WASHINGTON — When Delta needed to find a solution for its Detroit-based diabetic employees with low compliance rates, it turned to telephonic health coaching, Delta Air Lines Director of Health Strategy and Resources Vickie Strickland told attendees of a panel at the National Business Group on Health's Business Health Agenda 2019 conference.
"We look at our benefits strategy in relation to the whole person," she said. "Since 2012 we've focused on well-being overall and changing the conversation at Delta less around plan design and more around what we can do for our employees to help them live better lives." Delta partnered with a provider that, among other things, helped employees monitor blood glucose levels through and app and web portal.
Delta isn't the only company that has set its sights on virtual care. Referencing the advent and expansion of several virtual care providers, The Boeing Company Manager, Healthcare Strategy and Policy Jason Parrott identified it as a significant trend in benefits. "I think when you look at what's transpired in the last three, six, 12 months, you're seeing a lot of these solutions evolve," he said.
UMass Memorial Health Care partnered with the same provider and experienced similar results, according to Alan Weston, vice president of human resources at UMass Memorial Health Care. Weston highlighted the provider's certified diabetes educators, calling them the "special sauce" of the service. "They are miraculous," he said, noting that the educators help users learn and talk about their own care.
While services like the ones Delta and UMass Memorial Health Care enlisted use a wholistic, individualized approach, the panelists reported they have seen success with each generation. "We have four generations of employees in our workforce. We're trying to find ways to appeal to each generation," Strickland said.
These services rely on technology, but that hasn't prohibited generations with less tech experience from using them. "We've actually seen the baby boomers adopting some of the more tech-based apps," Strickland said. "It's really meeting our employees where they are, from a mobile perspective and a generational perspective."
And the benefits of virtual care aren't lost on the generations that are typically more technologically fluent; "We think most of our younger workforce are just happy to pick their care," Weston said.
One problem persists, even amid the success of virtual care solutions. "We struggle with communication a lot," Strickland said. "We do a lot of different modes of communication — everything from mailers to email to posters, everything to get it in their face." It's a task that has required innovation, but Delta has yet to find a "silver bullet" solution, Strickland said.
Organizations may need to approach this problem with a healthy dose of realism. "There are some who want to adopt, but there are some who can't be reached," Weston said. That's why communication must be frequent and robust. "We're without pride in terms of method. We'll do anything. If it's a matter of posters — we're there," he said. "If it's screensavers — no problem." But even such a blitz does not guarantee success. "The challenge is that the communication pipeline is always full," he said.