· Features

Benefits Case: Study Ciber UK - It's good to get a second opinion

By giving employees access to the world's best medical minds, IT consultancy Ciber UK offers support for staff and their families when a serious illness is diagnosed.


Not all employees opt for full medical insurance through their company benefits scheme, perhaps feeling it is not needed or is beyond their financial reach. Health industry estimates suggest that between 1% and 2% of employees each year within any workforce will be diagnosed with a serious medical condition, and this can put tremendous strain on individuals at home and work. IT consultancy Ciber UK wanted to be supportive if one of its employees or their spouse was diagnosed with a serious illness. So last year the company introduced a free service called Best Doctors as part of its benefits package, giving staff and their spouses access to a massive database of 50,000 of the world's top medical specialists.


Best Doctors is available to Ciber UK's 260 employees and is free and confidential. When joining the company, every member of staff is given a brochure explaining what is available with a personalised card that will give them phone access to Best Doctors. The service was founded in 1989 by doctors at Harvard University School of Medicine to help people who have been diagnosed with a serious illness. When a Ciber UK employee or their spouse calls Best Doctors, a case manager will be assigned to them to collate all necessary medical reports from the existing health provider, search the database for the most relevant specialist, and put the individual in touch with that doctor for a detailed second opinion.


With clear communication about this benefit, staff see their employer as supportive and feel reassured that if grave medical problems arise, they can at least get peace of mind that the diagnosis is correct and the right treatment has been prescribed. Best Doctors also works with the treating doctor to ensure the right decisions are made throughout the process, so increasing the chances of a complete recovery. At Ciber UK, around five employees have made use of the service in its first year. This take-up would mirror the typical percentage of employees who suffer a serious medical condition in any given year. Currently, more than 4,500 employers in the UK have access to the Best Doctors employee benefit.


Hamler-Craxton says that in the highly competitive technology sector, an attractive benefits package is essential if the company is to attract and retain the very best IT consultants. "Most of our employees have opted for private health insurance, but Best Doctors provides an additional service to everyone, which sits well alongside our Employee Assistance Programme, and offers something valuable and unique," she explains. "It's about affording peace of mind and helping employees through incredibly difficult times." Staff are introduced to the service at induction and regularly reminded of it in the company newsletter and on posters. Feedback from employees since Best Doctors launched in early 2007 shows that they see the scheme as providing genuine value. "Making the service available to spouses has been particularly well received," says Hamler-Craxton. For Ciber UK, Best Doctors is cost-effective to run because it is bundled as part of an existing health insurance package.


"I contacted Best Doctors soon after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and found the process incredibly helpful," says Watkins. "My case manager, Gabby, kept in touch with me every couple of weeks to make sure I was providing the exact information Ciber UK needed, including copies of scans and reports from my neurologist." Alison contacted the Best Doctors service in January last year and had a report back by March, which thankfully confirmed that nothing had been missed in the original diagnosis and the suggested treatment was correct. Alison also spoke to an authority on multiple sclerosis in Madrid. "It was such a relief to get a second opinion because you're always wondering if a wrong decision has been made, or if something else should be done," she says. "It takes the pressure off, knowing that these doctors are the best in their field, and it won't cost you the earth to get their opinion."