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Physician-led Success: COE and 2nd.MD – a track record of savings

By Matt Eurey, EVP, GM, Strategic & Enterprise | April 23, 2024 | 4 min read

As the leader of Accolade’s commercial business, I often rely on my experience in benefits leadership at major national employers to evaluate our corporate strategy. I ask myself, will this action we're taking help benefits teams? Will it make our members' lives discernibly better? As a benefits buyer myself and an advocate for members’ health, does it pass my “sniff test”?  

Looking at the challenges employers face today, with many projecting the most significant increase in medical spending we’ve seen in ten years, I find myself reflecting on recent Accolade strategic decisions that have proven wise. Along with expansion from advocacy into care delivery and investments to fortify our technology platform, two moves stand out as especially visionary given how they’ve strengthened the ROI of the Accolade service while enhancing member experience: 

  1. Our acquisition of the industry-leading second opinion service, 2nd.MD, in 2021. 

  2. Our doubling down on investments in our Trusted Partner Ecosystem, especially in our partnerships with Employer Direct Healthcare (2021) and Carrum Health (2022). 

2nd.MD not only saves significant cost for employers (about $5,700 per consult) but also provides an outstanding user experience (NPS of 85).[1] This service democratizes access to the very best specialists in this country, across medical condition areas, no matter where the member is located. Through live video consultations, members connect with the right specialist while receiving dedicated support from specialized nurses. As a result, 81% of our consultations lead to improved treatment plans.[2]

Our Trusted Partners in the Centers of Excellence category are a perfect complement to 2nd.MD. Members needing surgery or facing a cancer diagnosis can access high-quality providers at pre-negotiated rates, resulting in minimal costs for members and substantial savings for employers (our COE Trusted Partners secure rates that can be as much as 40-50% better than market pricing).[3]

Here's a relatable scenario for most employers: A member is considering knee surgery. Her treating physician has recommended a knee replacement. She knows the surgery is a significant undertaking and likely costly. She and an Accolade nurse discuss her situation and symptoms. The nurse suggests she consider an expert medical opinion so she can be more confident the procedure is indeed indicated. She receives a 2nd.MD expert medical opinion via video consultation. This expert, armed with the member’s medical history and records – thanks to the legwork of the Accolade care team – might recommend more conservative alternatives like cortisone shots and physical therapy. If the member has access to one of our Trusted Partners that provide virtual physical therapy (Sword Health or Hinge Health), you can imagine this is a natural opportunity to educate them about that benefit. If the expert believes surgery is in fact necessary, Accolade guides the member to their Trusted Partner surgical COE for the best possible care and follow-up. You can envision a similar scenario playing out for a member newly diagnosed with cancer. 

Our approach, which combines access to expert medical opinions with seamless transitions to our COE partners, is unique in the industry. And the impact is tangible. Based on referrals coming from our EMO service, along with ones from our advocacy and primary care touchpoints and our members’ self-serve experiences with our app and portal – all enhanced by partner-specific True Health Actions that highlight and reinforce the value of the COE benefit to members when it’s appropriate – we drive measurable incremental utilization. Our closed loop reporting data, which matches the specific referrals Accolade has made with our partners’ opened cases, has validated this impact: in both 2022 and 2023, we drove double-digit percentage lifts in utilization.[4] 

“Accolade has been a fantastic partner in helping members understand the specialty care benefits available to them through Employer Direct Healthcare,” said John Zutter, CEO, Employer Direct Healthcare. "Thanks to the thoughtful engagement of Accolade’s care team, as well as the company’s larger investments in data integration, we’re able to identify members who may need surgery or cancer care much earlier in their care journeys – which not only helps ensure the best possible health outcomes, but can also result in significant cost-savings for members and their employers.” 

Sach Jain, CEO of Carrum Health, reinforces the positive sentiments about our partnership, “Carrum’s partnership with Accolade has been a big win for our organization and our joint customers. Their patient engagement model, including the especially valuable expert medical opinion service, helps steer more members to our programs when they need surgeries or cancer treatment – together, we’re helping more members while delivering better ROI for employers.”  

I continue to apply a discerning eye to the strategic opportunities Accolade is seizing in the market. I believe our EMO and COE investments are paying off in spades, and I’m eager to see more employers take advantage of these great services. To date, I keep applying my sniff test, and we keep coming up roses.

1. Accolade internal data, January - December 2023

2. Accolade internal data

3. Based on Employer Direct Healthcare and Carrum Health represented savings; supported by Accolade actuarial analysis

4. Representative customer data, 2022 and 2023

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