Disrupting the Disrupters at the 2018 HLTH Conference

Kudos to the HLTH conference organizers. Their inaugural conference achieved what many thought was impossible… creating a health event that disrupts the healthcare sector focused on disruption. The 3600 attendees who descended on Las Vegas represented a broad constituency, creating an environment ripe for big thinking and cross-sector innovation.

But will the innovations sparked at HLTH benefit employers?

There were approximately 50 employer healthcare benefits leaders in attendance, including a number of Mercer clients. This is a good start – but it’s only a start. At Mercer, our relentless focus on employer-driven healthcare transformation means we want a continuous spotlight on the prominent efforts underway by employers to drive change. While there were employer-focused sessions and even an employer track at HLTH, the big opportunity is to infuse employer perspectives throughout the dialogue and to increase the focus on “innovation that works.”

With this in mind, here is a summary of the key themes across the event, reframed through the lens of employer perspectives:

  • Partnership-Palooza & Point Solution Paralysis – Regardless of the session or sidebar discussion, the theme of new partnerships between incumbents and startups was pervasive. This holds exciting opportunity for employers who are often seeking innovation that can be delivered by their current vendor partners. On the flip side, the overwhelming number of startup point-solutions emerging on the market can have a paralyzing effect. It’s challenging to keep up with the pace of change, especially when differentiation has been focused on user experience and not outcomes achieved.
  • Consumer Centric Design, On Repeat – No session was complete without a focus on the importance of consumer centric design in healthcare. Mercer agrees this is critical. Employers agree this is a must have. But who is looking out for the overall consumer experience when so much of the discussion is focused on niche offerings that potentially overlap with each other? Creating a new consumer-grade experience requires a simple way to weave all the pieces together meaningfully to create a personalized, relevant, and timely user experience. Our clients are working hard on this now and we think it would be a great topic for exploration at next year’s HLTH event.
  • Pump Up the Volume – In addition to amplifying employer perspectives throughout the event, there were a few employer priorities that were seemingly absent or underplayed at HLTH. First is the topic of Behavioral Health innovation. The discussion was limited and light on content. Next, women’s health needs, a top priority for so many of our clients, did not receive ample attention. Finally, we were anxious to hear more about the trending topic of social determinants of health. While there were a few sessions focused on this topic, they took an academic / theoretical focus, which is not actionable for employers.

All told, this was a valuable investment of time and especially good for networking. I hope not only to attend next year, but also to help shape the dialogue at a macro level, ensuring relevance and actionable opportunities for the employer stakeholder group who spends $668 billion on US healthcare every year.

Renya Spak
by Renya Spak

Renya is a Partner in the New York City office of Mercer Health & Benefits and leads the Health Innovation Team. The Health Innovation Team is responsible for cultivating new thinking and designing solutions that address the dynamic challenges impacting employer-sponsored healthcare in the US today. Renya continues to actively participate and lead consulting engagements that focus on strategic planning, population health management, and health innovation.

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