5 Questions with HR Leader Bob Selle on Why Decisions and Data Go Hand-in-Hand

  Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Wellbeing goes far beyond what many think of when they hear the word “wellness.”  And employers realize that employee wellbeing is a key building block to creating an engaged and productive workforce. 

Bob Selle, Chief Human Resource Officer of Ocean State Job Lot (OSJL) talks with our team at BetaXAnalytics (BXA) about the challenges employers face with respect to maintaining a “well” workplace, and how data allows them to achieve this. 

BXA: What challenges make it difficult to have a healthy workplace?

Selle: Keeping a heathy workplace is hard, and retail poses some unique challenges. Associates are so spread out geographically and being able to communicate and get the right message can be difficult. Helping the associates understand the "why" to living a healthy lifestyle is also a challenge. We strive to translate what it means to their quality of life when they make healthy lifestyle changes.  Lastly and most importantly, we need to tie pieces together so they understand all the individual links that fit in a wellbeing chain.  Wellbeing goes beyond physical activity and nutrition; mental health, sleep, finance, and stress are all individual parts that tie the chain together.

BXA: How does Ocean State Job Lot support a healthy workplace?

Selle: OSJL supports a healthy workplace through a number of activities.  First, we have best in class benefits offerings at a very low premium to our associates. We are all one family and we believe in sharing our profits and low cost, and offering quality healthcare is one way to do this. We also listen to our associates.  For example, our associates want to be active and also give back to their communities. So we will pay for their entry fee in local walks/runs. We work with partners who share our values and find ways to have fun challenges between the locations we serve. Eating right is a big deal so we partner with Chop Chop, a non-profit who helped us create recipe cards and menus we share on our communications portal. Understanding that caring for associates and their families means caring for their pets, we now offer pet insurance.  In addition to this, we provide life insurance for every associate who works 20 hours or more.  Supporting a healthy workplace means so much more to us than the obvious.  We want to prioritize providing the education and resources that can ensure our associates have the tools they need to be healthy.

BXA: Why is data-driven decision making important at Ocean State Job Lot?

Selle: Data is valuable because it takes the emotion out of the equation. I like to ask my team, “What is the story?”  Data can provide this in many ways. The story can be told in pictures or graphs, but the bottom line is that it's factual and actionable.  The traditional barriers to using data to drive decisions are access (people do not know how to obtain the data they need) and understanding (people do not understand how using data can help them to form better decisions.) Every company has limited resources, so it is important to be targeted in your approach to wellbeing in order for your efforts to succeed.  At OSJL, we want to be smart stewards of our finances to be able to provide the best benefits possible for our associates, while providing low prices for our customers; making data-driven decisions helps that to happen.

BXA: How does OSJL use data to support their spending decisions?

Selle: We use the data to ensure that we work with the right providers for our associates. For example, if we did not know that not having life insurance coverage was a stress for our people, we would never have invested in this. Data showed that our associates are more at ease if their pets had insurance, so we made a business case to offer this benefit. Lastly, we have learned from our data that those who work part time for a number of businesses may not have the resources if an emergency came up.  So OSJL provides a full service employee assistance program to ease the burden.

BXA: What does the future of wellbeing look like at Ocean State Job Lot?

Selle: The future of wellbeing for OSJL is two-fold. First, we are becoming “surgical” in our approach to using data.  We want to make sure the resources we are providing to keep employees healthy are aligned with our true cost drivers and needs.  Second, wellbeing is at OSJL will continue to be fun and rewarding. Seeing and hearing the stories of associates who have transformed themselves using the tools we provide is priceless. This is why I do what I do.

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Founded in 1977, Ocean State Job Lot is the Northeast's largest, privately held, closeout retail chain with 126 stores in New England, New York, and New Jersey; approximately 4,800 employees; and annual sales exceeding $650 million. Our company mission is to provide exceptional value to our customers through opportunistic buying and selling of quality brand name merchandise, and to share the resulting profits with stockholders, associates, and the communities in which we live and work. The Ocean State Job Lot Charitable Foundation has a long history of philanthropic leadership, placing emphasis on local food banks in communities where we operate stores. Ocean State Job Lot is headquartered in North Kingstown, RI. oceanstatejoblot.com

BetaXAnalytics partners with employers like Ocean State Job Lot to use “data for good” to improve the cost and quality of health care.  By combining PhD-level expertise with the latest technology, they help employers to become savvy health consumers, saving health dollars and better targeting health interventions to keep employees well.  For more insights on using data to drive healthcare, pharmacy and wellbeing decisions, follow Follow BetaXAnalytics on Twitter @betaxanalytics, Facebook @bxanalytics and LinkedIn at BetaXAnalytics.

