5 Questions with Susan Pavlopoulos, Chief Client Experience Officer, designvox

1.      Your company, designvox, is described as a strategic design consultancy.  Can you tell us a bit about what that means for employers?


Billions of dollars are spent each year to implement new systems and vendors, acquire new companies, lean out processes, roll out new products and programs, and change cultures.  Unfortunately, the human is rarely at the center of these changes...usually a shoe-horned afterthought.  The reality is that unless you identify and address the human needs, there will not be lasting behavior change.  There are things you can only learn by listening to, caring about, and gaining empathy with people.  Solutions need to be designed with people, not around people.


designvox is a human-centered design consultancy that helps organizations do just that.  We help identify the needs, design solutions, execute the tactics, and measure the outcomes.   When you start with people, you can create something that will change their lives.



2.     You were a pioneer at leveraging the “power of employer” to drive lasting and meaningful change in the marketplace.  What advice do you have for benefit leaders who want to do the same, but feel as though their ability to do so is limited?


In an era of global competition for talent, employers are needing to think differently about how they support their employees.  Employees and their families are placing increasing value on the importance of ‘experience’.  It is no longer enough to offer a full-suite of benefit services and programs or above-average compensation packages.   


With benefit costs on the rise, it’s often difficult to provide the best offerings at a price that employers and their families can afford, while also delivering an amazing experience.  Bringing new ideas to the forefront is essential to remaining competitive.  In today’s marketplace, there are many parties that are willing and able to help you create custom solutions that get to the heart of the needs of your population.  Don’t settle for generic solutions.  Expend the time and effort to understand your population and use your voice to advocate for what your employees are truly going to use and appreciate.  You are powerful and strong.  You just need to find the right partners.



3.     National carriers have done an amazing job making the public believe that choice is good in healthcare.  How can employers effectively message to their people that choice is actually quite dangerous, and access to only the highest quality providers is in their best interest?


The national carriers are in a tough spot.  They hear from most large employers that they want cost savings while still wanting full panel network access.  Studies have shown that patients trust their healthcare providers, and that they don’t want those relationships to be disrupted.  In order to rock that boat, most employers need clear evidence to show that the network that is being placed before their employees is of equal or higher quality and financial value than the one they are taking away. This isn’t just at an aggregate level, but also down to the individual facility and providers.  Additionally, employees and their families are looking for an enhanced patient experience, so it is critical that this is demonstrated, too.


Employers should then carefully craft a human-centered experience to wrap the network and change management plan.  “If you build it, they will come” awareness is just not enough.  Building empathy and trust through open and honest communication will go a long way to making your new program successful. 



4.     West Michigan, where you are located, is a great example of a quality system also being the dominant player in terms of market share.  Obviously, all systems have room for improvement.  How do employers incent these behemoths to continue to improve their overall quality of care when they may believe they have no financial reason to do so?


All self-insured employer plans have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that they are providing the best possible options for their members.  In today’s marketplace, it is essential that employers take this responsibility to heart, not just delegate to their TPA.  Continuous review of and partnering with health systems that supply services to your members is key to ensuring your members are receiving the highest quality care. 


While it may not be possible to sit face-to-face with each system, it is important, at a minimum, to develop a plan to incent systems and providers that are treating your highest risk and costly populations.  Using pay-for-performance contracting and establishing defined provider accountability programs that offer higher reimbursement for better outcomes are helpful tools.  Just a caution, keep it simple.  Make sure that the provider and employer can easily track the metrics and understand the outcomes.  Collecting data that isn’t understandable or actionable helps no one.  Use the information to refine programming and terms to drive the best patient experience over time.



5.     What’s next, and who is driving it?


Boy, that’s a tough question.  There certainly is a lot going on today.  With the uncertainty surrounding federal and state healthcare funding and laws, mergers and acquisitions occurring and failing at a rapid pace, and AI beginning to take hold, the future is wide open.  Like many other industries, we are starting to see tremendous disruption from small, nimble organizations that are not your traditional players.  Venture capitalists and blue chips alike are funding accelerators and start-ups like they never have before.   It will be important for employers to begin thinking this same way.  We need to not only be out-of-the box but begin to see that there is no box.

Rick AbbottComment