Insights on How to Hold an Effective Vendor Summit

You can enhance the employee experience – and reduce waste and inefficiency – by holding a vendor summit for your health benefit programs.

Employers often organize health-related benefit programs as independent “silos.” There might be one silo for wellness programs, one silo for pharmacy benefit management and another for third-party administration/health benefits, for example.

The result can be a patchwork of overlapping vendors, who often target the same group of employees and family members with chronic conditions.

The Vendor Summit

A vendor summit brings together all your vendors to identify services and set goals as part of an integrated approach to health, disability and absenteeism. The Alliance helped employers who self-fund their health benefits hold a vendor summit as part of our Value-Based Benefit Design pilot.

If you decide to hold a vendor summit, plan to invite all the vendors who help you manage health-related services to a meeting held early in your plan year. Your invitation list should include:

  • TPA for self-funded employers or your health insurer for fully-insured employers
  • Primary network (The Alliance) for self-funded employers

sustainable change cycle

The Sustainable Change Cycle should guide your vendor summit efforts.

  • Pharmacy benefit manager
  • Employee assistance program
  • Wellness
  • Disease management/care management
  • Disability
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Broker/consultant
  • Any internal resources that impact employee health benefits.

Focus Your Efforts

Before you hold your summit, you should analyze your benefit data to identify the top three to five conditions driving health care costs. This information will be invaluable in working with vendors and setting goals.

The next step is to create a shared vision to present to vendors. This vision typically has a dual focus:

  1. Enhancing the employee experience.
  2. Reducing waste and inefficiency in your benefit program.

You should also set goals for your vendor summit. These goals might include:

  • Establish a foundation for partnership
  • Identify a condition or conditions to focus on for the coming year.
  • Determine how vendors can help improve outcomes for those conditions.
  • Create communication and action plans for the coming year.

Ask Vendors to Do Their Homework

Now you’re ready to invite vendors to the half-day, face-to-face summit. As part of the invitation, ask the vendor to do “homework” in advance by identifying the top five conditions that impact your health benefit costs and employee productivity.

Ask the vendors to explain what information led them to identify these five conditions and share their ideas for obtaining additional information or data. In addition, ask vendors to explain who gets vendor reports and how often those reports are available.

Targeted Conditions

Based on the information provided by vendors and the goals set by the employer, the vendor summit group should reach a consensus on the conditions to target over the coming year.

It’s best to focus the rest of the summit on these two or three conditions. For example, XYZ Co. might decide to use an integrated health management approach to focus on diabetes, obesity and preventive screening.

Integrated Health Management

Each of XYZ Co.’s targeted conditions can be addressed along a progression that marks the four stages that an employee would experience as a chronic condition moves from wellness to disease.

four stages

For each of the four stages, the summit will aim to identify:

  • Which vendors offer services and support?
  • What are these services and support?
  • How does the vendor engage employees? How often?
  • What could make the vendor more successful in serving the employer and employees?
  • How will the employer determine, measure and communicate success?

Vendor Accountability

Remember, your goal is to integrate data to maximize services and provide more value to employees and dependents. As part of that process, it’s important to learn how services are coordinated by multiple vendors.

The plan that emerges from the vendor summit should include:

  • Key initiatives and goals to support targeted conditions
  • Prioritization of initiatives by:
    • Vendor
    • Target Audiences
    • When due
  • Communication plan
  • Follow-up plan
  • Measurement

Plan to work with each vendor to describe services, set targets and define measurements for the conditions you plan to target. Ultimately, this could help you develop performance guarantees for vendor services.

The final step for each vendor is reviewing scenarios likely to impact employees seeking vendor services. For example, XYZ Co. might want to know how each vendor would handle a call from an employee who is having trouble with her vision and is actively engaged in a diabetes-focused disease management program. Completing this exercise will help the vendor and employer alike visualize how the process will work and how the employee will benefit.

Revisiting the Process

Part 1 of this blog post provided an overview of the vendor summit process. To regroup, it included:

  1. Employer sets goals based on needs of employee population.
  2. Employer determines which vendors interact with these employees.
  3. Vendors are invited to a summit to share information about their services.
  4. Specific goals are set for each vendor for the targeted conditions.
  5. Measurements for success are defined.

Ideally, you should regroup with vendors in six to 12 months, as appropriate, to evaluate progress and adjust accordingly. This will let you fine-tune your relationship with the vendors and your employees.

The Payoff

A vendor summit represents an investment of time and effort. The results make the investment worthwhile, according to employers who self-fund their health benefits through The Alliance.

After participating in a vendor summit, employers say vendors are more likely to share vital information, align activities with the employer’s strategic goals, participate in an integrated health management approach and deliver measureable results.

“It was a real eye-opener to us when we brought our vendors together,” an employer’s representative said. “We found out about services that we weren’t even aware of.”

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