Don't Let Benefits Planning Take You From Your "Happy Place"

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One of the most common headaches we hear from HR leaders is the reality that they have to sift through piles of reports and data from so many vendors to figure out what’s going on. They want to answer questions like, Are our employee programs working? Are vendors performing the services they promised? Is our spending increasing, and why? And most importantly, How can we save money? The gargantuan task of wading through stacks of reports and data falls in the lap of HR.

There’s got to be a better way.

Imagine you have the ability to bring all your data to one place—your health and pharmacy claims, wellness program data, vendor data, employee location and demographics. Imagine you can control how you want to see your data. And you see your data in a way that is easy-to-understand and actionable. 

Sound too good to be true?

Data is only helpful if it is understandable. And data gets a bad rap, but only because it’s associated with the confusing process of trying to make sense of it. Well, here’s some good news…when you have data science, clinical and pharmacy and HR expertise on your side, you open up the transparency you need in your data. This process saves time, helps you to make better decisions, and helps your company to save money. 

At BetaX, we specialize in putting employer data in one place, and we use transparent executive-ready dashboards to help employers to become savvy health consumers.

Let us bring you back to your “happy place.” Contact us today for a free demo. 

3 Simple Ways Companies Can Help Employees with Addiction

 Photo: IStockPhoto by Getty Images

Photo: IStockPhoto by Getty Images

After struggling with pain from severe headaches, Michele Zumwalt turned to her doctor for help.  He prescribed Demerol to manage the pain.  But soon after starting treatment, Michele noticed that she started having headaches if she didn’t have her medication.  Over the next several years, what started as a way to manage chronic pain turned into a full-blown addiction to painkillers.  Working in corporate sales, she recounted putting on entire presentations for clients and not even remembering the conversations.  What’s more, her clients did not notice her silent addiction.  Now sober for over 12 years, Zumwalt wrote of her experience in a book about recovery called Ruby Shoes.

In 2017, what was once a problem that we thought was far from our homes and offices now affects our families, our coworkers, and our communities.  Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., according to the Department of Health and Human Services.  Since 2000, the rate of opioid overdose deaths has more than doubled, and the cost of inpatient hospitalizations due to overdose since 2002 has nearly quadrupled.  And because of the highly addictive nature of painkillers, addiction has no prejudice.  It affects people from all walks of life, including seniors, celebrities, teens, professionals and newborns.

For too long we’ve viewed drug addiction through the lens of criminal justice. The most important thing to do is reduce demand. And the only way to do that is to provide treatment—to see it as a public health problem and not a criminal problem
— President Barak Obama, 2016 National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit

Opioid addiction is an epidemic, and it touches the workplace with the same pervasive force.  Opioid abuse costs employers approximately $12 billion annually.  A 2016 study by Castlight Health found that 1 out of every 3 opioid prescriptions covered by employers is abused, and that painkiller abusers cost employers nearly twice as much ($19,450) in medical expenses on average annually as non-abusers. Opioid addiction is rarely discussed in the workplace, and those affected tend to be very good at hiding their addiction.  But there are some simple steps employers can take to help to address opioid use and dependence.

1.      Understand the impact.  A look into a company’s own health data is the first step is to understanding how exactly opioid use affects their employees.  Understanding how painkillers are being prescribed, when opiates result in emergency treatment and the  correlation to absences and workers compensation claims helps to quantify the problem for a company.  Understanding the scope of the issue informs decisions on a written drug-use policy, whether to do employee drug testing and what drugs to test, how to educate managers and staff, and how to best provide resources to help employees and their families. 

2.      Reduce the stigma.  Most employees struggling with addiction are doing so in silence.  They may fear losing their job, and they have developed all sorts of strategies to hide their addiction from their families, friends and coworkers.  Employers can play a key role in leading the charge to normalize the discussion on addiction.  By helping to lead the conversation in educating employees on opioid use and addiction resources, they can help break the barriers that prevent people from recognizing dependence and seeking treatment.

