July 18, 2007

Employer-Based Health Plans

Employer-Based Health Plans

I am often asked about how we can be such passionate advocates for employer-based health plans, and, in particular, how we can actually operate in-house clinics with staff physicians.

We have been successful in operating our health plans because we believe healthy employees are a great resource.  We also believe that employees who have health problems can continue to be productive and motivated while they are coping with the devastating effects of chronic, degenerative, or even life-threatening diseases.

By actively investing in health and in helping those with health problems manage their medical conditions  we have been successful in keeping health cost increases well below market averages.

How do our employees feel about our health plans and our clinics?  Our medical program, including our clinics, is one of the most popular benefits we have, with a high degree of employee satisfaction.  Employees relate exceptionally well to our doctors and nurses.

One of the reasons is that we have insisted that our medical practitioners not only be highly competent and trustworthy, but that they have exceptional people skills.  As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his fascinating book,Blink, people sue medical professionals, not because they perceive them to be incompetent or because they just want a windfall from a non-meritorious lawsuit, but because they perceive the particular professional to be insensitive anduncaring.

Some outsiders are surprised that employees continue to patronize company-employed medical professionals and share sensitive information with them.  I do not know what these outsiders’ life experience with company medical professionals has been, but our employees trust our medical professionals not only to comply with HIPAArequirements, but to exercise the highest degree of discretion and trust possible.

The one area where we encounter more privacy concerns is where we ask employees to share health information with their health plans by completing health risk appraisals.  Some employees do not trust any online data server because they believe it can be hacked into by people who have no right to the information.

We have had a long history of being a leader in secure handling of sensitive data.  We have managed billions of dollars of postage for millions of customers without ever having had our systems compromised.  We manage mail and print centers in which our employees have access to highly-sensitive health and financial data of millions of people, including our own employees, and we face the risk of major liability were we to allow that data to fall into the wrong hands.  Given the value we place on our brand reputation for trustworthiness, we have been pleased with the performance of our systems and processes.

We succeed because we use advanced security techniques and principles in safeguarding information.  One of our fundamental beliefs is that every security system needs to be “crash-tested” before it is deployed and to be tested continuously afterward.  We are vigilant about security breaches.  Those whose sensitive information we touch understand this, and have trusted us for decades.

What this all means is that you can’t look at aggressive employer-based health care in isolation.  A respect for the security concerns of employees goes hand-in-hand with employer-based health care.  At Pitney Bowes, we are willing to invest in secure systems and processes both because of our brand and reputation for trustworthiness, and because we particularly believe that the active management of employee health brings great rewards to our company and our employees.