2021 amplified health care challenges that emerged during the early days of the pandemic. The instability of the pandemic years also gave rise to new patterns. Our latest market research details those challenges and trends and provides three key insights for driving action and change.
1. Success relies on a balanced, hybrid model that integrates in-person care with virtual solutions.
Widespread adoption and usage of virtual solutions has become the new normal. What began as necessary at the start of the pandemic is now popular—and even preferred in some cases. But growing evidence shows that virtual care won’t completely replace in-person care, and that the two are better together. For example, some types of care, such as primary care and behavioral health, are ideal for virtual settings. Other care, like specialties that require more physical interaction and/or examinations, are not. This suggests the need for a hybrid approach to deliver optimal care for consumers in the future.
Results show that plan sponsors, however, continue to emphasize virtual and digital over in-person care. Health plan leaders especially, demonstrated a dramatic increase in interest: more than 75% of health plan leaders are likely to prioritize these care types in the next 2-3 years.
2. Despite greater interest and investment in behavioral health, plan sponsors and members could be better aligned.
As the importance of behavioral health is increasingly recognized, few dispute its strong connection to overall health, both in the medical community and the general public. It remains top of mind and a top concern.
But when it comes to defining and prioritizing behavioral health needs, there is a disconnect between plan sponsors and consumers: Plan sponsors invest in solutions like virtual health visits that individualize behavioral health success. But consumers still rank more contextual, broader benefits—such as work-life balance—as much more important. In fact, work-life balance is the top behavioral support tool requested by consumers. Yet only 25% of human resources decision-makers and 12% of health plan leaders say they provide it at their organizations. Whole-person health seems to be the best common ground—the best starting point for harmonizing the two perspectives.
3. Plan sponsors can benefit from collaboration with members on affordability and accessibility of care, in order to restore order amid the challenges of COVID-19.
Entering the third year of the pandemic, member anxiety is still significant enough to cause serious friction. Concerns over COVID-19 safety persist, with this foundation of fear fueling mistrust and dissatisfaction toward plan sponsors. Plan leaders are making marked investments to support employees—the leap in availability and usage of virtual solutions is just one example—but the perception is that it’s still not enough. Besides quality of care, members cite cost of care as a twin concern—one that has only grown more urgent since the early days of the pandemic. Seventy-five percent of consumers say a top concern is “unaffordable medical costs despite coverage” – up from 69% in 2020. Cost anxiety is driving members to seek care outside of their benefits, a troubling trend for plan sponsors.
Plan sponsors are actively looking to improve benefits and augment the care experience. Cost remains a consideration, but it tends to be a lower priority than other workplace concerns. Collaboration is key. Better dialogue between employers and employees can foster reassurance and understanding. Helping to eliminate fear, minimize mistrust toward employers and pave the way for greater employee satisfaction.
Looking ahead, these findings point the way forward. They fuel our determination to work together, take on tough challenges, and elevate health for all.
Click here to access the full Health Care in Focus report and download the Executive Summary.
The research methodology: In Q4 2021, Evernorth partnered with Ipsos to conduct a nationwide survey of more than 3,000 consumers with employer-sponsored health insurance, 575 human resources decision-makers, and 58 health plan leaders. Viewing the health care landscape through the lenses of consumers and plan sponsors provided unique insight into the expectations consumers have for their benefits compared to how employers and health plans are responding.