3.      Open access to treatment resources.  When companies understand how addiction is impacting their employees and their health costs, they are well-positioned to match member needs with necessary addiction treatment services.  These companies may find that they need tools beyond the traditional employee assistance program, as they open access to treatment centers and other helpful tools to support people through recovery.  By making data-driven decisions, opening access to resources, and communicating with members, companies can further remove the barriers that keep people from seeking treatment. 

It’s hard to believe that Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign for the War on Drugs began over 30 years ago.  In those days, we imagined the detectable dangers of drugs as dealers hanging out on playgrounds, giving out drugs to kids like candy.  But today in 2017, the danger that faces 20.5 million Americans is much harder to recognize.  Many addictions aren’t born on street-corners; they start in the doctor’s office.  And whether an employer chooses to address the epidemic or not, they have co-workers who wake up and face a life driven by addiction every day.  Isn’t it time we as employers become part of the solution?

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About BetaXAnalytics:

BetaXAnalytics uses “data for good” to improve the cost and quality of health care for employers. By combining PhD-level expertise with the latest technology, they help employers to become savvy health consumers, saving health dollars and better targeting health interventions to keep employees well.

Follow BetaXAnalytics on Twitter @betaxanalytics, Facebook @bxanalytics and LinkedIn at BetaXAnalytics.

5 Big Reasons Why Employers Should Use Health Analytics

 Photo credit: iStockPhoto by Getty Images

Photo credit: iStockPhoto by Getty Images

We’re living in funny times when there’s a public outcry for open accessibility to affordable healthcare, yet employers still cover over half of the non-elderly population in the U.S.  So this leaves employers, very few of which have in-depth knowledge of how to keep people healthy, footing a large bill and assuming the health risk of their employees.  In fact, 82% of employers with over 500 employees are considered “self-insured,” meaning that they pay dollar for dollar the claims of their employees, spouses and dependents.  For most of these employers, healthcare is their second largest expense, second only to the cost of salaries. 

So this leaves any smart employer with a very reasonable expectation—they want to keep their employees healthy.  After all, they’re footing the bill for healthcare, so they have a vested interest in the health of their employees and their families.   But how do you keep people healthy?  Do you go home with them to make sure they don’t devour a package of oreos at night?  Or call them to remind people to take their blood pressure medication?  Or wake them up early to make sure they hit the gym before work?

Of course these interventions sound crazy.  People’s health habits are a product of personal choices that are decades in the making…and changing these habits is a tall task.  So employers are left to manage all sorts of 3rd parties to handle just this—to administer health services, to provide resources for health coaching, to inspire employees to be physically active, and to provide behavioral health and addiction services.  But the basic problem remains…employers are paying for these services, so how can they know they are getting what they pay for?  This is one of the reasons why health analytics is so important.

Here are the top reasons why employers need to use health analytics:

1.       To understand employee health needs.  Most employers, in addition to offering health insurance to employees, offer services to address employee health needs.  The goal of offering health services is to improve employee health and to lower health costs over time.  These services could be health coaching, health seminars, fitness challenges and weight loss programs.  And with the average employer spending $693 per employee on wellness incentives, they want to make sure they understand which services are needed most by their employees.  This helps them to spend wisely.  This moves them from the spaghetti method of health and wellness spending—throwing everything to the wall to see what “sticks,”—to a data-driven health and wellness strategy that can be justified and measured for their senior management. 

2.       To give high-risk employees the health resources they need.  What if you were able to know someone was going to have a heart attack before it happened?  The amount of data available today can be used for a very good purpose—to help to match people with proactive care before they end up in a hospital.  Let’s say you use an outside service to provide health condition management for your members.  The only way condition management can be valuable is if it is reaching the right employees.  Leveraging health analytics of your members can ensure that the right members are receiving proactive condition management outreach at the right time—before they end up in the hospital.

3.       To find wasteful spending.  Most employers today are under increased internal scrutiny to ensure that they are doing their due diligence in managing their vendors, and the total health and wellness services costs for employers significant.  Annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage is $18,142, according to a 2016 employer survey from Kaiser Family Foundation.  One very common source of “waste” is the misuse of the emergency room (ER).  Understanding the magnitude of emergency room misuse and patterns in the reasons for costly ER visits helps to inform how to best communicate existing benefits to employees, communicate alternatives to the emergency room as well as to evaluate changes to ER co-pays to encourage employees to seek alternative forms of urgent care when it makes sense.

