May 22, 2012
Increasing health risks drive higher health care costs
Cerner we think of health care as “health AND care,” separating out each
component as significant to the overall picture of well-being. Part of our
“health” journey has included developing a collection of solutions and services
that help both us (we are self-insured) and our employer clients manage costs
and improve health-related outcomes through better coordination of care,
evidence-based practice and patient education. Our overall aim is to improve
the health of our, and our clients’, associates (and, when included, their
dependents) through prevention, early detection, treatment and condition
management and occupational health services.
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Ross Miller, MD, MPH, from our Employer Services team, and others, on several research projects examining just how much we’re moving
the needle on improving health through these services. We’ve looked at
different topics, from the impact of on-site clinics and pharmacies on
medication adherence to the benefits of on-site condition management programs
like chiropractic services. In this post, I’ll discuss the relationship between
health risk factors and health care utilization and costs.
You’ll hear the phrase “living lab” used
quite a bit around Cerner. In a nutshell, that means we use our own associate
base as a proving ground for many of the ideas we have. With that in mind, I worked with Dr. Miller and other colleagues to analyze the costs and utilization trends of Cerner HealthPlan
Services (our health insurance plan) members continuously enrolled from 2008 to
20101. Deidentified health risk appraisal and biometric screening data were used
to determine changes in member health risks over time. Perhaps not
surprisingly, we found that members with increasing risk factors tended to have
higher health care costs and utilization of expensive services than those with
decreasing health factors. Specifically, approximately $700,000 more was spent
on those whose risk factors increased, equivalent to an average additional cost
of $1,744 per member over the three years of the study.
An expanded analysis is in progress to
study Cerner HealthPlan Services data for an additional year, and we’re also
working with one of our clients on a study to further validate the results of
the original study, assess clinical outcomes and potentially perform comparative
analyses between the two populations.
1Gorman K, Snell M, Hou Q, Kaspin L, Miller R. Association of health risk factors with healthcare utilization and cost in an employed population. Accepted for presentation at the 17th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Pharmacoeconomic and Outcomes Research (ISPOR), June
4, 2012, Washington, DC.
Kathleen M. Gorman, MPH, is a scientist with Cerner LifeSciences and has been involved with a variety of projects that promote best practices and evidence-based medicine. Increasingly, she has been focused on researching the value of employer-sponsored wellness initiatives. Prior to joining Cerner, she was a researcher at The Parkinson’s Institute. Ms. Gorman holds a BS from the University of California, Santa Cruz and an MPH from the University of California, Los Angeles.