How to Drive Utilization of Transparency Tools

toolsShari wasn’t listening…and it’s going to cost you.

You, as the employer, introduced your new transparency strategy three months earlier at Open Enrollment, (OE). You signed up for the service knowing it would save your company a boatload of healthcare dollars and also provide your employees with the tools needed to select top-rated physicians and medical facilities. The vendor you selected for transparency gave a brilliant presentation complete with entertaining videos and rousing testimonials of their services. Each employee left the meeting with brochures, a magnet and small ID card to use when the transparency services were needed.

Shari was in the OE meeting but wasn’t listening; being in good health she rarely ever went to the doctor. But now, after tripping over rocks on a hike, she is in need of a total knee replacement. Because you are an employer who has chosen to self-fund your insurance you will be responsible for the full cost of the surgery. If Shari uses the transparency vendor you have selected she will know she can go to one of the top surgeons in the region and to a hospital where this surgery is conducted more than twice as many times as at any other facility within 200 miles—all at a cost of $8,000 below where her primary care physician is referring her. But Shari has forgotten about the transparency services you presented to your employees. She follows the recommendation of her doctor. You just lost $8,000.

If this is happening with employees throughout your organization, the potential lost savings would be enormous.

How can you get Shari, and other employees like her, to use the cost-saving and quality-enhancing transparency service you provide?

One organization that has experienced great success in driving utilization of transparency tools is Perimeter Church in Atlanta. The church spends about $5,000 a year for the transparency services and saves $40,000 in healthcare costs.

Perimeter Church2Allison Gordy serves as the Human Resources Specialist at the church and is responsible for the implementation of their transparency tools provided by MAP and boasts 85% of their employees using the service. “The first year we implemented MAP we made a big mistake,” states Allison. What was the mistake? “We presented the transparency tools in a manner that left our employees viewing it as another hoop they had to jump through to get their healthcare.” Today, however, the church’s employees see MAP as a welcomed benefit. “We have numerous stories of success with transparency and these stories are being shared by our employees to one another. Our best driver of utilization has been the word-of-mouth testimonials of our employees.”

During the onboarding process Allison meets with each new employee and goes beyond simply sharing the factual information about their new benefits. Her approach is more of a pep talk on “the great benefit we offer to help you get the best quality healthcare.” Then, once employees experience the transparency tools the benefit promotes itself.  By using the tools they discovered they had a reliable source for vetting physicians and medical facilities. Allison stated “No one wants to have a colonoscopy, but if you are going to have it done you want to know that it is in the hands of someone who does 500 a year and not just five.”

Having incentives in place is also a key driver. The church has implemented a penalty for failure to use the transparency services. When employees at the church don’t utilize the transparency tools, the first $250 they spend for each medical procedure isn’t applied to their deductible. Therefore, it ends up costing the employee an additional $250 up until their deductible is met. Because the church incorporates high-deductible plans into their benefits strategy, a failure to use the services could cost the employee more than a $1,000 a year if they have multiple minor procedures. Furthermore, because employees also are responsible for co-pays after the deductible is met, the cost-savings found in transparency tools translates into real dollars for employees. For every $1,000 saved, the employee saves $200 of their own money.

Therefore, what are the best practices in driving utilization of transparency tools?

Best Practices in Driving Utilization

Become a Passionate Believer

Don’t sign up a transparency vendor simply because it was recommended by your broker or because other HR leaders told you it was “a good thing.” Become familiar with the services. Know the cost savings potential. Understand the value of the highest quality of care and how it can get your employees back to work sooner. Once you have this understanding, a passionate desire to increase utilization of the services will not be far behind. Allison Gordy caught this passion and she became the Champion who drove transparency at the church.

Focus on the Benefits to Employees

Most employees don’t see the value of saving the organization money. Employees want to know “what’s in it for me.” While you, as the employer, are looking to cut healthcare costs, resist the urge to focus on saving the organization money. Rather, focus on the benefits to employees—finding quality care and costs savings for the employee.

Educate & Re-educate

Like so many great programs employers offer, the benefits offered are often neglected in communications throughout the year. Wise employers don’t announce transparency at OE and then never mention it again. Do roll it out in grand fashion at OE, but let that only be the starting point of a year-round consistent communications strategy.

Here are a few ideas of how organizations are reminding their employees to use transparency tools:

  • Posters, magnets
  • Company newsletters
  • Email blasts
  • Online company portals
  • Payroll stuffers
  • Health coaches who are trained to remind employees of the service
  • Staff meetings and Lunch & Learns
  • Postcards or mailers sent to the home


Organizations that have the best results in utilization of transparency tools will have some form of incentive. These may be in the form of a reward such as a reimbursement of a deductible.  Or, as a penalty such as at Perimeter Church where employees are penalized $250 for failure to use the services.

Gift cards are a common incentive in the implementation phase of offering transparency tools. Some employers will offer a $25 gift card to employees each time they use the service during the first three months after the service has been introduced. In some cases, the employee benefits broker and/or the transparency partner will cover or share the costs of the gift cards.*

The most creative employers will take the time to coordinate their incentives with their broker and TPA, (if self-funded). Incentives can be built into the plan design. Just as Perimeter Church developed a plan with deductibles, other organizations may charge higher copayments for hospitalization if transparency tools are not used. Brokers and employers can get creative with the use of Health Savings Accounts(HSA) and Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRA) to reward employees.

The best transparency vendors provide options for employers to add incentives. One vendor offers a program that provides the employee with 20% of the savings (up to $1,000 per procedure and paid by the employer) if the employee uses the service and chooses a lower cost option. Another will provide gift cards in varying amounts depending on the type of procedure. Employers pay for these incentives knowing that a $25 gift card could save them hundreds and a $1,000 payment to an employee saves them $9,000 or more. Employees and employers win.

Beyond a Signature on a Contract

signatureEmployers looking to reduce healthcare costs and provide their employees with options for better quality care will want to implement transparency. Yet, signing up for the service is only the first step. Furthermore, this first step will be useless and a waste of time and money if the service is not utilized. Hopefully, if you have read this far into this post you have found a few ideas to drive utilization.

Final Thought: What is Better than Transparency?

What’s better than finding the best quality care at the best price for a medical procedure? The answer is simple: Prevent the need for the medical care.

Employee Wellness and Transparency are the best arrows in the quiver for driving down healthcare costs. Employee Wellness provides a long-term solution and will often reduce the need for care. Transparency provides immediate savings when care is needed. Both are critical to an effective strategy of healthcare cost-containment.

Rave on.

*Gift cards and most reimbursements are often taxable to the employee.

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Share Your Ideas to Drive Utilization

In the comment section below please share additional ideas you have used to drive utilization of transparency tools.


About Jack W Bruce
Jack W Bruce Jr. is a novice blogger, husband and father of four, living in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a lover of God, a reader and a wanna-be runner. Jack’s blogs include and Jack can also be found on LinkedIn at

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