4.       To manage prescription costs.  A 2016 study by Castlight Health found that 1 out of every 3 opioid prescriptions covered by employers is abused, and that painkiller abusers cost employers nearly twice as much ($19,450) in medical expenses on average annually as non-abusers.  Rising opioid usage and skyrocketing specialty medication costs are at the top of mind for employers, but most employers get very little transparency into this information.  Examining prescription drug data helps employers to better understand medication usage, adherence and addiction among their members.  This provides valuable information that is crucial to help them to save money in the future, make needed changes to their pharmacy plans and to provide appropriate behavioral health and addiction resources to members.

5.       To manage health service vendors.  It is becoming more common for wellness service contracts to include performance guarantees, meaning your company could be getting money back, sometimes up to 30% in returned fees, if employee health is not improving as promised.  If your company has performance guarantees in your vendor contracts, you’ll want the ability to have your own source of truth on whether those guarantees are being met.  Have you ever had a question that was met with 3 different answers from 3 different vendors?  This is comparable to doing your taxes – you may take your tax documents to 3 different accountants and come up with 3 different numbers on your return. Every vendor is looking at data through a different lens, and some lenses are more accurate than others.  It’s ironic that employers foot the bill for employee health, yet they rarely have the ability to have their own data arsenal to inform their decisions and audit vendors.  Analytics helps employers to become more savvy “consumers” of health services. 

Bottom line – when you are spending a lot of money on something, you deserve to know if that money is being well-spent and you deserve to know how you might be able to save money in the future.  This is the value to employers of making data-driven decisions on their healthcare spending.  And if you have the opportunity to receive this data from an impartial 3rd party whose contract is not “on the line” based on the data they provide (i.e. not the health plan, not the wellness service provider), an employer is in a prime position to best manage these services.

 

About BetaXAnalytics:

BetaXAnalytics uses “data for good” to improve the cost and quality of health care for employers.  By combining PhD-level expertise with the latest technology, they help employers to become savvy health consumers, saving health dollars and better targeting health interventions to keep employees well.

Follow BetaXAnalytics on Twitter @betaxanalytics, Facebook @bxanalytics and LinkedIn at BetaXAnalytics.

BetaXAnalytics Selected to Compete in MassChallenge's Bridge to Rhode Island Accelerator

Providence, RI – BetaXAnalytics, a Rhode Island-based health analytics startup, has been selected as one of 12 companies to participate in MassChallenge’s business accelerator in Rhode Island in 2017.

The 12 finalists were chosen from a pool of 42 applications and were evaluated by a panel of 11 judges comprised of experienced entrepreneurs, executives, and investors.  The finalists will participate in a 4-day immersive boot camp and pitch competition.  The winner will be fast-tracked to the final pitch round of MassChallenge 2017. 

BetaXAnalytics was co-founded by a URI-based pharmacoepidemiologist and programmer Mark Regine, PhD, who is bringing the latest technology to healthcare analytics to enable payers, providers and employers of all sizes to turn their health and pharmacy data into actionable clinical intelligence to improve the cost and quality of their healthcare.  They specialize in using technology to make using and interpreting health data affordable and actionable for all, even for small and mid-sized payers and providers.  Health analytics uses big data in healthcare to help to better allocate resources for healthcare providers, identify gaps in care and wasteful spending to help push down costs in the healthcare system.

MassChallenge’s Bridge to Rhode Island program will take place in February of 2017.  MassChallenge is the world’s largest business accelerator and competition program awarding over $1 million annually in prizes to small businesses.  Through their global network of accelerators in Boston, the UK, Israel, Switzerland, and Mexico, and international access to corporate partners, their impact drives growth and creates value around the world.  Here in Rhode Island, MassChallenge’s program has been one of several initiatives to build innovation and entrepreneurship made possible through the support of Governor Gina M. Raimondo and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation. 

 

About BetaXAnalytics:

BetaXAnalytics gives health payers and providers actionable strategies to better target health interventions and to save health dollars by turning health and pharmacy data into intelligence. They use data to target the estimated 30% of wasted healthcare dollars in the U.S. by identifying trends and emerging risks in member health, stratifying members by costly chronic health conditions, and identifying waste and gaps in healthcare services. Their predictive analytics and custom tools make clear data insights available to promote timely health interventions. 

Follow BetaXAnalytics on Twitter @betaxanalytics, Facebook @bxanalytics and LinkedIn at BetaXAnalytics.

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