the steady consistency of the Mississippi River. You know you’ve got a sinus infection. But the last thing you want to do is leave your house. Much less go to the consortium of disease known as a hospital.

Luckily for you, it’s 2018, and the future is now. You no longer have to be in the same physical space as your doctor, to receive treatment. Now, you can pick up the phone, and in a few minutes, speak to a real physician. This is the power of telehealth. But what is telehealth? Keep reading to learn what it is, how it can benefit your business, and some of the negatives telehealth can bring to your organization.


What is Telehealth?

Telehealth, according to BenefitsPro, is the remote delivery of healthcare services and clinical information using the internet, wireless, satellite, and telephone technology. Put simply; telehealth is seeing a doctor or nurse via technology. While telemedicine has been around for several years, it’s still growing in utilization.

looking at x-ray

A study by the National Business Group on Health found that 96 percent of large employers now offer some level of telehealth benefits. Similarly, one telemedicine firm, Teladoc, saw a total increase of 54 percent in 2017. More people are employing telehealth, but what advantages does this technology offer?


How Does it Support Your Business?

There is a myriad of reasons telemedicine can benefit your firm. And as the surrounding technology is upgraded, these advantages are only likely to grow.

1. Increased Quality of Care

One of the primary advantages of telehealth is a potential increase in the quality of medical care. This form of healthcare can drastically reduce patient wait time. Similarly, because you don’t have to visit a physical doctor’s office, you save time commuting to your appointment.

According to BenefitsPro, speaking to a nurse typically takes two minutes from the phone. Similarly, typical responses from doctors occur within hours. Timeliness of care is crucial to a better total quality of patient care.


2. More Convenient and Broader Access

Telehealth can help democratize healthcare for those who don’t have access to top-level providers. For example, if your business is in a geographically remote area, your employees may not live near high-quality specialists. So, if an employee needs to see a nutritionist, for example, but none are in your area, telehealth can eliminate this geographical barrier.

empty road

And in the U.S., there is a real shortage of specialists for those residing in rural areas of the country. For every 100,000 rural patients, there are only 43 specialists available.

A telemedicine system can connect your staff to a global network with access to resources and services that would be unavailable under a traditional health plan. Similarly, it’s easy to see how convenient telehealth is compared to the conventional healthcare service model.

You can skip scheduling and commuting to an appointment, and instead jump straight into seeing a physician. Also, a recent Cisco survey found more and more people don’t need a face-to-face meeting. This study discovered 74 percent of patients prefer easy access to healthcare services over in-person interactions with providers.


3. Healthier Workforce

One of the biggest perks of telemedicine is the effect it can have on your staff. Telehealth can promote a healthier, less-stressed workforce. For starters, telemedicine can help alleviate stress caused by taking time off work for appointments. Nine in 10 Americans stated they would cancel or reschedule a preventive care appointment due to workplace pressures.

blood pressure

Also, as previously stated, telehealth dramatically improves the timeliness of care. And this timeliness is more invaluable than you may realize. One study demonstrated telemedicine patients score lower for depression, anxiety, stress, and have 38 percent fewer hospital admissions.

Additionally, a strength of telemedicine lies in its ability to produce an earlier diagnosis than would otherwise be possible. The quicker you diagnose an illness, the quicker you can treat said illness. Early diagnosis is especially vital for those with chronic conditions. These conditions are typically the most expensive illnesses to treat. But frequent monitoring, that’s possible through telehealth, can reduce hospital visits, for those with chronic diseases, by 50 percent.


4. Cost Savings

Telehealth can save both your business and your employees’ money. As mentioned above telemedicine is excellent for treating chronic medical conditions. And this treatment is essential because of the high costs associated with chronic illness. Diagnosing and managing chronic conditions consumes 84 percent of healthcare dollars in the U.S. alone. So, helping employees with these conditions should be a priority for every business.

Another way telehealth saves money is through a reduction in costs and time associated with commuting to an appointment. Your employees don’t have to pay travel costs to get to their appointment. Similarly, these employees don’t have to take as much time off from work if their appointment is over the phone.

