How to Diffuse the Ticking Time Bomb: Nearly Two Thirds of Americans Can’t Cover a $500 Medical Emergency

There is a growing trend in our country’s healthcare system; many companies are shifting more of the burden of uncontrollable health care costs to employees, from higher deductibles to increased out-of-pocket costs. Makes sense, right? When faced with a 10% increase in forecasted costs, companies believe their best option is to have the insured employees share in that increase. While this may seem logical, many do not realize two significant problems that will be disastrous in the long run.

The first problem? Increasing deductibles are a creating financial time bomb. According to a recent study, only 37% of Americans have enough savings to pay for an unexpected $500 medical bill. The other 63% would have to resort to measures like cutting back spending in other areas (23%), charging to a credit card (15%) or borrowing funds from friends and family (15%) in order to meet the cost of the unexpected event. What’s worse? According to a study by Ipsos Public Affairs, one in five (19%) report that their main strategy to avoid paying high medical bills is not going to the doctor until their situation is dire. Only 7% opt instead to research doctors, facilities, and/or costs ahead of time.

This perfectly illustrates the second problem with shifting healthcare costs to employees. The reason these costs continue to rise is driven primarily by the fact that Americans are poor consumers of healthcare. It’s not necessarily our fault; the healthcare system is complex. We don’t know how to shop for providers, procedures or prescriptions.

Worse still, we have no idea it will cost or if the bill is even correct when it arrives in the mail. The CDC estimates that nearly half of all medical costs are avoidable, but the vast majority of Americans don’t know how to dodge unnecessary or unreasonable charges. The truth is, many rack up healthcare costs due to poor self-care. A recent Rand study estimated 67% of all costs are caused by just 28% of employees who struggle with managing their chronic conditions. They need help – and we all have a stake in this.

This is why Predictive Health Partners is passionately working to share the future of health employee health today.

Our society has created tools for consumers in so many other industries, whether it be finding travel deals, shopping online or servicing our cars. We even use artificial intelligence in nearly every major cost center in a company to lower costs or improve customer loyalty. For years, the healthcare industry has lacked this technology, failing every user of and contributor in the system.

Fortunately, the healthcare of the future is now possible today. Predictive Health Partners uses real-time data, predictive analytics and artificial intelligence and give care and information to employees. More importantly, the information is delivered how and where they live their lives — on their phones.

The only way out of this healthcare crisis is for employees to proactively manage their health and better spend their (and your company’s) healthcare dollars. We think it’s time to give them the tools they need to improve their personal health and finances and your company’s bottom line. Take a look for yourself and let us know what you think.

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Hope and the Motivation to Persevere

I recently had the rare opportunity to meet with the youngest of “Schindler’s Jews,” Holocaust survivor, Celina Karp Biniaz, who was saved by Oskar Schindler. At only 13, Celina was marched into Auschwitz alongside nearly 300 women. Now 85, you’d never guess her story began with such trauma and despair, especially while listening to her youthful outlook on life, her message of forgiveness, or her acceptance of others’ opinions and hope.

Her story, alongside 1,300 others’, was made famous by the Stephen Spielberg movie Schindlers’ List. If you’ve seen the 1993 movie, you may be able to recognize the portrayal of Celina’s experience in the camp. As unbelievable and heartbreaking as it is, she was the young girl in the shower, surrounded by women who were unsure if they were to be sprayed with harmless water or deadly gas.

Celina faced the despair of losing her family, starvation, and constant fear for her life, all while surviving and escaping from Nazis and fleeing from communism after the war. Her story is almost more than you can absorb.

After Celina’s speech, we spoke for several minutes. Explaining that I was trying to find ways to help individuals become more healthy through inspiration for better self-care, I asked her two questions.

First, I asked Celina what advice or inspiration she could give to others enduring tough times. She took my hand and looked deep into my eyes.

“People need to connect with other people,” she said. “They need to know others are listening and care about them and what drives them. That applies to anything, whether it’s for survival or getting healthy. We can endure great challenges knowing there is someone else who is there to help by listening and caring.” The difference between life and death for many of us was the ability to focus on our motivation and having someone there for us. Even though we had no idea if the next day would be our last, we had to focus on the hope of tomorrow and the joy of living today.”

After hearing how important motivation was to her survival, I asked Celina what hers was during that horrific time.

“It was my parents,” Celina said. “They had taught me that life is a gift from God that you can never take for granted. No matter how scared or hurt I was, I focused on my motivation to live, knowing I could not forsake God’s gift. It helped me find the joy in the midst of despair. I didn’t want to disappoint them – I knew they were right.”


I once had the opportunity to meet with Steven Spielberg one-on-one in the late 90’s, shortly after the release of Schindler’s List. His humility and concern for giving the story of Oskar Schindler and those he saved the justice it deserved left an incredible impression on me. I have long believed that he was the most impressive person I would ever have the opportunity to speak with. After meeting with Celina, that changed.

Celina confirmed what I have long believed: the journey to inspire change and improve self-care starts with individual connections and discovering each person’s motivation to become healthier.

