How CIOs can Lower Medical Costs with the Help of IT

A new breed of online clinics can help CIOs ensure their organizations lower the cost of medical claims and decrease the challenges that come with employee sickness.

Ershad Kallebullah, CIO India Oct 31st 2012 A-A+
Summary:

A new breed of online clinics can help CIOs ensure their organizations lower the cost of medical claims and decrease the challenges that come with employee sickness.

A few years ago, the Indian office of Rambus Technologies, a technology licensing company headquartered in Sunnyvale, USA, battled a medical claim ratio of 260 percent. That meant Rambus was settling over 70 medical claims for every 100 claims its employees made—a high number. And an expensive one.

Rambus is not alone. The corporate cost of employee sickness can weigh heavily on both an organization’s bottom line as well as its productivity. Employee absenteeism delays projects and puts increased pressure on those left behind at work. According to Kronos’ Workforce Productivity- India 2012 survey, 68 percent of Indian organizations use co-workers to fill in for sick colleagues. But in most cases, these replacements are only 75 percent as efficient as their sick counterparts.  

CIOs are especially well-aware of the challenges that sick employees create. According to one story, ushers at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans) in Bangalore used to ask incoming patients which industry they worked in to quickly figure out which department they should be sent to. A person, if he informs that he works in the IT industry, would automatically be sent to the queue of people waiting to get counselling for depression.

 

Only 15 to 20 percent of employees avail of the traditional health checkups their organizations provide.

Even today, of the 1,200 phone queries and 800 patients the Nimhans Centre for Wellbeing in Bangalore sees every month on an average, 400 cases come from the IT sector.

But what can CIOs do?

Take better care of their employees for one.

In the last few years, there’s been an increase in the number of Web-clinics or e-clinics that have eliminated the pain of meeting doctors—including finding a doctor and then having to wait in a queue for treatment.

“We hire people from IISc Bangalore, IIT Mumbai, and IIT Delhi. They have no clue about the outside world, and as a result, finding information about doctors and clinics is difficult,” says Narayan R. Thammaiah, director-HR, APAC, Rambus Technologies.

E-clinics allow CIOs to counter-attack many of the problems that lead to sickness, including a general lack of awareness, assumptions based on hearsay, and staff postponing checkups for lack of time. “The average Indian thinks it is normal to die of heart attack at the age of fifty or sixty,” says Dr. Abhilash Thirupathy, co-founder, Healthcare Magic, one of the larger e-clinics. “But that’s not the case if you do regular health checkups. We take health for granted. Our solution provides some tools which can be used for greater health awareness right on [an employees] desktop or laptop so that they don’t have to postpone their health decisions.”

According to Dr. Thirupathy, only 15 to 20 percent of employees avail of the traditional health checkups their organizations provide. Healthcare Magic, however, has been able to increase that to 80 percent.

E-clinics like Healthcare Magic do this by offering greater ease-of-use. Healthcare Magic, for example, allows its users to chat live with a doctor, get health risks assessed online, and even request a call from a doctor.

At Rambus, which uses Healthcare Magic, these facilities have lowered the medical claim ratio to 98 percent, which means it’s now settling only 50 claims out of every 100. 

“I deep-dived and analyzed the numbers and found about 10 to 15 cases in which employees just walked into fancy hospitals like Manipal, Mallya, Sagar, Wockhardt and got themselves admitted for observation after being advised to do so and claimed insurance,” says Thammaiah.

 

Another service an e-clinic like Healthcare Magic can provide is analytics. “Let’s assume that a lot of queries in a particular organization surround maternity and childcare. Our analytics tool detects that and suggests that organization get a gynaecologist on campus,” says Dr Thirupathy. This could also be helpful in forecasting a potential SARS-like breakout.

Considering the amount corporations spend on settling employees’ medical costs, and the exorbitant nature of a majority of these claims, it is after all not a bad idea for CIOs to make use of online clinics.