The health care benefits environment has never been more challenging. Employers and health plan sponsors are looking for evidence-based best practices and expert information as they struggle with the uncertainty surrounding health care reform and continually rising costs.

At the same time, researchers are developing new insights into factors such as the social determinants of health, consumer behavior, care delivery models and reimbursement strategies. These emerging areas of study may offer benefit professionals a new set of tools to engage employees and providers and make benefit designs more effective.

To help employers and plan sponsors manage these challenges and opportunities, the International Foundation is offering a new educational program taught by Harvard Medical School faculty: Evidence, Insight and Strategy for Optimizing Health Benefits.

"This is an exciting opportunity that will empower group health benefit plan purchasers of all sizes." said Stanley Shaw, M.D., Ph.D., associate dean for executive education at Harvard Medical School. "In this program, the faculty of Harvard Medical School will challenge the status quo—sharing research and practices that will change the way we view, structure and purchase health benefits."

"Modeled after the Foundation's longstanding and successful Wharton School investment courses, this program is designed to leverage Harvard Medical School's cutting-edge research and expertise," stated Terence S. Davidson, CEBS, International Foundation Chief Executive Officer. 

The three-day program will be held May 8-10 on the Harvard Medical School campus and will be led by Harvard Medical School faculty. Participants will earn a certificate from Harvard Medical School.

Participants will enjoy small-group interactions with their colleagues and faculty during the program, which will include the following topics.

  • The past and future of health care reimbursement
  • Understanding and engaging health care consumers
  • Pricing and reimbursement of drugs and devices
  • Population health and the social determinants of health
  • Evaluating provider network price and quality
  • Evaluating workplace wellness strategies
  • Managing the health care benefits value chain
  • Managing high-quality provider networks
  • Creating a culture of health and engagement.

The program will be supplemented with "innovation spotlights" that will showcase companies that have developed significant advances in health care delivery and access.

Participants will gain an understanding of the social determinants of health and how consumer behavior and choice architecture impact individual health care decisions, care delivery models and reimbursement options. Participants also will learn how to design benefit and wellness programs that leverage the concepts of behavioral science and how to make better provider purchasing decisions based on the unique attributes of their organizations.

The application of cutting-edge concepts and purchasing strategies can help plan sponsors achieve health care cost savings while enhancing quality and increasing plan member engagement. "The cost of enrollment in this program will be returned many times over. The new knowledge gained in plan design concepts will help plans provide better benefits to participants and result in meaningful cost savings," said Gene H. Price, administrator of the Carpenter Funds Administrative Office in Oakland, California, and President-Elect of the International Foundation Board of Directors.

Visit www.ifebp.org/harvard-medical-school for more details about the Evidence, Insight and Strategy for Optimizing Health Benefits program.

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The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans is the premier educational organization dedicated to providing the diverse employee benefits community with objective, solution-oriented education, research and information to ensure the health and financial security of plan beneficiaries worldwide. The International Foundation has more than 33,000 multiemployer, corporate and public sector members representing over 25 million lives. For additional information, visit www.ifebp.org.