As the U.S. government takes steps to improve maternal health outcomes, health plans and employers can play a critical role, too. By delivering a new member-centric maternal care experience, one that engages and empowers aspiring parents from family planning through postpartum, you can delight members, improve maternal and infant health outcomes, and reduce healthcare costs.
That’s what interactive entertainment leader Zynga has achieved since integrating the Maven digital care model into their employee health and benefits plan, complementing in-person fertility and maternal care. According to Zynga Director of Benefits Bryan Aycock, from 2019 to 2020, Zynga’s maternal and infant health outcomes improved significantly while pregnancies increased 83%. From 2019 to 2020, Zynga:
- Reduced their C-section rate from 27.8% to 18.2%.
- Reduced the average NICU length of stay from 10 to 4 days.
Aycock shared these results — and the key factors driving them — at the recent AHIP conference in a presentation with Maven Founder and CEO Kate Ryder and Dr. Brian Levine, medical director at Maven and a renowned reproductive endocrinologist with CCRM in New York. Below is a summary of their discussion.
Discovering the Need for More
Despite Zynga’s generous maternity and parental leave policies, employees and their partners needed more support throughout the family-building journey, according to Aycock. “I asked employees, 'What’s missing for you in our existing benefits program?’ Over a dozen of them mentioned how they were dealing with fertility issues or family planning issues and having claims denied.”
Aycock also saw a gap for single female employees and LGBTQ+ employees who could not meet the requirement of an infertility diagnosis to qualify for fertility treatment reimbursement, and who needed help navigating the family-building process. “So that right there identified a huge need,” he said.
Criteria for a Family-Building Solution
Zynga’s HR team worked with their benefits broker to find a family-building solution that would meet the needs of their employee population. According to Aycock, the solution needed to:
- Provide comprehensive support for the entire journey, from family planning and fertility to maternity and postpartum.
- Be easy to access and use from anywhere, 24/7, just as Zynga’s mobile games are for consumers.
- Support every person’s journey, in line with Zynga's focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.
- Continuously evolve to enhance the support for members.
Why Maven, in a Nutshell
Based on these criteria, Zynga selected Maven. “Maven was the only solution that was focused on that virtual support, which was really important to us. I love how you look for new ways to enhance that solution and add features and support items,” said Aycock.
These needs are not unique among employers or health plans, according to Ryder. “Every day, our Maven teams speak to HR executives and health plan leaders who are looking to solve a number of challenges related to the family-building journey,” she said. “They’re looking for help with infertility, which affects one in eight couples. They’re looking for support for high-risk, high-cost pregnancies that drive up spend. They’re talking about solutions to address racial disparities in maternal health, and to meet the needs of LGBTQ employees and single people who want to grow their families,” Ryder said.
To address these needs, Maven’s digital care model provides holistic, continuous member-centric care from preconception through pregnancy and postpartum, explained Ryder. “What makes Maven innovative is the combination of one-to-one human care advocacy, 24/7 telehealth with a highly specialized network of providers, and personalized content and live classes tailored to each person's journey.”
Early Engagement and Education
Engaging members early in the family-building journey was paramount to Zynga. “I know the correlation between early support and positive outcomes, so finding a solution that provided support as early as possible was key,” said Aycock. Dr. Levine cited the importance not just of early support but evidence-based education for family planning, in place of the word-of-mouth or anecdotal education that often happens today through social media. Maven educates members through its deep library of clinical content and provider-led virtual classes, and through personalized support from its Care Advocates as well.
According to Dr. Levine, aspiring parents need to prepare themselves mentally and physically before attempting to achieve pregnancy, and preconception education and counseling are a critical part of that effort. They can learn all their options for starting a family, for example, and how to preserve their fertility by egg, sperm or embryo freezing. They can learn about red flags and get interventions to prevent a progressive disease that could affect the health of mother and child. “No one runs a marathon without training, and they need to learn how to run the marathon of pregnancy,” Dr. Levine said.
