“Semantic satiation” is the phenomenon where repeating a word or a phrase in a short period of time causes a temporary loss of meaning for the listener. The use of the term innovation in health care, benefits and well-being is so ubiquitous that one could easily begin to question the very meaning of the word. At the Business Group, we are no stranger to championing innovation, priding ourselves as a leader in providing “innovative solutions for health and benefits issues.” The Business Group also hosts a Health Innovations Forum, gives out awards to innovators in excellence in driving value in health care and health and well-being, and features innovation tracks at our Annual Conference, to name a few.
The Business Group believes that a common understanding of what effective innovation is will help employers and their health industry partners send a signal to the broader health care and well-being ecosystem about what is necessary to drive novel changes together.
Our definition of innovations
Innovations provide effective and novel approaches with a viable path to achieve positive impacts for employers, their partners and their workforce.
No one-sentence definition, however, can encapsulate the entirety of what it means to be innovative, or what it takes to bring an innovative idea to some level of fruition that has a real-world impact on employers, their partners and their workforce. The following four key elements are important to keep in mind when considering effective innovation in health care and well-being benefits.
4 Key Elements of Innovation From an Employer Perspective
1 | A viable path to make an impact
Employers are results-oriented, whether regarding their business outcomes or their health benefits and well-being strategy. A meaningful discussion of an innovative idea must consider whether it has the ability to improve health, well-being and the employee experience, as well as reduce costs or address another key priority. To achieve this goal, innovators need to be able to measure the results of their actions and adapt when necessary to consistently improve on newer approaches.
2 | The ability to address downside impacts of disruption that can create further fragmentation, confusion or duplication in the benefits and health care experience
Many interesting new approaches have struggled to gain traction with employers because they duplicate existing services or have little connection to existing services, leading to excess costs, employee confusion and a degradation of the employee and patient experience. When employers disaggregate one part of the benefits, well-being or health care experience to optimize it, it can unintentionally lead to fragmentation and inefficiencies. Business Group members can access Integrated Benefits Experience: Four Key Considerations for Employers for tips on how to create an integrated benefits experience that effectively incorporates longstanding and innovative approaches.
The level of “innovation” in a new approach can exist on a spectrum, from “entirely game-changing” on one end and “an incremental improvement on standard practices” on the other. The health care system is large, complex, fragmented and confusing. This leads to inefficiencies, duplicative services, patient needs getting missed, delays in care, frustration and high costs for employers and their workforce. There are several areas where game-changing innovation is warranted. However, new ways of providing benefits, health care services or other needs that “break” a portion of the broader employer benefits and health care ecosystem can result in potential disruptions, confusion or duplication. To prevent this from happening, new approaches can be coordinated or integrated with preexisting health industry partners and employer benefits. Innovation that makes health care and benefits any more fragmented or confusing than it already is will not be effective for employers or employees.
3 | The potential to have a positive impact on employers, their partners and their workforce
Perhaps it goes without saying, but an effective innovation for employers will have some kind of positive impact on health outcomes, employee engagement, health care costs or other relevant health or business metric. Value creation can take time, but it must be clear. A novel approach without an unequivocal, real-world impact on employers and their workforce is not meaningfully innovative for employers.
4 | The ability to have a sustainable impact
The only way to determine whether an innovation has a lasting impact is to take the time to measure and assess its value over time. However, even in the early stages of trying a new approach to address a particular challenge, it is possible to predict whether the approach will have short-term outcomes or the ability to sustain positive impacts over time. A short-term fix is rare in health care, where outcomes take years to come to fruition and costs rise continually. To address longstanding, fundamental obstacles in health care in the U.S. and globally, improve outcomes and reduce costs, innovations with sustainable impacts are essential.
For additional information on several ways that Business Group on Health highlights and champions innovation in health and well-being, consider taking a look at the Health Innovations Forum, Best Employers: Excellence in Health & Well-being Award and Excellence in Health Care Value and Innovation: Helen Darling Award.
The upcoming 2024 Business Group on Health Annual Conference will be held on April 9-12, 2024 in Tucson, AZ, and will feature several sessions highlighting innovations from employers and their partners. Business Group on Health members can access online resources, including our Innovation Showcase Series. A recording of the Innovation Showcase on the impact of AI on health and well-being was posted recently.