In the multifaceted world of health and wellbeing, it is increasingly clear that traditional healthcare and employee benefits focusing primarily on clinical care don’t fully encompass an individual’s health status.
Critical factors such as lifestyle habits and environmental influences, known as Social Determinants of Health (SDOH), often play a more substantial role.
Acknowledging these SDOH is essential for promoting health equity—ensuring all individuals have complete access to opportunities that enable them to lead healthy lives. However, addressing these determinants requires an innovative, holistic approach to benefits programs.
In response to this challenge, Virgin Pulse and HealthComp have joined forces, creating an innovative and integrated health platform.
The fusion of our resources and expertise allows us to extend beyond wellbeing and clinical interventions, tackling a broader spectrum of health factors.
Emphasizing personalization, consolidation, and data-driven insights, we aim not only to transform the individual health experience but also champion health equity on a global scale.
We are excited to talk about the new opportunities that the merger of these two companies will bring and our increased ability to help employers like you address health equity in your organizations.
Now more than ever it is critical to make sure that healthcare is universally available to all. When zip code is as important as your genetic code in predicting future healthcare challenges, true equity comes not just from personalized approaches to wellbeing but access to quality care. – Dr. Jeff Jacques, Chief Medical Officer, Virgin Pulse
In this article you will learn:
- What social determinants of health (SDOH) are and their impact on health outcomes
- The difference between equality and equity in designing employee benefits, and the importance of personalized support based on individual needs
- 5 ways you can address these SDOHs and deliver equitable employee benefits to help you foster a culture of belonging
- How partners like Virgin Pulse and HealthComp can help you create equitable benefits to promote health equity in your workforce
Understanding the influences of health and wellbeing
When it comes to healthcare spend, the most dollars are spent on episodic care, not on the areas that can improve population health, such as preventive care and whole-person wellbeing.
During the pandemic, delayed care was attributed to accessibility and fear of contracting COVID-19; now, inflation is the problem. Even more alarming is that delayed care is at its highest point yet – 38% at the end of 2022. Even scarier is that 27% of people reported the delayed treatment was for a “very” or “somewhat” serious condition or illness, according to a recent Gallup poll. “Very” and “somewhat” serious conditions and illnesses rarely improve when left untreated. The truth is, they get worse, which almost always means higher medical bills and costs for everyone.
With health, preventative care is cheaper and more effective than reactive care. Skipped care leads to higher costs and worse outcomes at every stage, which is painful for the employee and impacts your bottom line.
Commercially insured high-cost claimants represent nearly a third of all healthcare spending, even though they are only 1.2% of commercial health insurance enrollees. According to the American Health Policy Institute, their costs average $122,382 annually – 29.3 times as much as other members.
If “health” is a state of physical, mental, emotional, social, and financial wellbeing, then what contributes to whole-person health?
As little as 20% comes from medical care. The other 80% of contributors are often broadly called social determinants of health (SDOH): behaviors, social and environmental factors, and genetics.
What are the social determinants of health?
SDOH are nonmedical factors that influence health outcomes. They are conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the broader set of forces and systems shaping the needs of daily life.
Five forces of social determinants of health:
- Healthcare Access and Quality: Health insurance, availability and quality of healthcare services, and health literacy and support level.
- Social and Community: Workplace conditions and connections, discrimination, community cohesion, and civic participation.
- Economic Stability: Financial resources available to an individual, income, cost of living, poverty, food security, and housing stability.
- Education Access and Quality: Education level achieved, literacy, childhood development and education.
- Neighborhood and Built Environment: Housing quality, transportation access, availability of nutritious foods, pollution levels, and neighborhood crime.
As a benefits leader, understanding the five factors of SDOH is critical. As is understanding the difference between equity and equality when designing employer-sponsored benefits.
Ensuring equity, not just equality, in employee benefits
Equality aims to ensure everyone gets the same things to enjoy whole, healthy lives. We can think of this as a baseline, the things you provide to everyone.
Equity, in contrast, involves trying to understand and give people what they need to enjoy whole, healthy lives. Think of this as personalized, individualized support, such as:
- Not just offering the same plan design to everyone, but making plan designs that are affordable and do not deter care
- Not just offering access to carrier programs and resources, but delivering tactical access, provider diversity, health and wellbeing resources, literacy, and support
- Not just offering voluntary benefits, but offering incremental benefits that meet the needs of a diverse workforce, such as caregiving, parental, financial wellness, and others supporting the whole person
- Not just offering paid and unpaid leave, but flexible work policies
- Not just offering other perks and resources, but meaningful resources to address SDOH, social connection with peers, climate, etc.
“Equality is at its best when everyone starts on equal footing, and if their needs are the same or at least similar,” says Jeff Jacques, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Virgin Pulse. “Whole-person wellbeing supports equity by matching support with people’s individual needs, deliver the care they need when and where they need it, and empower them to lead healthier and happier lives.”
Impact of unintentional inequity in employee benefits
A top performer visits the ER as a result of an untreated chronic condition not being managed. A singular healthcare-only view concludes that the person needs another medication to control the now-advanced condition. Only when we zoom out and see the context of the individual’s life do we see that lack of childcare to attend medical appointments and that the medication was unaffordable is what landed them in the ER. Social support, accessibility, and affordability are the problems.