Telemedicine further saves money for both employers and employees by reducing the number of physical doctor’s visits. Without telehealth, under a traditional PPO, your employees would need to see a generalist and get referred before finally seeing the specialist. Now after one simple call, your employees can get a referral to a variety of specialists.

Telehealth further saves on physical doctor’s visits by reducing unnecessary urgent care and emergency room visits. Before your employees go to an ER, they can visit a doctor or nurse on the phone and determine whether an ER visit is actually necessary.

Overall, telemedicine can be an enormous money saver for employers. Some experts, according to BenefitsPro, have determined that telehealth visits for the most common health conditions save employers an average of $472 per episode of care. Also, the American Hospital Association reported similar savings of 11 percent in costs for a telemedicine program.


The Wrap

In 2018 mobile technology is more ubiquitous than its ever been. Ninety percent of adults under the age of 65 have smartphones today. Now that the infrastructure exists, employers can use mobile technology to drive engagement and utilization of telehealth.

So, the next time you have a torrent of mucus flowing out of your body, remember you don’t have to venture out into the real world. Just use your telehealth’s number and call a doctor, maybe.

What are the Keys to Driving Domestic Utilization?

Domestic utilization is how a health system’s employees (and their dependents) utilize domestic providers within this system. One of the most important factors for a hospital’s success is figuring out how to drive domestic utilization to your own health system.

When done correctly, increasing domestic utilization reduce income leakage to non-domestic providers, lower high-cost utilization, and improve preventative services. Consequently, by analyzing your domestic usage your health system can create a long-term strategy to drive the future success and create sustained revenue.


The Benefits of Domestic Utilization

As you improve your domestic use, the benefits of this improvement will build upon each other. Here are the seven major benefits of domestic utilization:


1. Closer Network 

The first benefit is straightforward. When your employees (and their dependents) use your health system, it builds your network’s community.


2. Improved In-Network Economics

Again, this benefit makes clear sense. The more domestic utilization your health systems has, the more in-network providers benefit, financially.


3. Stronger Network

Boosting the use of in-network facilities can help improve communication and transitions of care for all patients. This improvement should lift all in-network partners. Furthermore, the more value you create for our patients, and other partners, the stronger your partner network becomes.


4. Recruiting Advantage

Better domestic utilization makes your network both stronger internally and more attractive externally. So, potential new network members will find a high rate of domestic utilization very engaging.


5. Higher Quality of Care

Keeping your employees within your network can help close gaps in patient care through improved coordination and a shared standard of care.


6. Improved Health Outcomes

One of the biggest benefits of improved domestic utilization is better population health outcomes. When your staff stays within your health system, you can more easily manage and track their healthcare outcomes.


7. Better Managed Care Contracts

Achieving a higher quality of care and strengthening your network can lead to bigger and better-managed care contracts for everyone in your health system.


Your Current Domestic Use

Before you begin to improve your domestic utilization, you must first assess where your health system currently stands. There are four major questions every hospital system should ask itself to properly analyze your domestic use. These questions are:

  • Do our employees go outside our network because they don’t have easy access to nearby in-network facilities?
  • What gaps in our care drive employees to use non-domestic providers?
  • Which specific non-domestic providers are associates going to and for what services?
  • Do employees use other providers because they deliver higher quality outcomes than our providers?

Each of these questions will help you assess your current domestic utilization. They give your company reasons your domestic use could be lagging behind where you want it to be. But once you understand your current domestic use, you can begin to build upon and improve this utilization.


How Do You Boost Your Domestic Utilization?

One of the first steps towards improving your domestic utilization is instituting a flexible plan design. Using a three or four-tiered plan can help drive domestic users to your health system. Additionally, pharmacy pricing initiatives can be put in place to drive utilization to your domestic pharmacy.

Combining these benefit plan strategies with a medical management team can truly unlock cost savings while improving domestic use. A medical management provider works with your health system to encourage employees to use your facilities.

The Olson Group works with many different third-party administrators who run medical management programs. One such provider has a program specifically designed to drive domestic utilization.

