EMPAQ 2.0: The Improved Future of Benefit Program Decision Support and Benchmarking Tools
On November 2007, more than 60 employer and supplier EMPAQ users from a variety of backgrounds--large employers, insurance carriers, leading consulting firms--came together on the University of Michigan campus to discuss and provide strategic input regarding the future of EMPAQ.
A critical component of the EMPAQ process is to fully engage its users to enhance the value, quality, efficiency and delivery of EMPAQ products, processes and decision-support tools for all participants.
To date, data from more than 5,000 companies have been submitted that allow participants to successfully utilize the EMPAQ metrics to evaluate their group health, disability, workers' compensation and absence programs. The November user group meeting was designed to review what EMPAQ had accomplished thus far and to define the enhancements and added capabilities needed to meet the emerging needs of its many constituencies.
While "EMPAQ 1.0" has produced a great deal of vital information; the mission of "EMPAQ 2.0" is to make the data "come alive" as an integral part of the benefits development and administration processes--for employers and their strategic supplier partners (e.g., insurance companies, third-party administrators, data providers and consultants).
EMPAQ data collection is supported by a common language and platform for consistent and thorough measurement through focused education on metric data submission requirements that ensures confidence in program results and evaluation. EMPAQ 2.0 will build on the existing metrics and benchmarking platform to include additional important program data elements and to add new levels of analysis.
EMPAQ 2.0 has achieved several goals, which were developed during the November user group meeting:
-- Greater ease of use in accessing EMPAQ information via a redesign of all educational content and launch of the new www.empaq.org Web site
-- Creation of an online data submission process for all participants
-- Best use of UM/HMRC's database structure, data analytics, and technical and reporting capabilities
-- Improved multiyear benchmarking comparisons for trending analysis
-- Adding depth to the EMPAQ data sets by including reason and cause code comparison (via claims level data submissions)
-- Improved sensitivity and focus to collect and report valuable program data elements for employer plan designs and company demographics.
Furthermore, EMPAQ 2.0 has established long-term goals to build links with health risk data, and create decision-support reporting tools (scorecards and indexes). This will enable companies to weigh key data points to adjust for differences in plan designs and demographics--thus making more apples-to-apples comparisons feasible across industries.
Making the data come alive--this is the fundamental goal of EMPAQ 2.0. This means providing employers with pertinent and actionable information for program evaluation and management decisions, which can enhance benefits plans and administrative performance while maintaining or improving sustainable cost ratios.
EMPAQ was never intended to be an academic exercise. In 2001, at the behest of the National Business Group on Health membership, its Council on Employee Health and Productivity and employers as a whole, the the National Business Group on Health began the development of EMPAQ.
EMPAQ is a set of standardized metrics and benchmarking tools used by many Fortune 500 employers to improve shareholder value and benefit operations by:
-- Promoting data-driven and forward thinking decisions that optimize workforce health and productivity
-- Calculating the effectiveness of health and productivity management programs
-- Establishing a consistent method for measuring cost, utilization and other performance issues.
EMPAQ metrics are created through a rigorous process that ensures data education, standardization and integrity. The EMPAQ metrics are calculated as ratios and are available for:
-- Short-term disability
-- Long-term disability
-- Family medical leave
-- Workers' compensation
-- Group health
-- Employee assistance programs
-- Incidental absence
The improved EMPAQ 2.0 will put the metrics and tools right in the heart of effective benefits evaluation and decision-making. For those employers and their partners that like to manage by "fact"--and obtain pertinent, valuable information regarding program performance--EMPAQ 2.0 will provide the facts and decision-support tools necessary to serve the company's business needs, provide a competitive advantage in the global economy and benefit employees.
GARY T. ANDERBERG, PH.D.,
is director, business development, for Crawford and Co.
JAMES A. CURCIO, M.B.A., is senior consultant of the National Business Group on Health.
June 1, 2008
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