In this typical example, we can see the outsized role that SDOH plays in health and wellbeing and the need for employee benefit equity.
What happens at work influences life; what happens in life shows up at work. For organizations, this presents as absenteeism and presenteeism, impacting productivity, satisfaction, and wellbeing. Hundreds of billions of dollars in productivity are lost each year due to health-related work absences. This does not even account for medical and pharmaceutical costs.
Only when benefits leaders are empowered to deliver meaningful programs to engage people with programs, services, and resources that meet the individual where they are in their moment of need will they make demonstrable impacts for their people and their organization.
5 Ways organizations can tackle SDOH and deliver equitable employee benefits
How can organizations specifically tackle SDOH and establish fairer employee benefits? Below, we’ll examine 5 distinct strategies.
- Personalized Wellness Programs: Develop benefits that consider the unique needs, lifestyle, and environmental circumstances of each individual rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
- Data-Driven Health Strategies: Use insights from employee health data to guide the design and implementation of wellness initiatives. This can provide a better understanding of potential social determinants affecting employee health and enable smarter resource allocation.
- Comprehensive Health Platforms: Centralize health resources, knowledge, and tools in a user-friendly platform. This can simplify access to care and encourage proactive wellness behaviors among employees.
- Targeted Health Communications: Tailor your health and wellness communications to address employees’ specific health needs and social determinants, thus, improving engagement and outcomes.
- Commitment to Health Equity: Strive to ensure your healthcare benefits are equal not just in offering, but in impact. Address the varying needs of your diverse workforce, including adapting to unique lifestyle and SDOH influences to effectively promote health equity across your organization.
Addressing the SDOH of your workforce has the potential to create a significant shift not only in the wellbeing of your entire organization but also in the cost that it takes to keep your workforce population healthy, happy, productive and engaged.
And while you can implement each of these ideas yourself using various point solutions, platforms, systems, or vendors, to put these strategies into action as effectively as possible, organizations should seek out a comprehensive health management solution that integrates the diverse components of wellbeing to be able to promote healthy equity
Implementing health equity strategies effectively can be a significant challenge due to fragmented solutions, systems, and vendors.
Inefficient health management solutions strain your organization, inflate costs, and risk workforce engagement and health.
But what if there was a way that you could centralize this process under one roof and avoid all the headaches?
In our pursuit of changing lives for good, the Virgin Pulse and Healthcomp merger allows us to now offer just such a unified solution for both members and employers.
This integration caters to the myriad, unique needs individuals face in their health journeys, emphasizing a highly personalized member experience across several key interfaces.
Our merger has allowed us to create a holistic platform that will provide self-insured employers with everything they need to drive positive health outcomes and achieve health equity seamlessly in their organizations.
Virgin Pulse and HealthComp: Better Together
We are now uniquely positioned to meet these challenging healthcare demands in two major and innovative ways.
Firstly, it allows us to consolidate member experiences in a seamless, highly personalized manner. By leveraging data and AI optimization, we can now provide self-insured employers with unique insights about their employees to enhance personalized outreach and offer superior support to them on their individual health and wellbeing journeys. This targeted intervention strategy not only results in improved health outcomes but ultimately contributes to a more inclusive healthcare system that promotes employee well-being and health equity.
Secondly, the collective power of Virgin Pulse and HealthComp enables smarter healthcare decision-making, optimizing resource utilization while improving individual health outcomes. Our merger fortifies our AI capabilities, allowing for a comprehensive view of health data, including claims and personalized member information. We now possess a robust engine that can interpret healthcare data more effectively, translate it into actionable insights and offer personalized recommendations. This lets members as well as employers make informed healthcare decisions.
Consequently, our merger enhances the overall quality of care, aligning with our mission of changing lives for good by encouraging lasting behavior change which leads to healthier, happier lives.
Health Equity: The Fundamental Pillar
Amid these significant developments and changes, our commitment to health equity remains unwavering.
We recognize that merely providing equal resources isn’t enough. Everyone has unique needs, so we must strive for equity NOT equality by offering personalized and individualized support.
Whether it’s affordable plan designs, diverse wellness resources, or incremental benefits that meet the needs of a diverse workforce, our motive is to ensure that every employee can enjoy a whole, healthy life.
The alliance between Virgin Pulse and HealthComp is more than just a merger — it’s a joining of forces that empowers us to deliver healthcare that is not only comprehensive and effective but also equitable.
Together, we’re better equipped to navigate the complex, interconnected world of wellness and healthcare, and we’re excited about the positive impact we can make in the lives of those we serve.
To learn more about how the new Virgin Pulse and HealthComp company can help you create a more equitable workforce check out the additional resources below.
If you’d like help implementing any or all the 5 ways of tackling SDOH, reach out to us here.
Let’s change lives for good together!
- First Look: HealthComp & Virgin Pulse Merger Webinar
- Consolidation is Key to Achieving High Engagement in Health and Wellness Benefits
- Healthcare Benefits Navigation with Advocacy – New insights on how personalized healthcare benefits navigation can help retain employees, manage rising costs, and deliver better health outcomes
- Using Social Determinants of Health to Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion