4 min. read
The pandemic has been an extraordinarily difficult time for health system employees on both a psychological and physical level. We’re no longer surprised by statistics that suggest many people in hospitals have retired or are pursuing new careers, because we’ve seen it all too often in our own facilities.
On top of staffing challenges, which include additional pressures on existing staff who now may be carrying more of a burden, many health systems are challenged financially as well. The whole ecosystem, in fact, is under stress.
Despite these challenges, there is reason for optimism. Here at Quest, we recently surveyed more than 400 HR benefits managers and nearly 850 office workers at companies with 100 or more employees. What was our top finding? Employee health benefits play a key role in keeping employees well and at work.
Ready to relaunch
Given all the pressure healthcare workers are under, it makes sense that health benefits and workplace wellbeing programs have become lifelines during our post-pandemic reality. Yet it’s clear from our survey that benefits also can play an increasingly important role in helping health systems and hospitals become employers of choice. Provided, of course, that your employees know about them.
Quest just completed a fresh relaunch of our company intranet, and reminding our 50,000 employees about the comprehensive set of benefits and incentives we offer was one of our top objectives.
Why is it so important to remind colleagues of the benefits they have?
They may never have needed some of them until now
They may be unaware of recent updates such as telehealth or behavioral health counseling
They may have focused on a few features such as co-pays and deductibles when they were hired and never looked back
In short, your employees may not know how good they have it.
You could have the best benefits in the world, in fact, but if your colleagues don't understand them or assume they’re unaffordable, you’re not getting the return on your investment that you could be–and your employees may be missing out on some terrific programs.
Keeping benefits top of mind
Aristotle is reputed to have said in some form, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you’ve told them.” This is a popular formula for sales presentations, but as health leaders, I recommend it as an approach to communicate health and wellness benefits. For example:
Do you communicate at least quarterly to employees about their benefits, or about new features? Doing so is a great opportunity to remind employees how much you value them and how this is reflected in the care you offer. Behavioral health features are ever more critical, for example, whether it’s treatment for anxiety, depression, medication support, substance abuse, or other conditions. Or maybe you’re assessing social determinants of health among your employees to help create a stronger foundation for their success, as we are at Quest. Publicize these efforts to demonstrate that your HR group are smart strategic thinkers.
Do you connect your benefits to national health observances? A good example is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month each March. This can be a simple reminder to get screened, but also a way to promote healthier lifestyles through education.
Do you promote what’s most popular to current or potential employees today? Behavioral health programs have become a major focus since 2020–and employees are expecting more from them–so it makes sense to reinforce how you’ve kept pace. I’d also highlight any virtual-first healthcare access you now offer, especially when it helps employees to establish a primary care relationship, something that nearly 9 in 10 Americans greatly value, according to Family Medicine for America’s Health.
Health benefits are an important lever you can use to address burnout or workplace staffing challenges, and yet they needn’t add more financial pressure. At Quest, we’ve avoided $60 million in healthcare costs over the past 5 years while continuing to improve our offerings. In addition, we’ve been able to significantly moderate year-over-year cost increases for our employees.
It's not easy, but we see it as part of our jobs to help people really understand their benefits and to make sure they’ve got timely access to what they need, when they need it, and where best to receive it at the most favorable unit cost.
Benefits power health–and retention
Evolving your employee health program opens up all sorts of exciting possibilities. As much as we feel empathy for our health system colleagues and the profound stress that they've been under in terms of their staff and finances, we also believe that health benefit programs can be real differentiators to drive better retention and recruitment.