Nearly all healthcare purchasers (95%) are interested in gaining access to advanced analytics and 90% believe near-real-time data is imperative to realizing costs savings, reports the nonprofit National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions. The findings spotlight an emerging area for benefit brokers and advisers to explore in their client consultations.

The organization, formerly known as the National Business Coalition on Health, teamed up with Geneia LLC for an online survey of more than 100 HR and benefit administrators. They found that 97% of the respondents agree that “now more than ever it’s essential to have tools to effectively evaluate data and make informed decisions.”

“What was surprising is how universal employers were not just about using data, but actually having advanced analytics to help support them in their decision-making,” reports Mike Thompson, president and CEO of the National Alliance, noting the uniformity of their response.

With the amount of data that was available in 2011 estimated to swell 50 times by 2020, he says the issue is top of mind among employers and their advisers, as well as coalitions like his that are highly focused on evidence-based practices.

Brokers and advisers can use the data to guide employer decisions about benefit plan design and employee engagement, as well as predict future risk and potential medical spend, notes Heather Lavoie, chief strategy officer at Geneia, which specializes in the development of advanced clinical, analytics and technical solutions for healthcare transformation.

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Actionable data

Thompson stresses the importance of having access to data in a way that is “more algorithmic in nature and actionable for the end user.” This is what distinguishes today’s advanced analytics from nearly three decades of more passive data warehousing and analytic software that generated reports on an ad hoc basis, he explains.

The key takeaway for brokers and advisers is that regardless of whether it’s data analytics or advisory services, Thompson says “employers are looking for support that actually helps them identify the concrete steps they need to take to realize the opportunities that the data suggests. It’s not enough to produce massive amounts of data and reports. It’s to organize that in a way that allows employers to synthesize that and actually develop their strategic plans accordingly.”

The insight gained through the use of advanced analytic tools helps strike a better strategic balance between lowering costs and offering competitive benefits, Lavoie says. In fact, 83% of the respondents believe advanced analytics that help them understand how healthcare services are being used, identify high-risk employees and intervene effectively is the only way to lower costs and improve financial results. A Fortune 500 company with 15,000 employees saved more than $500,000 in healthcare costs by using Geneia’s advanced analytics and insights platform.

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Other applications include comparing the number of brand-name drugs instead of generics and their cost differential, which providers are delivering high-value care and carrier programs with the highest employee engagement rates.

The survey found that respondents were most interested in mining data on the number of employees regularly visiting the emergency room who haven’t seen their primary care physician in the past year. Other areas of interest include timely data on the percentage of pre-diabetic employees who also haven’t seen their PCP in the past year and how their company’s healthcare spend compares to companies of a similar size in their industry or region.

Respondents who didn’t use advanced analytics tools noted several perceived barriers that included cost (38%), insufficient internal resources (31%) and needs already supported by health plan or broker (54%).

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