Hot Spotting At Work – The Next Step For Employers?

If you are a fan of Atul Gawande, then you’ve likely read his work in The New Yorker.

In January of 2011, he did a piece entitled “The Hot Spotters” which covered Dr. Jeffrey Brenner’s city-altering approach to healthcare in Camden, New Jersey.   By using healthcare data to create health maps, Brenner was able to track the healthcare delivery system and how it was utilized throughout the city of Camden.

By engaging high risk, high cost, frequent flying individuals, Brenner was able to significantly impact health status of the patients in Camden.  The results, which were quite impressive, included improvement in prescription adherence, weight loss, patient education on health conditions, and reduced trips to the ER.  All of which contributed to reduced medical costs.

So how does this relate to employers?

I mentioned in a previous post that surveys showed the majority of employers were not interested in pushing their employees to state health exchanges. With employers committed to offering health benefits to attract and retain talent, I do not think it would be a far reach for employers to begin seriously thinking about hot spotting at work.

Now I’m sure some would argue that employers would be over-reaching their boundaries with employees if they were to somehow force engagement into this sort of program.  But let’s make difficult leap that healthcare costs are not sustainable and that more innovative, perhaps drastic measure may be warranted in years to come.

With some large to medium-sized employers considering on-site clinics through companies such as HealthStat, it’s quite possible that a hot spotter-type program would fit quite well with this new direction for employers.  Couple this with things such as telemedicine and personalized patient health records, and employers suddenly have some really powerful tools to help engage employees in better health.

There is, of course, another leap that one must make in order to buy into the idea of hot spotting at work.  In Atul Gawande’s writing, he noted that social workers and other health care professionals were involved in activities such as visiting patients at home to assess family and support systems.  The line between home and work would become quite blurred if this were to occur so I’m not sure that the full extent of Brenner’s approach could be used.

But it’s worth a look.  We need to start somewhere.

[A note to my readers: In recent months, life has kept me pretty busy. This has resulted in fewer posts over the last five months or so.  Thus I may be trying a bit of a different approach – shorter blogs that I can bang out in half the time.  That doesn’t mean you won’t still catch a few of my “typical” long-winded blogs…they just won’t be as frequent.  Thanks for your continued support!]

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