Focus your health plan on back-to-work issues

Take advantage of a common agenda

Employers and physicians have a common agenda, which insurance companies and other third parties may not share. It’s getting the patient well and back to work.

"The end point in a good health care program is not just getting the employees home from the hospital. It’s having them productive and happy," says Bo Bobbitt, a Raleigh, NC, attorney who heads the health law team at Smith Anderson LLP.

That’s why employers are eager to partner with physician organizations that can help them keep their health care costs down while keeping their employees healthy.

From the employers’ standpoint, the cost of medical care is just the beginning. They also look at the cost of the time that a machine isn’t being used, the replacement cost to get another employee to take over a job, and the overall downtime when the employee is away from the job.

"That adds to the cost or sometimes exceeds the cost of the actual treatment the employee is getting," explains William J. DeMarco, MA, CMC, president of DeMarco & Associates, a Rockford, IL healthcare consulting firm. It pays off for both sides if physicians and employers form a partnership to provide community-based health care for their workers.

Taking the long view

Employers can help physicians with strategic planning, marketing, and operations. From a strategic planning point of view, they are starting to see a real value in identifying specific disease groups and managing long-term solutions rather than just fixing the problem when it occurs, DeMarco says.

"In the long term, employers want to improve the overall quality of care. That saves money. A discounted price may not," he says.