Eric Thome Is Rethinking Rewards

Like many young people, Eric Thome moved to a new state to be with the love of his life. However, moving meant he needed to find a job . . . and quick. After a few jobs that didn’t quite fit his desire to help people, Thome landed a job as an account manager with a health maintenance organization (HMO). His new role involved taking health insurance renewals to small employee groups, where he explained renewals, claims, and other aspects of small group insurance.

The young professional continued carving out his career in the healthcare field and worked his way up through roles in large group sales, account management, and contract negotiations. From there, Thome accepted a position with State Farm, one of the country’s leading insurance providers, managing the company’s total rewards healthcare benefits.

Today, State Farm has about $100 billion in annual revenue and 67,000 employees. As head of total rewards benefits, Thome is tasked with finding new, innovative, and comprehensive ways to protect and care for those employees. He manages health benefits, time away from work, wellbeing, retirement plans, and the administration of all related programs.

After he joined State Farm, Thome quickly learned that “Like a Good Neighbor” wasn’t just the company slogan. Rather, it is what the company strives to be to customers and employees alike.

“State Farm believes in being a Good Neighbor, and part of that is providing personalized, caring, and simple customer service,” he says. “I wanted this to guide how my healthcare team looked at healthcare delivery.”

He continues, “I asked my team ‘How many of you on our team think that healthcare delivery is personalized, caring, and simple?’ and no hands went up.”

This became Thome’s motivation. “A team running benefits at a Fortune 50 company should be able to make healthcare delivery to its employees personalized, caring, and simple,” he says. He started asking more questions about what changes they would need to make to transform the employee experience.

Thome and his team began focusing how best to reduce barriers, simplify access, and allow employees more choices. That led to new vendor relationships and new services that make healthcare easier to access and navigate.

Eric Thome State Farm
Photo by Michael Girard

His team worked with concierge healthcare services that help employees navigate their personal healthcare journeys. They followed this up with a specialized concierge focused on reducing barriers to care for employees, notably for LGBTQ+ and black employees.

Thome and his colleagues also worked with companies in telemedicine and behavioral health to simplify access across the delivery system. The team also added services such as a medical second opinion service, surgical centers of excellence, and virtual physical therapy to the lineup to help employees make informed choices about their care.

Additionally, the team expanded their Annual Enrollment Benefits Fair with an interactive website, live and virtual sessions with vendors, and a plethora of tools to help employees make informed choices. The team also chose to keep the site, recorded sessions, and tools available all year so employees can refer to the information after open enrollment closes.

Thome’s team also conducts targeted internal marketing about benefits, hosts a robust intranet site, and provides a staffed Benefits Center through a vendor partner to ensure employees know where to find information about their full total rewards package. 

“We’ve been able to restructure our healthcare delivery without passing costs to our employees through things such as increased deductibles, copays, and coinsurance,” Thome says. “So often, these are the actions healthcare leaders must take to manage expenses.”

Thome believes that taking care of people and getting them the right care at the right time with better benefits will not only slow medical trends but save the company money as well. By using “personalized, caring, and simple” as his guide to healthcare delivery, he and his team are seeing positive results. Employees are responding to these improvements by taking full advantage of their benefits. Internal data demonstrates the value employees place on their benefits and Thome wants to keep increasing that value.

“Healthcare is complex,” he says. “My lesson is to not be afraid to jump at opportunities to make it more accessible to those you work for. Offer your input, speak your mind, and welcome different perspectives.”

Thome knows that managing total rewards benefits is a big responsibility and doesn’t come with a handbook for success. Rather, it is hard work, experimentation, and responding to what employees want from their benefits.

“Know that you will not be perfect, a program may not work,” Thome says. “Be honest about your successes and those that may not be as successful as you had hoped. These are not failures. Not trying to improve is failing.”

Pain is the biggest problem in healthcare today. Unfortunately, the status quo of musculoskeletal (MSK) care is broken, leading to ineffective treatment and billions of dollars wasted annually on unnecessary procedures (largely driven by surgical costs). That’s why State Farm turned to Sword Health. Our digital programs get employees the right physical care whenever they need it. No appointments, referrals, or copays needed. The result? An impressive 58 percent reduction in surgery intent, 47 percent drop in members with pain, and a 2.2x ROI to boot. With Sword, State Farm is cutting its MSK spend while improving employee health.

Teladoc Health empowers all people everywhere to live their healthiest lives by transforming the healthcare experience. As the world leader in whole-person virtual care, Teladoc Health uses proprietary health signals and personalized interactions to drive better health outcomes across the full continuum of care, at every stage in a person’s health journey. Teladoc Health leverages more than two decades of expertise and data-driven insights to meet the growing virtual care needs of consumers and healthcare professionals. For more information, please visit teladochealth.com.

The post Eric Thome Is Rethinking Rewards appeared first on American Healthcare Leader.

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