By Abbie Leibowitz, M.D., F.A.A.P. | Employee Benefit News
With healthcare benefit costs predicted to increase 5% in 2018, a growing number of large U.S. employers plan to focus more on how healthcare is delivered and paid for, while still pursuing traditional methods of controlling costs such as cost sharing and plan design changes, according to The Large Employers’ 2018 Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey from the National Business Group on Health.
The NBGH survey found that employers will increasingly focus on value purchasing opportunities within the medical delivery system as well as improving the experience for healthcare consumers.
With those findings as a backdrop, boosting productivity and engagement and battling increased healthcare costs remain stubborn, formidable challenges for employers.
To try to move the needle, employers have added an increasing array of support programs as additional benefits. Many offer valuable resources, but the resulting program mix often tends to only increase the complexity of health benefits as employees strive to become more savvy healthcare consumers.
The missing link is the connective tissue that blends separate and siloed benefit programs in a meaningfully integrated way, delivering the most relevant choices to each employee according to relevance, personal preference and interest. Solving this dilemma requires an intuitive approach that is both high-touch and high-tech — a single, encompassing portal that can successfully guide employees on their journey.
Breaking it down, five key attributes are required to ensure the success of an engagement platform. It must be:
- Integrated. It’s critical that the engagement platform unify data from a myriad of sources and programs. That includes company information, links to benefits, essential phone numbers, connections to wellness programs and chronic disease management tools, and health savings account balance management from a single mobile engagement platform.
- Relevant. Relevancy includes capturing personal preferences for communications, the option to create a personalized “to-do” list specific to each employee’s needs, the ability to push reminders like, “Keep up the good work and become tobacco free!” or “Schedule your diabetic eye exam,” providing access to benefits information and reminders regarding gaps in care. Being relevant to the individual drives use, and so drives value from the tool.
- Consumer-like. If it’s not easy, it won’t be used. Much like shopping online, the platform must minimize the need to “hunt” for relevant information. Well-designed platforms mimic the online consumer experience, cleverly presenting the same information in multiple appropriate places to reinforce messages without seeming redundant.
- Smart. Real-time information access to things such as updates on pending support requests and appointment reminders are table stakes. Plus, feedback about progress toward employee health goals and customized information based on health status must be available. The best platforms take a “people like me” approach and learn about the user as they go.
- Connected. This means offering an open door to access all benefits seamlessly, using the communications channel that best serves each employee. It also means a platform backed by live support, available online and by chat, email or phone.
An effective patient engagement portal must eliminate confusion and anxiety. The portal should be the first option for all employees, but it might not be the last. By connecting to employees through multiple communication channels, employers can increase every employee’s engagement in their health journey, regardless of whether they are tech savvy.