In Conversation: Mike Leonard and EHIR’s Michael Laquere

Of all the consortia and interest groups in employer-driven healthcare, none are as laser-focused on driving the adoption of impactful innovation as the Employer Health Innovation Roundtable (EHIR). Castlight was delighted to participate in EHIR’s Fall Meetings, which convened last month in Boston and Las Vegas. While we were there, our Chief Commercial Officer, Mike Leonard, sat down with the host, EHIR CEO Michael Laquere, to share observations of the industry.

Below is an excerpt of their conversation.

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Michael: One theme that drove the design of our Fall meetings was that large employers are increasingly investing in a larger number of benefit programs and digital health point solutions. In fact, a recent survey of EHIR member companies revealed that the majority of them currently have multiple benefit point solutions, and 95 percent expect to add additional programs over the next 24 months. But two thirds of our members say that the challenges associated with implementation are keeping them from adding more point solutions.

What do you make of employers’ adoption of these specialty programs?

Mike: This is consistent with both our customer base and the broader large employer market. This year we surveyed nearly 350 large employers about how they interact with the digital health ecosystem, and we found that the average employer today now has 14 distinct well-being and healthcare solutions.

On the surface, it’s great that employers are willing to make the commitment to offering all of these solutions. However, doing so creates some challenges for both employers and employees.

Working with a larger number of vendors presents benefits leaders with a host of administrative headaches: from procuring, to managing, to measuring the impact of their programs. It has become incredibly cumbersome to effectively communicate and drive engagement with all of these programs. For employees, a dozen or more unique offerings can be confusing and overwhelming, discouraging enrollment and use of the solutions.

Michael: Those are common problems we hear from benefits leaders. There was a lot of discussion on our panel about how employers can overcome these challenges while offering employees a comprehensive health benefits program. Could you recap how Castlight thinks about this?

Mike: As benefit leaders invest in all of these point solutions — to help employees address sleep, exercise, chronic conditions, smoking cessation, and more — they need to make them manageable and measurable, tracking engagement and ROI, and they need to make them easier-to-use for employees.

Castlight’s health navigation platform solves this by bringing everything together into a one-stop-shop for employee health.

For employers, they can use the platform to manage their benefits and wellness solutions and keep a close eye on their cost and ROI. And, for employees, it offers a first stop for each step of their health journey, whether they want to improve their wellbeing, manage a condition, or access care.

Michael: A centralized integration platform does sound like a big part of the answer for both employers and employees who need to manage and access their health benefits. But, what about all of the wellness programs and digital health solutions employers have already invested in? Do they need to ditch those and start over to use an integration platform?

Mike: No. Employers have spent valuable time, money, and effort finding the health and wellness solutions best suited for their company and employees. Our health navigation platform integrates all of an employer’s existing health benefits and wellness programs.

Throughout our work with large employers, spanning every major industry and corner of the country, we’ve gained experience with nearly every type of health program on the market today.

This allows us to integrate an employer’s existing benefit programs – whether they be health plan apps, EAPs, or 3rd party point solutions.

We have more than 250 enterprise partner integrations, and experience implementing more than 200 custom enterprise integrations. And, for employers looking to complement their existing program or to try new solutions, Castlight has curated reseller relationships with more than 40 best-in-class digital health and wellness solutions.

Michael: We certainly heard it again this week: benefits leaders already have enough on their plates. Benefit platforms must simplify the management of health benefits, not add to the complexity.

Another idea that kept popping up from employers throughout these meetings was their focus on personalizing the employee health and wellness experience. Do you think personalizing benefits for each employee at scale is a feasible and effective approach?

Mike: Absolutely. Consider that employees today are accustomed to a personalized consumer experience in everything from shopping for groceries to picking the next Netflix show to binge over the weekend. If a grocery store can send us customized weekly newsletters based on previous purchases, why shouldn’t we expect at least the same level of personalization in our health care experience?

This increased personalization is good for benefits leaders as well.

One-size-fits-all health benefits programs cannot possibly meet every employees’ health needs, so they often remain underutilized and ineffective. For employers, it’s a waste of time and investment if employees don’t use the programs provided.

Michael: That’s true, everyone likes when they have personalized recommendations and support to guide them to the right product, movie, or, in this case, solution for their health need. But healthcare companies have been notoriously slow in creating a similar level of consumer experience as Netflix or Amazon. How do you expect this to change?

Mike: The real key is data. Just as in any other industry — from banking and finance, to online shopping, and, yes, even picking movies on Netflix — we need to collect, analyze, and leverage data to deliver personalized insights on employee health needs, preferences, and trends.

At Castlight, we’ve made this a priority. Today, we have more data sources and inputs than anyone else in the industry. And, this isn’t anything new, we’ve spent the better part of a decade dedicated to the work of gathering daily medical and pharmacy claims data from more than 25 health plans as well as all of the digital health solutions that I mentioned earlier.

We combine this claims data with wellbeing data from across an employee’s health experience — biometric screenings, self-assessments, prescriptions, historical user behavior, and third-party wellness vendors like Fitbit. All of this data is integrated into and analyzed by our health navigation platform to provide a true personal health assistant for employees.

Through this, employers can offer their employees targeted, proactive recommendations and guidance to connect them with the right health care and benefits they need. This gets them much closer to the consumer apps and services we’re all used to interacting with on a daily basis.

Michael: Is the Castlight platform focused on wellness then? One of the newest trends is the rise of employers getting directly involved in their health benefits from direct provider contracting, to value-based benefits, and on-site health clinics.

Mike: Wellness is only part of a comprehensive employee health benefits program.

Castlight has developed the first health navigation platform to manage the complete spectrum of care, and we are now launching Complete, our health navigation solution that combines our proprietary care guidance and well-being capabilities with deeply integrated third-party solutions to create the most comprehensive health navigation solution in the market.

As employers turn to new strategies, such as those you mentioned, to address rising health care costs and stagnant health outcomes, Castlight’s platform is complementary to all of them.

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Thanks for a great meeting EHIR! Castlight looks forward to the next chance we have to meet with this group.