Patient Advocacy and Navigation
Zynga also wanted a solution that would help aspiring parents navigate their benefits and access the right care for their needs at the right time. “Aside from all the different 30+ specialty provider types that Maven has, they also understand our entire benefits ecosystem,” said Aycock. “So if there's a need that one of those 30+ providers can't provide, they know about all of our other programs for support, which helps drive utilization for those programs as well.”
Unbiased, compassionate guidance is a hallmark of Maven’s unique approach, according to Ryder. Maven has no financial incentive to drive employees down any one course of fertility treatment, for example. “We’re able to help members grow their families through any means, whether that’s natural conception, IVF, adoption, or surrogacy. We really just want healthy babies, healthy outcomes, healthy mothers,” said Ryder.
Providing continuous care for a member throughout the maternal journey can help prevent complications and give members peace of mind at the same time, according to Dr. Levine. This is especially important for women with high-risk pregnancies, e.g., women carrying twins or triplets. Unfortunately, in a fragmented healthcare system, patients often face gaps in support. For example, patients can experience a month lag time between a successful fertility treatment and seeing an OB/GYN for the first time.
“The handoff typically happens by a patient being told that you can collect your records and call a doctor,” said Dr. Levine. “I think we can do better than this.” Maven fills that gap for patients, giving them the ability to raise concerns and get answers to questions during an anxiety-inducing time. “Having a lifeline for those patients is vital,” he added.
Aycock agreed. “We have a very young population and a lot of first-time moms and dads. So they definitely appreciate support all along the path,” he said. “We need that holistic support from planning through pregnancy, returning to work, and then beyond, as they are new parents and obviously not sleeping or dealing with things the way that they were before.”
“We have a very young population and a lot of first time moms and dads. So they definitely appreciate support all along the path.”
- Bryan Aycock, Zynga director of benefits
The maternal journey can be one of the most emotional experiences of a woman’s life even when things go smoothly. An unexpected infertility diagnosis, fertility treatment setbacks, or a pregnancy loss are often devastating, life altering events. These challenges are compounded by barriers to getting mental health support when it’s needed.
“Through Maven, they can get a telehealth provider when it's best for them, when they're in the best state of mind to have a discussion,” said Dr. Levine. “Going through fertility treatments is incredibly stressful. Every single injection, every single pill, every single ultrasound, can be an uncomfortable reminder that they are not pregnant and they have not achieved their goal. Every blood test is an anxiety inducing process, because you don't know if you're going to be moving forwards or backwards. So having a mental health provider woven into multiple aspects of the journey is of paramount importance.”
All Paths to Parenthood
For Zynga, Maven’s ability to support all paths to parenthood was key in the selection process and is making an impact. Zynga has used Maven Wallet, Maven’s customizable reimbursement solution, to create a new program that allows members to submit expenses for egg freezing, adoption or surrogacy. “It really opened up support for whatever path any of our employees were headed down,” said Aycock.
“We get amazing feedback about the Maven program,” said Aycock. “I had an employee reach out and say, ‘I wanted to thank you for Maven and our fertility benefits. I have a child because of you.’” Another employee sent an email to Aycock to express thanks for having access to a pediatrician in the middle of the night. Indeed, virtual access to quality care is becoming even more important as more Zynga employees move away from urban areas, Aycock explained. “Having a platform like Maven, with access to so many different providers that they may not be able to see in person based on their location, is really crucial.”
“My care advocate is fantastic. I've got answers for my questions anytime within a matter of minutes. And I've been able to book appointments with specialists in less than 24 hours.”
- Zynga employee and Maven member
“The Maven program for us has been a win, win, win,” said Aycock. “We've seen lower costs, better health outcomes for employees and their families, so that they feel more healthy and productive. Based on the feedback we get, it's been a great experience for our employees. That really helps us attract and retain talent.”
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