What role do employers play in improving care quality?

A central role, if they take certain steps.

Potentially, a very big one. After the federal government, employers are the second largest buyer of health care. Some employers have leveraged their considerable market power to push for improvements from hospitals and health plans, but most employers typically exert very little control over the cost or quality of what they buy. 
 
AF4Q aims to motivate employers to use their market muscle to support healthy behaviors and to communicate directly with both health plans and employees to improve care at a manageable cost. 
 
 
1. Joining purchaser coalitions.
2. Analyzing their benefit design.
3. Not being afraid of clinical knowledge.
4. Treating relationships with health insurers and providers as they would other vendor relationships.
5. Demanding constant improvement.
6. Communicating with employees about their role in quality and cost issues.
7. Counting quality and making quality count—using comparative information to create meaningful incentives for employees and their families to choose providers offering value.
 
In the Aligning Forces community in Cincinnati, the Health Collaborative offered employers a simple tool to help them reach out to employees and offer them access to the latest quality-of-care data without leaving the employer’s website.
 
Employers work with Alliances in a variety of ways including: learning how to use comparative data in public reports; learning best practices in communicating with employees about quality and cost; and participating in meetings to address common interests.