This program focuses on both your patients (employees) and the benefits plan itself. On the patient side of the program:

  • Takes a patient-centric approach, and assess a patient’s level of medical knowledge
  • Helps individuals navigate their plan and fills their plan/financial knowledge gaps
  • Updates remind and refresh patients on the latest evidence-based medicine

On the plan side of the program:

  • Works to keep health services in-house
  • Consults with you to build a strategic, solutions-focused, plan design
  • Uses predictive risk modeling to create a cost & risk mitigation strategy

Ask yourself, what’s your current TPA or benefits carrier doing to drive care back to your facility? If you don’t have an answer, it’s because they’re likely not doing anything.

Contact one of our employee benefits experts to find out all the advantages driving domestic utilization can bring your health system.

Help Your Employees Make Effective Healthcare Decisions

For the past three or four years, I’ve had in-depth conversations with a multitude of cost-containing healthcare solutions that create predictably good outcomes for employer-sponsored health plans. Many of these solutions are helping employees change the way they purchase the healthcare services they need reducing consumer frustration while putting money back in their pocket.

Utilizing these services would seem like a slam dunk, right? Ironically, most cost-containment solutions I chat with are struggling in one way, shape, or form. How can that be? Build the right health plan and employees magically become effective consumers, right? Well, it’s not that simple. Employees still don’t know how to make effective decisions on their own.

As technology continues to paint the healthcare landscape, employees have access to more navigation tools than ever before. Want access to a doctor over the phone? There are solutions for that. Want to access to 2nd opinions and price/quality data for an upcoming outpatient procedure? There are solutions for that.

Want access to medications at significantly reduced prices? There are solutions for that. (If you’re an employer reading this and the thought of “there are solutions for this stuff?” just popped into your head, it’s time to evaluate your broker relationship.) Today, employees can make effective and accurate healthcare decisions with a couple of clicks on their smartphone so why are we still struggling with utilization?


Improving Healthcare Utilization

Here’s the problem. When healthcare “happens” to your employees, they’re not going to stop to think about which tool or app they should be using, at that moment, to make the right decision. Still, it’s here where most effective cost-containment solutions quickly become ineffective. Utilization suffers when employees are required to engage the solution on their own.

Now, give employees multiple solutions to address the various channels of the healthcare supply chain and confusion reigns. You’ve got to get back to the basics. You have to make it easy for your employees to make accurate and effective decisions inside the healthcare system. Folks, these cost-containment solutions work.

They give your organization the opportunity to significantly reduce insurance costs while improving the level of care your employees receive, something no insurance company or PPO network can provide. What your health plan needs is a patient advocate. Give your employees access to someone (or an entire team) who can help them use the game-changing solutions you’ve built into your health plan. Give your employees the convenience of having to call one number for help.

Have someone reach out to them and hold their hand throughout the healthcare journey. If you think you’re insurance company is already doing this for you, I’ve got a unicorn to sell you. You must give your employees the confidence knowing that making the right decision is easy. You see, building a health plan that creates outcomes is not that hard.

When you stop accepting the predictably bad outcomes your current health plan is creating and start focusing on how your employees interact with the healthcare supply chain, your health plan becomes an asset instead of a gut-wrenching liability. You’ll realize that it’s no longer about the insurance carrier or the network access it provides.

Focusing on the healthcare experience creates predictably positive outcomes for your employees and your organization’s checkbook. However, utilizing the cost-containing healthcare strategies you’ve implemented must be easy and convenient.

A patient advocate becomes the glue that wraps the perfect health plan together. One number. One call. It really can be that simple.

identity theft protection services

What Can Identity Theft Protection Services do for Your Workplace?

From large corporations to government entities, to your best friend at work, Fred, data breaches and identity theft are happening to everyone. Not only is identity theft happening to more people, but it’s also occurring more frequently. According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft has been the number one consumer complaint for 14 straight years.

In 2016, an estimated 15.4 American consumers were the target of some identity theft. Up from, 13.1 million the year before. As a result of the jump in identity theft, there’s been a subsequent leap for identity theft protection. Primarily as an employee benefit. It’s estimated that by the end of this year 70 percent of employers will offer identity theft protection as a voluntary benefit.

This number would double the 35 percent who offered the benefit in 2015. More employees need identity theft protection, AND more companies are offering it as a benefit. So, it’s likely your organization already does, or will soon provide identity theft protection as a voluntary benefit. But do you know the potential advantages it offers both your staff and your organization as a whole?


