The right data uncovers specific issues and provides action points for clients to reduce costs and have a healthier workforce. Therefore, brokers with strong in-house data divisions are winning business from other firms that are less prepared to take advantage of such statistics. Scott Mayer, director of data analytics at Hunt Valley, Md.-based Crawford Advisors LLC, an AssuredPartners Company, talks about best practices in data collection and utilization.

EBA: For an adviser, what are the main advantages to using data?

Mayer: Data uncovers very specific issues that occur within a client’s benefit plans, especially the medical plan. Whether it is issues tied around utilization and efficiency or issues tied around population health, risk and emerging concerns, data is very powerful in allowing us to get very specific and very technical in the areas that will have high impact with very low cost or effort on the part of the employer.

Rather than throwing a bunch of wellness programs at the wall and seeing what sticks and makes an impact, data really uncovers exactly where your time and energy needs to be focused.

EBA: What are the latest trends in data?

Mayer: People are starting to catch on to things like gaps in care, where people are recognizing data can give insight not just into a particular population, but in terms of which members of that population are managing their health better. For example, it is one thing when you look at a group and see there is a prevalence of diabetes, but that in itself might not be a predictor of future claims. A better predictor would be to see which diabetics are not following through, which ones aren’t getting their checkups, which ones aren’t getting their bloodwork, which ones aren’t getting their medications filled. Those diabetics are going to be an inherently higher risk for future claims and acute episodes. As opposed to the diabetics who are at least following through with their doctor and managing their condition. The emergence of more awareness toward those care gaps on both the chronic and preventive care sides, I see that as an emerging trend.

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"Rather than throwing a bunch of wellness programs at the wall and seeing what sticks and makes an impact, data really uncovers exactly where your time and energy needs to be focused."

The integration of data from other things like wearable and fitness trackers and integration of data from biometrics and health risk assessments, not as standalone data points but as data points in a larger data pool, that is taking off as well.

EBA: How does working with data differentiate your firm?

Mayer: It helps our firm win business because we are able to display outcomes. The outcomes that we display come with very clear and concise action points. It is one thing when someone says a wellness plan will give you 3:4-to-1 return on investment, which I would challenge that blanket statement openly. Instead, we can tell a clear story of, ‘here is an example of a client where we identified and were specific in what we identified.’ We provide very specific examples of how we identified issues and specific examples of what we did to fix those issues, and what the financial outcomes over time were.

It allows us to go in there with a very compelling story. Brokers were relying on carriers, saying we have data; we have reporting and then dropping a 30-page report on someone’s desk and not doing anything with it. That’s what a lot of groups have right now when they think they have data. No, you have stacks of paper, you are burning through trees, and you don’t have actionable information. We come with insight, we come with specific recommendations, we rely heavily on our clients to implement those recommendations because they know their employees, and they know what is going to motivate them and what they will respond to.

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