People cutouts with stethoscope And while 32 percent of employers have adopted different types ofhealth care delivery models over the past three years, 45 percentplan to do so over the next three years. (Photo:Shutterstock)

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Employers are trying more ways to bring down costs onhigh-quality health care for employees, according to Willis TowersWatson's Health Care Access & Delivery Survey, includingcenters of excellence, on- or near-site clinics andhigh-performance networks.

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Chief among employer concerns are inadequate employee access tomental health (54 percent) and substance abuse(47 percent) treatment, with 33 percent worried about the lack ofgeneral services in rural locations (84 percent of employers haveworkforce living in rural locations, so it might be a concern thatmore employers are not taking on this issue).

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“Employers understand the key to better care and a healthierworkforce is to focus squarely on quality and a better patientexperience, supported by provider contracting that aligns withfinancial incentives,” said Mark Hope, national health planrelations leader at Willis Towers Watson. “To bring about thismeaningful change, companies are seeking innovative solutions likecare navigation and high-quality, efficient networks. This drive totry new models has the potential to deliver lower costs and, moreimportantly, make a difference in the lives of their workers andtheir families.”

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Related: Why more employers and insurers are turning tointegrated health care

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Primary care services are a worry for 29 percent, while 25percent say that there's inadequate access to maternity andperinatal services.

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And while 32 percent have adopted different types of health caredelivery models—whether it be high-performance networks,accountable care organizations or centers of excellence—over thepast three years, 45 percent plan to do so over the next threeyears.

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Employers are also looking to expand offerings in onsiteservices, from concierge, coaching and behavioral health servicesto yoga, massage and meditation, physical therapy, child care andEAP offerings. More than a third have near-site services inbehavioral health counseling and physical therapy, and 38 percentprovide a subsidy for offsite fitness centers.

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Telehealth is a big factor—or will be, with 95percent of employers already offering or planning to offertelemedicine for professional consultations by 2020 and 81 percentoffering or planning to offer telebehavioral health services by2020. Just 3 percent plan to offer teledentistry by 2020; as of2018, none did.

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And among employers offering high-performance networks, the toptwo considerations when choosing which to offer were quality ofcare (54 percent said it was their primary concern) and costsavings (20 percent said it was their primary concern, comparedwith 40 percent who said it was the second most important factor).Interestingly, access to care came in third, with 18 percent ofemployers saying it was their first consideration and 23 percentsaying it was the second most important criterion.

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“The challenge is more than offering the right network. Rather,it's to help patients find the right provider at the right time, torender a well-coordinated, highly effective care experience,” Hopesaid.

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.