Consumer / Employer

Why Healthcare Data Is Vital for Employers

Employers need healthcare data in order to make decisions, but the data isn’t always easy to get, experts said on a panel at MedCity INVEST.

From left to right: Rivka Friedman, Head of Health Care Innovation, Morgan Health; Cheryl Larson, President and CEO, Midwest Business Group on Health; Henry H. Ting, Senior Vice President, Chief Health & Wellness Officer, Delta; and Steven Knight, Chief Operating Officer, Quantum Health.

At Delta Air Lines, healthcare data is taken “very seriously,” according to Dr. Henry Ting, senior vice president and chief health and wellness officer of the company.

“Data is the foundation for insights and information about your population, your employees,” Ting said. “If you don’t have data, there is no knowledge management, there is no AI, there is no predictive analytics.”

Ting made these comments during a Tuesday panel discussion at the MedCity News INVEST 2024 Conference held in Chicago. The panel, which was about how employers are embracing value-based care, was sponsored by Quantum Health. 

Ting said that Delta Air Lines created a data platform to understand the health of its employees better. The company has ingested over 14 different external databases, including from its third-party administrator, its pharmacy benefit manager, mental health provider and disability provider. The data is all anonymized and tokenized.

This data helps the company “make decisions about where our people are and what investments we need to make to optimize their health and wellness, not to optimize sick care,” Ting said.

While data is essential for employers to make healthcare decisions, many employers struggle to actually access their data, declared Cheryl Larson, president and CEO of the Midwest Business Group on Health. She described Delta Air Lines as a unicorn in this case.

“The vast majority of employers in this country can’t get data from their health plan,” Larson said. “Even though it’s their data, they’re told they can’t have it. [They] struggle to get valuable, transparent information from their PBM very much. The employee benefits consultants oftentimes are in alignment with some of the other entities that are out there that I just mentioned. So generally speaking, how can an employer find out the quality of the healthcare delivery system if they don’t have the data, if somebody isn’t helping them?”

Players that can help employers gather data include navigation and advocacy companies, Larson said. One such company is Quantum Health. According to Steven Knight, chief operating officer of Quantum Health, the company leverages data like why employees made certain healthcare decisions.

“Can you tell us a little bit about why you selected that particular provider?” Knight said on the panel. “It looks like they referred you to this particular outpatient clinic and it took three months for you to make it. Can you tell us why it took that time? So it’s a little bit of matching: What do you want and what do you desire versus what did you actually do? That’s been sort of the hallmark of our data research component, of our journey mapping.”

Photo: Galeanu Mihai, Getty Images