Dr Suzanne Delbanco Highlights Innovative Ways Employers Are Trying to Offer Lower-Cost Care

In markets with a lot of provider consolidation, employers are looking at innovative ways to deliver care to their employees for less money, such as on-site clinics or telehealth, explained Suzanne Delbanco, PhD, MPH, executive director of Catalyst for Payment Reform.

How are employers responding to increased provider consolidation? 
The provider landscape has been changing rapidly over the last 5, 10, even 15 years. There’s been an incredible amount of consolidation where providers come together, whether its hospital to hospital, or its healthcare systems acquiring physician groups, which is what we’re seeing now.

While its often done under the auspices of economies of scale and improving care coordination and continuity by bringing providers together, unfortunately, we don’t see any evidence that quality gets better. But, we do see mounds of evidence that prices go up as a result, so employers are very concerned about this and are starting to increasingly use benefit designs and provider network designs that will help shift their population members toward providers that offer better value overall. However, that can be very tricky to do in markets where there’s a dominant provider who puts the kibosh on doing that sort of approach.

So, it’s going to be increasingly challenging in the markets where providers are highly concentrated for employers to do innovative things like that. They are looking at on-site clinics, near-site clinics, and retail clinics expanding telehealth. All of these alternatives are less expensive sites of care, but eventually, there might be a need for government to intervene if the prices just keeping going up in the way that they are and really make healthcare unaffordable.
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