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Willis Towers Watson Report: Employers Aim to Provide High-Quality Care at Affordable Prices

Wallace Stephens
According to Willis Towers Watson’s Health Care Access and Delivery Survey, a growing number of employers have implemented new strategies to provide their employees with increased access to high-quality, convenient, and affordable healthcare.
A growing number of employers have been exploring ways to provide their employees with increased access to high-quality, affordable healthcare by looking to high-performance networks, centers of excellence, onsite or near-site health centers, and accountable care organizations for solutions, according to Willis Towers Watson’s Health Care Access and Delivery Survey, released today.

"Employers understand the key to better care and a healthier workforce is to focus squarely on quality and a better patient experience, supported by provider contracting that aligns with financial incentives,” said Mark Hope, National Health Plan Relations Leader at Willis Towers Watson, in a statement.

Willis Towers Watson completed the Health Care Access and Delivery Survey in October 2018. A total of 255 US employers that identified as private, publicly traded, government, or nonprofit companies participated in the survey. The respondents collectively employed 4.2 million individuals from every major industry sector. The size of the respondents’ companies varied, ranging from at least 100 to over 25,000 employees.

Almost half, or 45%, of respondents said they planned to embrace new healthcare delivery solutions by 2021, compared to only 32% that have already been taking action. The survey highlighted that 54% of respondents stated they wanted to improve access to high-quality mental health services while 47% expressed a major concern over improving substance abuse treatment.

Exploring Ways to Increase the Quality of Care and Manage Costs

The survey mentions that a substantial challenge employers face in offering the best care possible is sorting through the available providers to find those that offer the highest quality care. Companies have turned to high-performance networks (HPNs) and centers of excellence (COEs) to help alleviate the burden. HPNs and COEs work to narrow the search down to providers and facilities that have demonstrated they offer high-quality care at affordable prices. The number of respondents that plan to include COEs within health plans by 2020 has significantly increased to 80% from 51% in 2018. The number of respondents planning to include HPNs in their health plan more than doubled from 28% to 65% over the last year.

“The challenge is more than offering the right network. Rather, it’s to help patients find the right provider at the right time, to render a well-coordinated, highly effective care experience. To bring about this meaningful change, companies are seeking innovative solutions like care navigation and high-quality, efficient networks. This drive to try new models has the potential to deliver lower costs and, more importantly, make a difference in the lives of their workers and their families,” Hope said.

The majority of respondents said that quality of care was the most significant factor they considered when embracing the services of HPNs and COEs. An unexpected finding from the survey was that only 20% of respondents said they woulf consider adding an HPN to save money.

Increasing Access to Convenient, Quality Care

As 84% of respondents reported their employees lived in rural locations where access to care is a major issue, employers stressed that they wanted to improve accessibility to healthcare services no matter where their employees lived. In an effort to increase access to convenient, quality, healthcare and improve workplace productivity, employers have begun to offer onsite and near-site health centers.

The survey mentioned that number of respondents that have considered opening a health center at their workplace location in order to provide preventive, primary, and urgent care by 2020 increased from 26% to 38% within the last year. Also, the number of respondents that plan to offer near-site health centers by 2020 increased from only 8% to 26% over the last year.

Employers have also expressed growing concern for the psychological well-being of their employees. The survey stated that respondents have planned to expand access to mental health services over the next few years. About half of respondents said they will offer onsite or near-site mental health services through health centers or community providers by 2020.

Employers that have already offered an onsite or near-site health center have seen positive results. A total of 87% of respondents reported that they successfully increased convenient access to healthcare services for their employees. As a result, 81% reported observing higher rates of employee productivity and lower rates of absenteeism. Also, 84% of employers that offered convenient health centers were able to encourage their employees to use preventive screening services for early detection of medical issues. Employees were also encouraged to live healthier lifestyles through coaching.

“Employers want to establish solutions that improve the value of health care for employees. Onsite and near-site health centers can play a role in this not only by the care delivered within the walls of the center but also by improving the health outcomes resulting from referrals to high-performing providers and COEs in the community,” said Kara Speer, National Onsite Health Leader, Health and Benefits, Willis Towers Watson, in a statement.


Willis Towers Watson’s Health Care Access and Delivery Survey. 2019. Accessed May 6, 2019.

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