“The difference between life and death for many of us,” Celina said, “was the ability to focus on our motivation and have someone there for us. Even though we had no idea if the next day would be our last, we had to focus on the hope of tomorrow and the joy of living today.”

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Giving Your Data a Voice

What if your company could predict which of your top value customers were at high risk of defection and proactively engage them in personalized communications to prevent them from leaving? They probably already do that. What if your business needed to know the status of expensive product shipments that were traveling the world and at risk of being delayed? Would you need to be able to automatically trigger messages to better manage the risk and unnecessary costs?  You most likely are doing that too. This means that your company is using predictive analytics.

Predictive analytics have long been used in various industries, such as retail, telecommunications, transportation and even major league baseball. Unfortunately, employee wellness has been lagging in applying predictive analytics and data-driven communications for some time now. Something just doesn’t add up – especially since employee health costs are the third highest cost for companies. According to a 2016 SHRM national survey, on employers spent an average of $8,669 per employee annually on health care coverage. That’s big money. So what’s been holding up progress?

The challenge has been applying predictive models that are able to constantly learn and adapt to a dynamic world. Additionally, companies struggle with integrating real-time data that triggers communications, thus proactively influencing health behaviors. Another barrier has been delivering relevant and timely messages in creative and engaging ways. To top it all off, employers must do all of these things while complying with HIPAA standards.

Richard Kersh, CEO of Human Factor Analytics, describes predictive analytics as “the unbiased voice of data.” This technology is able to tell employers quite a bit about their employees’ health and needs – sometimes even before the individual is aware of their own risk. The benefit isn’t just limited to employees. Any data collected on spouses, children, and other family members can now be aggregated and analyzed to provide the fullest care and the biggest possible savings.

Wellness platforms aim to reduce healthcare costs by identifying and targeting general populations as well as at-risk groups to prevent certain conditions. One of the most effective tactics is to engaging at-risk employees in a variety of healthy activities and encourage regular health screenings. But how can employers know who is at risk for these conditions, especially if employees are not participating in health screenings and self-reported health risk assessments (HRAs)? That approach often misses the most significant source of costs — the high- and rising-risk employees who don’t participate.

Gallup research shows that 60% of U.S. employees who work for companies with a wellness program know that the program exists, and only 40% of those who are aware of the program say they actually participate in it — that’s just 24% of employees participating.

This is a critical drawback in the traditional strategy of predicting risk solely from those enrolled in the company wellness program, since just 5% of the insured will incur nearly 50% of total healthcare costs and it is not uncommon for less than half of the insured to be screened.

This is where predictive analytics comes into play: with access to all insured health records and medical history, pharmacy data, workers’ compensation claims, and data provided by biometric screenings and HRAs, employers can now accurately locate at-risk populations and engage them with integrated targeted communications. With real-time information, data driven programs can now identify risk pools and formulate solution strategies to help prevent disease and disorders and keep healthcare costs down.

Employee wellness shouldn’t be a one size fits all solution. Predictive analytics creates an improved path of self-care as unique as the health situation, motivations, and personality of the individual. Employers have often been stumped by essential healthcare questions, such as “Who needs help? How do we help them? How effective was our solution?” With the clear voice of predictive analytics, employers now have the answers.

What would you like the voice of your data to tell you? Participate in our poll below:

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Rising the Tide with the Solheim Cup

It’s no secret that community has a significant impact on overall wellbeing. Here at PHP, we take pride in being active members of the Des Moines community, cultivating and nurturing a positive health culture in everything we do. However, this also means we can often get swept up in important events in the Des Moines metro area; most recently, the Solheim Cup.

The Solheim Cup is a biennial professional women’s golf competition with a twist: Europe’s best women vs. the USA’s best women – and only one team lifts the Cup. The 2017 Solheim Cup is being hosted at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club in West Des Moines, with the fiercest competition taking place this weekend.

While watching these athletes go head to head in pursuit of the Cup is fascinating (and humbling), we still find ourselves in awe of the camaraderie present on the course.

It’s not just the athletes showing incredible teamwork in pursuit of a championship, either. The entire Des Moines community has come together to host an exciting and successful event of this size.

From corporate sponsors to individual volunteers, every single person involved in this year’s Solheim Cup has a hand in not only benefitting the athletes and attendees, but also the community as a whole. Des Moines is expecting an economic boom due to the increased tourism, residents can look forward to phenomenal athleticism and entertainment, and local nonprofit organizations will be recognized and benefitted by the Cup.

Maybe it’s just us, but we can’t help but notice the similarities between the Solheim Cup and wellbeing. If people are able to work together to make an internationally celebrated sporting event a success, just imagine what would happen if we applied some camaraderie and teamwork to healthcare. By making a collective effort to improve wellbeing, all sides would benefit: individual health, families’ budgets, healthcare providers, employers, insurers, and even the community and economy.

Let’s take what we’ve seen and learned with the Solheim Cup and apply it to how we view wellbeing. By working together, sharing information and supporting each other, perhaps we could all benefit, creating a Rising Tide in our healthcare system.

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