The benefits and practicalities of an integrated healthcare strategy

integrated healthcare

Need to know:

  • An integrated rather than siloed approach to healthcare, incorporating mental and physical health, can boost the benefits to engagement and productivity.
  • Employers can reduce the range of treatments needed to support employees, while reaping the rewards of more effective products.
  • External advisers can help to mitigate the logistical issues by consolidating numerous different benefits into one approach.

Supporting employee health and wellbeing can boost everything from engagement to productivity. By adopting an integrated healthcare strategy, rather than taking a siloed approach, employers can supercharge these effects.

Mental and physical health are often regarded separately, but are in fact closely linked. If an employee is in physical pain for a long period of time, for example, the risk of developing mental health issues increases. Similarly, the nature of a serious condition, such as cancer, means that it is not uncommon for psychological support to be needed alongside treatment for the physical condition.

Dr Wolfgang Seidl, head of health management consulting EMEA at Mercer, says: “To safeguard employees, employers need to consider all the different elements that affect their health. As well as mental and physical health, this could include financial, social and emotional aspects, too.”

Smarter interventions

Employers might be concerned that this approach will increase the range of treatment and support an employee receives, but an integrated approach can, in fact, reduce the amount of medical intervention that is required.

Paul Roberts, lead consultant at IHC, explains: “Improve the employee journey by ensuring the right resources are available at the right times and the organisation will be treating conditions at a much earlier stage. Getting in early and proactively dealing with their overall health and wellbeing can speed up recovery. This can reduce the time an employee is off work or is less productive.”

This approach can also have a positive effect on the overall health spend; by providing appropriate support at the outset, employees are less likely to fall back on long-term products such as group income protection.

Powerful promotion

An integrated approach packs a powerful marketing punch. Having all healthcare benefits in one place shows employees exactly what is being made available to them. This can often magnify the value of the benefits package, and that of the employer, as well as increase usage.

This approach can also encourage employees to take all aspects of their health more seriously, says Eugene Farrell, mental health lead at AXA PPP healthcare. “Integrating your health benefits sends out a very positive signal to employees that there’s parity between mental and physical health,” he observes.

“Employees can struggle to seek help for mental health issues but, by demonstrating that it’s taken as seriously as physical health, it helps to create an open and transparent culture in which they feel comfortable accessing support.”

Implementation strategy

So, the theory is straightforward, and the benefits compelling. However, the practicalities of taking an integrated approach to employee healthcare might be more problematic.

John Dean, managing director at Punter Southall Health and Protection, says: “An organisation will often source its health benefits from different suppliers, usually with different renewal dates and through different parts of the business. HR might be responsible for the medical insurance, while finance purchases the group income protection. This makes it impossible to have an integrated strategy.”

To address this, Dean recommends engaging an experienced adviser to oversee the integration. “An adviser will ensure everything is fully integrated and there are no overlaps between benefits,” he adds.

It may also be necessary to purchase additional benefits, either to bridge any gaps or, in the case of a telephone triage service, to ensure that employees are offered the most appropriate support.

It can take work to put an integrated strategy in place, but an organisation looking to support all aspects of employee health should enjoy some very healthy benefits.