6 Ways Employers Can Achieve Greater Health Equity Among Their Workforce
It’s no secret the United States has a health equity issue.
There are more Black Americans without health insurance than non-Hispanic white Americans. White Americans are more likely to receive mental health services than their non-white peers. Infant mortality rates are more than double in Black populations than white. Patients who live in rural areas have lower healthcare utilization rates and worse health status than urban dwellers. Those who live below the poverty level are more than six times as likely to live without health insurance than those with higher incomes; they’re also more likely to delay care and be unable to pay for medications and medical bills.
The list goes on. And if these issues are running rampant across the country, that means they exist in many employers’ workforces as well—including yours.
Fortunately, as an employer, you’re in a good spot to help achieve improved health equity in your population, which will benefit not just each individual but the organization as well. Health equity is an essential component of a thriving workforce; the more employees who can access high-quality, affordable care, the better off the entire company will be. While employers can’t fix every health equity challenge, there are some steps you can take to foster greater health equity among your population. In this blog post, we’ll discuss six ways you can do just that.
6 ways employers can achieve greater health equity in their workforce
1. Require healthcare partners to maintain provider directories
One challenge employees often face when seeking care is outdated provider directories. It says a provider is accepting new patients, but they’re not. It says a provider is in-network, but they no longer accept that insurance. This is frustrating and can lead to patients forgoing care or unknowingly visiting an out-of-network provider and receiving a surprisingly high bill.
You can address this issue by working closely with your health plan and navigation partners to establish rigorous guidelines for updating and maintaining provider directories. This can include regular audits to ensure information is accurate and easily accessible. If a partner fails to hold up their end of the bargain, it may be time to look for a new one.
2. Expand provider networks to include diverse healthcare and mental health professionals
While a provider’s credentials are important, it’s not the only thing that matters to patients. Many want to see providers who have the same identity as they do, whether it’s gender, race, ethnicity, or something else.
The National Bureau of Economic Research found that “Black men seen by Black doctors agreed to more, and more invasive, preventive services than those seen by non-Black doctors. And this effect seemed to be driven by better communication and more trust.” Similarly, LGBTQ+ individuals may feel more comfortable seeing a provider who is LGBTQ+ friendly or identifies as LGBTQ+, and employees whose first language isn’t English would likely benefit from seeing someone who can speak their language.
A more inclusive provider network can bridge culture and language gaps, improve trust and communication, better accommodate your population’s healthcare needs and preferences, and lead to better health outcomes. One last thing: In addition to including many layers of diversity, make sure directories make these aspects clear when employees search for care. Otherwise, your efforts may be futile.
3. Seek input from employees
One of the most effective ways to identify disparities in healthcare accessibility, utilization, member experience, and outcomes is to directly engage with employees. Create and leverage channels for employees to voice their concerns, provide feedback, and report any disparities they encounter—such as anonymous surveys, focus groups, open-door policies with HR leadership, and Q&A sessions in all-team meetings.
Listening to your team members’ experiences and needs can help you gain valuable insights into areas that need improvement and possible solutions. Use what you learn to inform policy changes, enhance benefits, and develop targeted interventions to address health equity issues.
4. Establish and collaborate with employee resource groups
Employee Resource Groups (or ERGs) are a helpful tool for understanding the unique needs of different employee populations and achieving greater health equity. McKinsey and Company found that, if done effectively, ERGs are one of the strongest tools to build strong, inclusive communities. (If your organization doesn’t have any ERGs yet, it’s time to change that!)
Schedule time to engage with members from each ERG to learn more about specific needs they have. They can help you identify cultural, linguistic, and other barriers their community faces when it comes to their health and well-being. They can also provide valuable input on the types of services, resources, and support systems that would be most beneficial.
In addition, don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth. When you have a specific benefit or program you want to share—especially for a certain group of people—ask your ERG leaders to help promote it.
5. Require comprehensive reporting from partners
When it comes to increasing health equity, it’s absolutely paramount that your healthcare partners are transparent and accountable. Require them to regularly report on utilization, satisfaction rates, and outcomes—all split up by various employee types like race, income level, gender, location of primary residence, and so forth.
This type of segmentation will allow you to easily identify and address health disparities that exist in your population, as well as track the success of any measures you put into place to decrease those inequities.
6. Leverage dedicated care navigation solutions for marginalized populations
Care navigation solutions play a vital role in guiding employees through a complex healthcare system. This helps increase health equity because care navigators can help people of all backgrounds and situations get the care they need.
But there’s an opportunity here to achieve even greater health equity by partnering with a solution that has a diverse team of care navigators (similar to how a provider network should be diverse). It’s even better if that solution has navigators who specialize in working with specific marginalized populations. Those types of navigators can assist employees with finding culturally competent care, understanding their insurance coverage, connecting with the right healthcare providers, and accessing social services.
Improving health equity in the workplace is not only a strategic advantage for employers but also a moral imperative. Establishing and leveraging ERGs, expanding and maintaining provider networks, seeking regular input from employees, requiring transparent health reporting from partners, and leveraging diverse care navigation solutions can create a more inclusive and equitable health and well-being program.
Prioritizing health equity will foster a healthier, more engaged workforce and lead to increased productivity, reduced healthcare costs, and a positive organizational culture where all employees feel valued and supported in their pursuit of well-being.