A look inside Bon Secours Mercy Health's new employer solutions company 

Harness Health Partners offers employers health solutions including assistance with on-site clinics, pictured here. (Bon Secours Mercy Health)

As more employers look to work directly with providers in their attempts to control costs, Bon Secours Mercy Health has launched a new brand to unify that work in one hub. 

Harness Health Partners will unite a slew of solutions for employers including well-being programs, pharmacy management tools and on-site clinics. The company will also work with interested employers to launch custom solutions or mold existing initiatives to fit the needs of their individual workforces. 

The goal, according to the health system, is to better reach workers across seven states with these programs. 

Marcia Swehla
Marcia Swehla (Bon Secours Mercy Health)

“As we think about population health and break down that down into bite-sized proportions, populations that work at employer locations are perfect-sized groups that we can work with to influence their healthcare,” Marcia Swehla, vice president of direct-to-employer at Bon Secours Mercy Health, told FierceHealthcare. 

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The health system tested the programs available through Harness Health Partners internally first, including before the union between Bon Secours Health System and Mercy Health was finalized in 2018.  

The system’s internal employee benefits programs earned recognition from groups such as the National Business Group on Health and accounted for $18 million in cost savings in 2018 alone. 

Swehla said the programs offered are a mix of what employers are asking for directly and what health professionals can provide that employers may not have thought of themselves. 

“Some of the requests did come from employers,” she said. “Others are things that perhaps are options that employers hadn’t considered, so you know that would be new and kind of fresh.” 

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An example of the latter, she said, would be solutions targeting pharmacy costs. Employers are well aware that the costs of pharmacy coverage are high, but may not realize that a health system like Bon Secours Mercy Health can assist in mitigating those expenses. 

Swehla said that Harness Health Partners will work with employers in a consulting capacity in those cases, examining their formularies and pharmacy benefit management arrangements to find ways they could optimize their benefits and save money. 

Employers will also come to the system seeking a collaboration, Swehla said. For example, one of Harness Health Partners’ solutions—called “industrial athlete”—was developed in conjunction with a construction company in the Cincinnati market. 

In this program, an athletic trainer is on hand to monitor the health and safety of workers, including keeping a close eye on employees who may have hypertension or diabetes. 

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“I think that the employers generally—depending on their size and level of sophistication—they know health systems have an opportunity to offer these kinds of services,” she said. “This is our business.” 

Another focus is helping workers navigate the health system, a major challenge, Swehla said. Bon Secours Mercy Health has the existing connections to make referrals and direct employees to the best sites of care. 

For example, an employee could come into an on-site clinic and simply not feel well, she said. The doctor or advanced practice clinician there can identify if they need to escalate the situation to an emergency department or refer to a specialist and are positioned well to make that handoff. 

This scenario takes a lot of the pressure off the employee, she said. 

“That would be one of the big benefits that I see of having employer-facing initiatives,” Swehla said. “You can really help employees connect the dots.”