Value-Based Health Care: Organizations Strive to Increase Worker Health, Decrease Health Care Costs

August 24, 2011

Brenda Hofmann
(262) 373-7756

Value-Based Health Care: Organizations Strive to Increase Worker Health, Decrease Health Care Costs


Focus Groups Examine Multiemployer and Public Employer Health Care Plans




Brookfield, Wisconsin—Creating a culture of health in the workplace isn’t easy, but the results that can be obtained—both a personal benefit to the individual and a cost and productivity benefit to the organization—are making value-based health care (VBHC) a promising initiative for employers across the country.


VBHC is a holistic, consumer-centered approach that focuses not on the dollars being spent but on how the dollars being spent work to improve employees’ health. Recent focus groups conducted by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans examined VBHC strategies among multiemployer and public employer health plans and found that many organizations are making strides in building a healthier workforce and reducing health care costs.


“Value-based health care is not an initiative that happens overnight,” explained Sally Natchek, senior director of research at the International Foundation. “For many organizations it’s something that is accomplished one step at a time over the course of several years. The focus groups were an exciting opportunity to gather representatives from a variety of industries and geographic locations, and to understand both the challenges they encounter and the successful strategies and positive outcomes they experience as they begin to implement value-based health care initiatives.”


A common theme that emerged was the challenge of engaging employees in their own health. To overcome barriers such as geographically dispersed populations, culturally diverse workers and lack of motivation or interest, plans identified the need for all levels of leadership to “buy in” to the VBHC concept.


“It has to start with a commitment from the top. You just can’t say you’re concerned about it. You have to have policies and procedures that back it up. It starts with a strong commitment, and you must make sure your policies are aligned.”


Plan representatives discussed communication and education techniques to engage employees: Carefully select the sources and vehicles for delivering messages, try to engage all levels, motivate people to take action by using a variety of techniques, and begin educating early in a worker’s tenure. They stressed the need to think creatively and to use personalized communication methods such as one-on-one communication through champions at the worksite.


“A conglomeration of different types of communication is needed and sometimes throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. This is what we have to do, and if it costs a little more initially, in the end it will help us get through to folks.”


Although using health care data is important, few organizations are proficient in gathering and monitoring data and measuring outcomes to help them develop health care strategies. As a starting point, focus group representatives suggest preparing a general picture of a plan’s health status to understand where costs are originating and the issues that have the greatest impact on worker health. Several representatives whose organizations monitor data are encouraged by favorable outcomes and hope to use data to drive future decisions.


“Our health care costs were growing just like everybody else’s and a lot of it was in the area of certain diseases. Ten percent of the population was driving 90% of the costs. So we introduced a disease management program to target cost-driving diseases, and we have done a ton of analysis of our data that shows we have bended the curve in our health care costs.”


Annual health screenings are viewed as an important first step to building a healthier and more productive work environment. Additionally, many focus group representatives report using value-based benefit design to encourage participants to manage chronic conditions so emergency room visits and hospitalization can be avoided.


Forty-six representatives of multiemployer and public employer health plans participated in the focus groups, part of the Foundation’s ongoing, multi-step project to provide practical ways for multiemployer and public employer plans to integrate value-based strategies. The project is funded in part by a grant from Pfizer Inc. For more information on the project, visit


The full report, Value-Based Health Care Focus Groups Findings: Multiemployer and Public Employer Plans, is available free to International Foundation and ISCEBS members. Nonmembers can purchase the e-book for $50, a price that includes the Value-Based Health Care Baseline Benchmarking Survey: Multiemployer and Public Employer Plans, as well as a second benchmarking survey and a white paper to be released this fall. Visit




The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans is a non-profit organization, dedicated to being a leading objective and independent global source of employee benefits, compensation, and financial literacy education and information. For additional information, visit


Pfizer applies its science and global resources to improve health and well-being at every stage of life. Consistent with Pfizer’s responsibility as the world’s leading biopharmaceutical company, Pfizer also collaborates with health care providers, governments and local communities to support and expand access to reliable, affordable health care around the world. For more than 150 years, Pfizer has worked to make a difference for all who rely on the company. For additional information, visit