What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft occurs when an individual uses your personal identification information without your permission. This information can include name, address, credit card or bank account numbers, social security number, of medical insurance accounts.

Identity theft is a serious crime that can result in severe problems for your employees. An identity thief can use your information to: buy things using your accounts, open new lines of credit, create an electricity or gas account, steal your tax refund, or get free medical care. Consequently, any one of these outcomes can leave an employee with thousands of dollars of debt.


What are Identity Theft Protection Services?

Identity theft protection services monitor your personally identifiable information for any unusual activity, which could indicate signs of identity theft. Some of these services help you correct any problems resulting from identity theft in addition to all of the diagnostic tools.

Specific protection services may also offer identity theft insurance. This insurance may cover:

  • Certain out-of-pocket losses
  • Chat room monitoring
  • Public record searches
  • Black market website monitoring
  • Virus protection software
  • Credit monitoring services
  • Regular credit score reports


What Advantages Does Identity Theft Protection Offer Your Employees?


There are several advantages identity theft protection provides for your staff. First of all, this benefit offers your workers security. These protection services give your staff peace of mind with regards to their identity. Knowing you’re protected allows employees to relax and perform to the best of their ability’s.


Time Saver

Another advantage of identity theft protection is that it saves your employees time. According to Workspan, victims of identity theft need an average of 165 hours to resolve the issue. Working with a protection service simplifies and speeds the recovery process up.

Without identity theft protection, employees would have to do immense amounts of legwork like filing police reports, writing letters, and making trips to their bank. Similarly, these services can save time with simple alerts and reports.

For example, if there is a substantial data breach, many services will notify participants about the status of their identifiable information. In this example, your employees wouldn’t have to spend time and brain power researching and worrying about the status of their private data.


Less Stress

Identity theft protection services also help employees by decreasing stress. Amplified stress levels result in reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher levels of reported unhappiness. Protection services work to lessen stress by both preventing identity theft and to limit its effects in case of actual theft.


Using Less Leave

Additionally, identity theft protection lets your employees reduce the amount of time they take off from work. As previously stated, dealing with a stolen identity can be a long, painful, and costly process. Protection services alert participants immediately of any fraudulent activity. Similarly, these services work on their own to correct any fraudulent activity.

Now your employees don’t have to spend any time or brain power resolving and credit or identity issues. Your identity protection service can handle several items at one time, without needing your input and attention.


Employee Satisfaction

Finally, the last benefit of identity theft protection is it helps boost employee satisfaction with their job. These services are an essential benefit and will only continue to be as valuable. As the role of technology increases in everyday life, identity theft will likely only increase as well. Identity theft protection


What Advantages Does It Offer the Employer?


Identity theft protection services, compared to other voluntary benefits, are relatively cheap. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners claims the cost of identity theft protection ranges from $25 to $60 per year. Given these prices, many employers can provide their staff with this benefit, at no cost to employees, for very little.


Higher Retention Rates

These services can be an imperative tool for employee retention. A study from IdentityForce revealed the growing importance of identity theft protection as an employee benefit. The survey found 68 percent of HR professionals say identity theft benefits are growing in importance.

Additionally, 67.5 percent of HR executives are evaluating identity theft coverage as an employee perk that allows them to compete in hiring and retaining professional talent. These answers demonstrate the growing standing of identity protection in a successful employee benefits package.


Decreased Absenteeism

The stress and amount of work an identity theft leaves causes an individual can be massive. Employees who are victims of identity theft are typically absent five times more than average and use twice as much sick time. Clearly, identity theft affects the absenteeism of your employees.

That’s where identity theft protection services come into play. The services this provided through this benefit helps employees avoid using sick time or missing work because of a stolen identity. As previously mentioned, these services do all the leg work your employee would otherwise be stuck doing. This assistance lets your team members focus on their job and not recovering their identity.


Protect Productivity

The final, and arguably most important, benefit identity protection gives your organization is a defense of employees’ productivity. The cumulative effect of a stolen identity can have a significant impact on an employee’s productivity at work, according to Employee Benefits Adviser. So, even an incremental increase in productivity can be worth a significant amount to your company.


