The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Benefits Management

As points out, “Dr. Stephen Covey (1932-2012) remains a hugely influential management guru.”  His best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,[1] has not only been used by millions as “a blueprint for personal development,” but it continues to provide guidance for “any other aspect of human responsibility that you might imagine.”

With that thought in mind – e.g., that the seven habits can be widely applied – we thought we would see how those habits might be applied to managing healthcare benefits.  Here’s what we came up with:

  • Habit 1: “Be Proactive.” Employers must proactively purchase (instead of just passively pay for) healthcare.  If someone else does your shopping, you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t get what you wanted.
  • Habit 2: “Begin with the end in mind.”  What you want to buy is more health, NOT more healthcare. Focus on what you’re trying to achieve over the next 3-4 years: healthier employees.  Will what you’re doing get you where you want to be?
  • Habit 3: “Put first things first.” This means identifying and starting with the most significant trends driving your healthcare costs as well as the greatest opportunities to address them.
  • Habit 4: “Think ‘win-win.’”  The way to save money is NOT by denying care or even shifting cost, but by making certain people get the “right care at the right time in the right place.”  Improving healthcare outcomes will benefit both employee and employer.
  • Habit 5: “Seek first to understand”  Identify and address the causes of your spending, not simply the results (such as high hospital costs).
  • Habit 6: “Synergize.” Plan managers MUST simultaneously address both provider supply (which is often ineffective and inefficient) and employee demand (which is often excessive or preventable).
  • Habit 7: “Sharpen the saw.” Engage both employees and providers in continuous improvement.  Employees should have incentives to reduce risk factors and increase compliance.  Physicians should be improving outcomes and reducing potentially avoidable complications.

Sounds simple, right?  But, to quote again, while these concepts are easily understood, they “may be a little more difficult to apply in practice.” and, in fact,  “…may entail quite serious changes to thinking and acting.”

If you want to discuss how you could incorporate these habits into a multi-year benefit strategic plan, call us.  We’ve thought a bit about it and we have data that can help you.

Write us at:

[1] Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, published by Free Press, 1990