What does health mean to you and how can employee benefits make an impact?
It’s odd, I am not sure I would ever have thought this was a difficult question and yet as I sit at the keyboard I struggle to articulate what it means to me. It means living, given all the other constraints, the life I want to live. Spending quality time with the people that matter most to me. Pursuing goals and dreams and a career that challenges and excites me. For me, personally, it means doing this as pain-free and medication-free as possible. How do organisations identify effective employee benefits that meets their people needs?
I recently attended an employee benefits seminar in Orlando, Florida where this question underpinned much of the conversation. We were urged to focus on the ‘ands’:
Improve health and healthcare
Reduce costs and improve quality
Health and care at the start and end of life.
There is much to reflect on related to these, but in this blog I’m going to start with the tremendous focus on providing care that delivers the meaning of health for you – person-centred care.
The conference centred on, and around, understanding what matters most to the patients, families and communities we serve; with a focus on health and care in all environments. The examples provided at the conference from leading employee benefits specialists left me full of hope for a greater culture of humanity and partnership in health and care. We were then introduced to a number of inspirational speakers from the past and present. From Brian Schreck, the music therapist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital (who works with the heartbeats of critically ill children to create songs that help families cope and grieve), to Dolly Baker, a doo-wop or rhythm and blues singer in the Jim Crow days of 1950s Manhattan, (who was encouraged to find her voice again in her final days of life). These should not be passing examples of one-off efforts but a fundamental part of the culture of care.
At the heart of both these examples and the many others we know about from across our own partnership is a focus on people and their lives beyond their immediate health-related needs. How do employee benefits providers target that enviable goal of achieving optimal health outcomes?
Specialist employee benefits practitioners have done a tremendous amount of work this year to understand what matters most to our older population and, along with partners in National Voices, Age UK, Alzheimer’s Society, and the British Geriatrics Society, have really made inroads to understanding how to optimise the health of the older working population.
At the employee benefits conference, John Kirby from Ko Awatea in New Zealand ended her Pecha Kucha talk with the Chinese proverb: “Tell me and I will forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I will understand.” Knowing what health means to me, what a good day looks like for me, helps clinicians to work with me to pursue the health outcomes that matter most. There is a growing body of evidence showing that patients who are more engaged in their care have better health outcomes and care experiences. Being person-centred isn’t just a good thing to do, it’s one of the best things we can do to encourage health. Medical decision-making ought to be guided by the very best evidence available. The “doctor knows best” attitude needs to change. A collectivist approach to medical decision-making is required.
We need to make sure employee benefits practitioners who specialise in this sphere are implementing solutions that matter most for their people.
As we head towards Spring 2015, I’ll leave you with two challenges that the presenter of the lecture – James Kerslake, ended with:
- Ask a family member or colleague “what makes a good day for you?”
- Ask the next patient you meet “what matters to you?”