E-Health Best Practice: Providing Medical Decision Support and an Incentive When Employees Need It Most

Thursday, April 6th, 2006
This post was written by Melanie Matthews

Imagine that you or a family member is diagnosed with a critical illness. Then, imagine having an hour on the phone with practicing physicians and research staff from the country’s top medical schools—say, Harvard Medical School or Duke University—to ask questions about your condition and find out about best practices and latest treatments. Only for those who can afford concierge medicine, you say? Think again.

A HIN staff member brought to our attention the efforts of Honeywell, a Morristown, N.J.-based maker of aerospace products, in this area. We’re intrigued by their program as well as the unique incentive attached to it. Along with some other Fortune 500 companies, Honeywell has taken its corporate healthcare information portal HealthResource one step further to offer its 70,000+ employees access to a medical decision support (MDS®TM) services from Massachusetts-based Consumers Medical Resources.

Available at no cost to workers and their families with critical illnesses, MDS pairs the patient and their family with physicians and researchers at five of the country’s top medical schools. After an hour-long in-depth conference call, the medical team prepares a packet of reliable, personalized research about the patient’s condition as well as strategies and questions to prepare them for their next consultation.

Buoyed by the success of its efforts, Honeywell is currently offering $500 in a tax-free health reimbursement account to employees and their families who consult MDS for any of eight procedures historically found to have more than one treatment option yet patients are presented with only one treatment choice. Procedures eligible for the incentive include carotid artery surgery, coronary artery bypass graft, hip replacement, hysterectomy, knee replacement, lumpectomy/mastectomy, prostatectomy and several lower back surgeries.

More than 1,500 Honeywell employees and their families have tapped the service since its launch in 2004. Honeywell pays CMR $1.35 per employee per month for the service, and we can’t argue with the outcomes and ROI presented in recent press coverage and Honeywell’s own employee literature:

Based on the information they learned from MDS:

ï‚· Seventy percent of utilizing employees and family report an improvement in their quality of life or comfort;

ï‚· Seventeen percent of participants changed doctors; and

ï‚· Thirty-one percent switched to a treatment considered the best practice.

In its first year of offering the service, Honeywell witnessed a $2.80 return for each dollar it spent on the service. In one case alone, an employee avoided back surgery after consulting with MDS doctors and turned to a combination of physical therapy and yoga instead, saving Honeywell $36,000 in direct medical costs alone. Last May this employee hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back.

We’d like to hear from other companies employing this combination of consumer empowerment and education to raise the quality of healthcare while harnessing healthcare costs. Please post a comment to this blog entry to describe your efforts.

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