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What employers should know about a hub benefits strategy

A fresh approach to benefits is easing leaders’ administrative burden and connecting employees to better care.

6-minute read

The benefits landscape has evolved rapidly over the past decade. Rising health care costs, greater attention to health equity and a tight talent market helped fuel an explosion of digital health solutions to augment traditional carrier benefits. But the evolution is hardly over. Employers are now eager to beat back the administrative burden of managing so many stand-alone solutions. They’re also keenly aware that a disjointed employee experience can limit the value of even the best offerings.

“Employers realize that while best-in-class solutions offer choices that help attract and retain talent, the fragmented ecosystem has significantly increased the complexity of managing health care for employees and has created a highly disconnected employee experience,” noted PwC analysts, sharing findings from the 2023 Employer Benefits Perspective Survey.1

Employers aren’t clinging to the status quo; nearly 90% planned to make changes to their vendor partnerships in 2023 or 2024, compared with just 12% in 2022.2 But to maximize the positive impact of their benefits portfolios — for corporate budgets and employee health alike — benefits leaders should think bigger than scrutinizing individual solutions. Instead, they should assess whether their overall approach to supplemental benefits is serving them well.

The latest evolution to hit the benefits landscape is a hub strategy. This strategy leverages the expertise and infrastructure of a large health plan to dramatically streamline and simplify their vendor selection and management. This allows them to deliver an experience that’s cohesive rather than confusing. How can a hub strategy yield significant benefits for employers? Consider these 3 ways:

1. Staying on top of possible solutions becomes a non-issue

Supplemental benefits are anything but “set it and forget it.” The marketplace, prominent health priorities and employee expectations are always evolving. And employers need their benefits portfolios to keep pace. Take cancer as an example. Delayed screenings and demographic shifts are contributing to a notable rise in cases, even as treatment breakthroughs — from biosimilars to CAR T-cell therapies to immune checkpoint inhibitors — roll out at an astonishing rate. Employers feel the pinch, with half now identifying cancer as their number one driver of health care cost.3

Feverish demand to contain costs while bettering outcomes has helped propel dozens of oncology solutions onto the market. These solutions include symptom management, remote monitoring, patient education, treatment navigation and more. But sifting through solutions typically falls on the employer — a task made more daunting by the fact that cancer support is just one corner of supplemental benefits. But with a hub strategy, the health plan does the heavy lifting of tracking trends, assessing clinical claims and technology breakthroughs, and keeping tabs on the latest and greatest vendor offerings. Employers who use Optum® Hub have access to a curated network of vendors that speak to employee demands.

2. Simplified purchasing means greater efficiency and lower costs

Most employers work with 8 to 10 different vendors across their health and wellness portfolio, and one-quarter of employers work with more than 20.4 That’s a lot of contracts to process, and the fact that vendors offer services through a variety of reimbursement models largely increases the complexity. With a contract type based on the number of engaged members, for instance, it can be difficult to define and track engagement, leaving employers vulnerable to excess fees. Performance guarantees can help employers mitigate financial risks, but guarantee calculations take many forms, and calculating and tracking performance across multiple vendors is arduous.

A hub strategy leverages the size and infrastructure of a health plan to help give employers competitive pricing and streamlined contracting. Optum Hub can also offer consultative buying support, using advanced data analytics to make recommendations that are tailored to specific employee populations.

3. Continuous improvement is built right in

Forget launching a mix of benefits offerings and then waiting a year to get clarity on what’s working and what’s not. Because unified data is the cornerstone of a hub strategy, employers don’t have to aggregate data from various vendors and then try to analyze them for performance insights. Instead, Optum Hub consistently and continuously gathers data from vendors across the benefits ecosystem — ranging from member engagement metrics to utilization trends — then applies advanced data analytics to yield actionable insights. That ultimately drives ongoing improvements based on the dynamic needs and habits of an employer’s workforce.

Continuous improvement is also a hallmark of the broader Optum Hub portfolio. Even as powerful data analytics and deep clinical expertise help to optimize the performance of existing vendors, our team has one eye trained on the horizon. Carefully tracking treatment trends, monitoring for innovative and emerging solutions, and rigorously assessing potential vendors isn’t an annual exercise but a constant commitment. Because of that, Optum Hub’s curated network is designed to adapt as the benefits landscape evolves — no employer effort required.

Learn more about Optum Hub and how we can help employers drive better outcomes through connected access.