The Wrap

Identity theft is not a modern problem, but it’s affecting your employees in new, modern ways. Technology isn’t going anywhere, and neither is the accompanying issue of identity theft. Luckily, as an employer, you can protect your employees. Use identity theft protection to help protect your employees and boost your overall business.

employment benefits

Which Employment Benefits Does Your Staff Value the Most? (Infographic)

Employee benefits are a necessary component of any successful business. Without a robust benefits package, it’s unlikely your organization will be able to attract and retain top talent. Your employment benefits are often the difference between a recruit accepting or declining a job offer.


How Important are Your Employment Benefits?

You might have read the previous paragraph with extreme doubt. Sure, everyone wants employee benefits, but how important are they really? Isn’t salary always the most important factor for employees and recruits?

As a 2015 Glassdoor survey discovered, employee benefits can be even more important than a salary increase to many employees. This survey found  79 percent of respondents would prefer new or additional benefits/perks over a pay increase.

So yes, salary is important. To many individuals, it is the most important factor when considering a job offer. Yet for many more (about 4 out of every 5, according to the survey), your company benefits take the highest priority.


Which Employee Benefits are Most Valued?

Staffing firm Accountemps recently released a survey of 2,700 workers across America. This survey asked participants to rank employee benefits (not including salary) by importance. These are the results:

Feel free to share or embed this infographic on your own site. To embed click “Share”on the bottom left corner of the infographic, then simply copy and paste the code.


1. Vacation Time/ PTO

More vacation time or PTO is a win-win for employees and employers. It’s an employment benefit that can provide greater creativity, engagement, recruiting, retention, satisfaction, and even productivity. There’s also been a link between increased time off and positive thinking. Positively thinking, in turn, improves productivity by 31 percent and increases sales by 37 percent.


Learn more about the importance of time off.


2. Culture/Work Environment

Your organization’s culture is everything. It sets the tone for what your organization does and how it does it. Creating a positive and supportive work environment is necessary to any successful business.


3. Career Advancement

No employee wants to work in a dead-end job. In fact, a SHRM survey found just how important career advancement is to your employees. Nearly one-third of respondents (29 percent) cited a lack of career advancement opportunities as the most important factor that would influence them to change employers.


Read about how to start a mentorship program and how it can help your business.


4. Work-From-Home Options

Working from home is a perk that offers your company more benefits than you may believe. Still, only 30 percent of companies offer telecommuting as a benefit. The 70 percent of employers not offering this benefit are missing out on a greener business, improved recruiting, better retention, healthier employees, and better productivity.


Learn more about the benefits of flexible work.


5. Professional Development

Professional development was the fifth most desired company benefit according to the survey. A 2013 study done by MicroMentor found that mentored businesses increased their revenue by 83 percent while non-mentored businesses increased their revenue by only 16 percent.


Read more about how to start a mentorship program.


The Wrap

What employment benefits your organization ultimately uses should depend upon your workforce. Still, this study is a good jumping off point for designing an employee benefits package of your own.


HMO vs PPO: How to Pick the Right Health Plan (Updated for 2018)

The healthcare industry is stuffed to the gills with meaningless acronyms and complicated jargon that convolute what should be a straightforward industry. This idea is especially prominent when discussing the different types of health insurance plans (HMO vs PPO).

Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), and Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) have distinct and separate characteristics. Deciding which plan works best for you is dependent entirely on your and your family’s situation.

Let’s detail the ins and out of each plan. What are the differences and similarities? How can each plan benefit you and your family?

Check out the breakdown HMO vs PPO health insurance plans below.


Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)

A Health Maintenance Organization is a type of health insurance that requires every participant to choose a Primary Care Physician or PCP. This Primary Care Physician is then responsible for referring you to in-network specialists or hospitals whenever necessary.


Each HMO has a network of local health care providers, from which you can choose your PCP. Members of these networks agree to provide their services at lower prices as negotiated by an insurance company. Typically, HMOs only contract with a limited number of providers in a geographic area.

Because of this, insurance carriers won’t pay for health care services you receive from out-of-network providers. In exchange for fewer providers, patients in HMOs typically pay lower monthly premiums.


