2 Employers Tackle the Quality-Care Challenge

Walmart’s Lisa Woods address attendees at a NBGH session on quality care.

How do you provide your workforce and their families with access to quality care?

Though hardly new, more and more employers are lately looking to Centers of Excellence as one effective strategy.

At last week’s National Business Group on Health’s Business Health Agenda 2019 in Washington, benefit leaders from two major employers, Walmart and Honeywell, shared stories aimed at tackling the issue of quality care during a breakout titled “Virtual Care: Same Partners, New Approach–Innovations in Second Opinion and COE Solutions.” Both speakers touched on initiatives aimed at addressing the needs of employees and family members who have been diagnosed with cancer.

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Walmart Vice President of Global Benefits Lisa Woods noted that the retail behemoth’s COEs are “proof-positive that quality matters.”

Walmart started collaborating with Mayo Clinic 20 years ago in the area of transplants. But, according to Woods, the company’s use of COEs has noticeably evolved in the past seven years. In 2014, the company added joint replacements. This was followed by programs aimed at breast, lung and colorectal cancer. Each represent areas in which claims have continued to climb at Walmart.

In the case of cancer, all of the medical records, including pathology slides, are sent to the Mayo Clinic to review prior to ever asking an associate to travel. “We don’t want people to travel unnecessarily for cancer,” said Woods. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

On average, Woods said, “one-third of our associates are recommended to travel.” Of that group, she added, about 10 percent had a diagnosis that changed.

Woods shared the story of one associate who was diagnosed with a relapse in colon cancer. “In his local community, he was told, ‘There is no treatment, nothing we can do. Go home, you have about two or three weeks to live.’ We were connected with that associate, got him to the Mayo Clinic, they evaluated him, they performed surgery, started treatments and he’s now planning for a future,” she said.

Such success stories naturally provide Woods and her team a healthy dose of pride.

Walmart has since added prostate and bladder cancers to its program.

Honeywell, meanwhile, launched its cancer program in 2017, partnering with ConsumerMedical, a firm that seeks to provide people with better medical care.

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Its program focuses on what Honeywell calls “the five drivers of quality care”: getting the right diagnosis, including second opinions; identifying high-quality specialists to guide the patient in receiving care; pinpointing treatment options; identifying high-quality facilities for treatment and surgery; and helping people cope with the illness.

“We’ve heard time and again from participants that providing emotional support for participants and their families is one of the most valuable pieces of this program,” said Michael Ventrone, vice president of global benefits for Honeywell.

Ventrone noted that engaging people as soon as they are diagnosed, well before they move down the road to treatment, is crucial.

Honeywell also invests heavily in making sure employees and their families are aware the program exists. “Communication is critical,” he said, adding that it’s heavily promoted via email and on the company’s and Consumer Medical’s websites.

Roughly 550 people attended NBGH’s event, which is held annually in Washington.

David Shadovitz
David Shadovitzhttp://
David Shadovitz is editor emeritus and former editor and co-publisher for HRE.