Types of HMOs

There are three types of HMOs. The first type is the staff model or group practice plan. In the staff model, physicians are paid a standard salary regardless of the number of patients they see. Under this model it’s reasoned there are no incentives to give unnecessary service. Consequently, the organization should incur fewer costs thereby patients’ premiums can be held down.

Another type is the individual practice association. Under these plans, physicians earn a fee based on services provided or a fee for every HMO patient, regardless of whether any patient is seen. Because care is usually decentralized, both you and your doctor have to locate different medical facilities as they’re needed.

The last type is an open-ended HMO. This type is a hybrid plan that extends conventional fee-for-service coverage to members. Those enrolled to receive the benefits of prepaid care in addition to the option of going outside the plan to see another doctor. Typically, if you see an outside doctor it’s covered under another insurer, and you pay for in through copayments.


HMO Changes on the Horizon?

A majority of the advantages and disadvantages of HMOs are geography based. The network you’re confined to is typically based on location. But the new tax reform may lead to an expansion of HMOs. According to The Hill, there may be a decentralization of patient services from regional hospitals to local markets.

This decentralization, when combined with other factors is likely to lead to an increase in the use of HMOs. The proposed selling of health insurance across state lines will expand the use of HMO plans. These health plans will no longer be limited by a state’s boundaries, which increases there relevancy.


Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)

A Preferred Provider Organization is a type of health insurance that offers a network of healthcare providers, much like an HMO. Unlike an HMO, PPO plans give participants the freedom to seek care from any in- or out-of-network provider.

To be clear, though, you will pay more out-of-pocket medical costs if want to you see an out-of-network provider. Even if your nonmember doctor accepts the PPO rate, your plan may make you pay an extra amount because the doctor isn’t a member of the plan. Similarly, under a PPO, participants don’t need a referral to receive care from a specialist or hospital.

health savings accounts

The biggest advantage that PPO plans offer over HMO plans is flexibility. PPOs offer participants much more choice for choosing when and where they seek health care. The most significant disadvantage for a PPO plan, compared to an HMO, is the price.

PPO plans generally come with a higher monthly premium than HMOs. So, unless you’re a person who sees a lot of specialists, a PPO plan could cost you more money over the course of a year.


Learn more about health insurance.



Do I need a Primary Care Physician? Yes, under an HMO plan your PCP coordinates all of your healthcare decisions. No, a PPO doesn’t require a PCP. You can select any doctor you choose, but you will pay more for out-of-network care.
Do I need a referral to see a specialist? Yes, you will need a referral from your PCP to see a specialist or receive care from a hospital. No, if you want to see a specialist, or go to a hospital, you make the appointment yourself.
Will any care I receive from an out-of-network provider be covered? No, HMO plans do not offer coverage for healthcare from an out-of-network physician or hospitality, except in case of emergency. Yes, PPO allows you to see any medical provider, including those who are out-of-network. As previously said, you will have to pay higher out-of-pocket costs.
Will I have to file a claim? No, because HMOs restrict your care to in-network providers, you’ll most likely never have to file a claim because your insurance company pays the provider directly. Yes, if you receive out-of-network care, you’ll have to submit your claims to be reimbursed.
How much will these plans cost? Generally, lower costs. Generally, higher costs.



Making a Decision?

So which plan is right for you (or your family)? When you’re deciding between an HMO and PPO, there is a multitude of factors you have to consider. If you, or your dependents, utilize a lot of specialists or require regular hospitalization, a PPO may be better.

Man comparing HMO vs PPO

A PPO gives you increased flexibility and allows you to bypass seeing a primary care physician, every time you need specialty care. So, if you are a heavy healthcare user or have a large family, the flexibility of a PPO plan may be worth it.

On the other hand, an HMO will typically have lower monthly premiums and lower out-of-pocket costs in general. If you are considering an HMO, it is necessary to check approved in-network providers in your area, under the plan.

There may be a lack of viable HMO providers near you, in which case your decision would be much easier. But, if you can handle an increased rigidity in your healthcare, an HMO may ultimately prove more valuable for your or your family.


The Wrap

Which plan should you choose when picking between, HMO vs PPO? Well… it depends. No matter what, because health insurance is so (intentionally?) confusing, it’s important that employees understand their options.

Whether its HMO vs PPO, make sure your employees know the difference.