5 ways digital tools can help build a better benefits package

"...digital tools can be excellent motivators and are a popular option for keeping employees to their wellness objectives..." In this article from Employee Benefit Advisor, we get a fantastic look at some statistics and digital tools to create better employee engagement.


The American workforce has an employee engagement problem: Half of U.S. workers are disengaged, according to a recent Gallup poll. That not only has a detrimental effect on individual wellness, but on company culture and the bottom line. According to The Engagement Institute, disengaged employees cost organizations between $450 and $550 billion every year. In addition to being less productive, they’re also more likely to quit.

One of the most effective ways to improve employee engagement is to offer better benefits. In fact, research conducted by Willis Towers Watson found 75% of employees said they were more likely to stay with their employer because of their benefit program. This demonstrates the value of designing an employee benefits package that really works for your staff. And to even better engage workers with benefits, employers should utilize HR apps and employee wellness software.

They vary in functionality, device compatibility, and of course price, but they all share five considerable advantages:

They’re highly adaptable. Unlike programs that rely on in-person use or resources that are primarily stored in binders, digital content can be updated on the fly. This flexibility makes it very easy to keep the information current and relevant, and it even opens the door to personalized benefits. For instance, if each employee has their own login, they can bookmark the resources they find most useful and receive suggestions based on those picks. Seventy-two percent of employees in a MetLife survey say being able to customize their benefits would increase their loyalty to their current employer, which makes this perk doubly advantageous.

They’re fully integrative. One major complaint employees have is that their health information is so disjointed. Dental, physical, psychological and nutritional data is siloed, creating a cumbersome situation for employees when it comes to accessing and updating their records. Digital tools neatly solve this problem by collecting all these resources in one place. All employees have to do is sign into one account to view all their health-related resources, benefits, emergency phone numbers, enrolment information, health savings account balance and so on.

They’re constantly accessible. Have you noticed your staff using fewer and fewer benefits over time? It’s easy to assume they’ve lost interest, but chances are they’ve simply forgotten what’s available to them. Digital tools are a fantastic way of combating that attrition for a couple of reasons. First, they’re super easy to access because they can be used essentially anytime, anywhere. The second reason your staff is more likely to continue using their benefits with a digital platform is because it can serve them with notifications and reminders. They no longer have the excuse of being unaware when fresh content is added, or missing medical appointments.

They encourage employee goals. To add to the previous point, digital tools can be excellent motivators and are a popular option for keeping employees to their wellness objectives. Two of the most common goals are weight loss and smoking cessation, but your employees can use calendar, reminders, notes, fitness trackers and other features to push them toward any goal they like.

They’re easily scalable. Finally, digital tools are the most efficient way of reaching a large employee base, especially if they’re spread over a large geographical distance. It’s impossible to expect a thousand employees located in different states to attend a stress management seminar, for example, but it’s not unreasonable to ask them to watch a five minute video or listen to a podcast. Digital resources are changing the game when it comes to reaching all employees equally so that no one gets left behind.

Some things to keep in mind

Now that you’ve been convinced to digitize your employee wellness program, there are a couple of assurances you should make. The first is confidentiality. Your employees need to feel safe accessing your health resources, so guaranteeing the security and privacy of their information is a must. You should also make accommodations for various accessibility concerns. In other words, having all your resources in video format isn’t helpful for employees who are visually impaired. Also be aware of the different situations in which your staff might need access (at home, on the go, with or without an internet connection, etc) to ensure maximum ease of use.

Why is this all so important? As cool and cutting-edge as many of these digital tools are, at the end of the day your goal is to promote employee well-being and engagement. Anything that encourages your staff to come into work with a smile on their faces is worthwhile. Gallup studies have shown highly engaged organizations are 21% more profitable, 17% more productive, and achieve a 41% reduction in absenteeism. No matter how effective your current benefits package is, you can — and should — take it to the next level with a digital program.

 

Read the original article.

Source:
Mittag A. (17 November 2017). "5 ways digital tools can help build a better benefits package" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/5-ways-digital-tools-can-help-build-a-better-benefits-package?feed=00000152-1387-d1cc-a5fa-7fffaf8f0000

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Collaborative Innovation Is Necessary To Advance In Health Care

Technology has taken over the modern way-of-life, and it definitely hasn't stopped in health care. Check out this intriguing articles from Forbes on why collaboration between tech and health care may just be necessary for the progression of wellness.

Shutterstock

As health needs grow, it is imperative that innovation is at the frontier of change, to keep the health needs and requirements of the 21st century scalable. For innovation in health care to be sustained at an economically and fiscally responsible pace, it has to be a collaborative effort, requiring input from diverse stakeholders and key players in the industry. A collaborative health care system that includes information sharing, cross-industry cooperation and open innovation can lead to beneficial industry practices like cost reduction and time efficiency. Together, these practices set a precedent for growth and development at a more rapid pace.

An Efficient Method Of Doing Things

Toeing the line of technology advancements, innovation within the health care system has pioneered the development of cost-efficient, highly-optimized pragmatic solutions to many industry and individual health challenges. Artificial retinasrobotic nurses and gene therapy are just a few examples of plentiful recent innovations. These innovative technologies pose solutions to medical feats that, in the past, have overwhelmed medical practitioners, and thereby are expected to permit better health care delivery to patients and the global population. However, for these new advancements to be successfully implemented and established within the health care system, they must be met with collaboration and cooperation.

Creating A Synergistic Environment

Open, collective innovation like Project Data Sphere, designed to collate big data and bridge the distant segments of the health care industry, markup the necessity of innovation in the sector. In the case of Project Data Sphere, the goal is to facilitate the creation of a connected health care network bereft of the many loopholes characteristic of the system. Interoperability between key segments of the industry has always been a rate limiting factor. A unified platform capable of linking these segments together can have a significant impact on the sector.

Multiple companies are undertaking projects to build "cloud-based, big data platform" solutions that manage data to give the health industry the necessary edge it needs to manage itself. This ranges from cloud-based platforms powered by libraries of clinical, social and behavioral analytics utilized for sharing information across multiple hospitals, to using big data and advanced analytics for clinical improvements, financial analysis and fraud and waste monitoring.

Collaborating To Go Digital

Concurrent with the world’s continued adoption of digital technologies is the rapid expansion of the digital health care market — an expansion fostered by collaboration among global leaders of digital innovation in the health care industry. The partnership between major players in both the private and public sectors has engineered a growing list of innovative digital health care solutions.

Just last year an Israeli-based pharmaceutical company joined forces with Santa Clara, California-based Intel to develop wearables that routinely record and analyze symptoms of Huntington’s disease. The data collected is processed to help grade motor symptom severity associated with the disease.

Most times, singular organizations lack the human and financial resources to orchestrate grand schemes of innovation alone — but collaboration presents a practical route to overcoming the limitations that hinder novelty, leading to quicker turnarounds and advancements.

Scaling The Barriers To Innovation

If the push for innovation in the health care system is to thrive, then the complexities and obstacles that have continually stifled progress must be confronted. Aside from collaboration, other notable barriers to innovation include:

• The immediate return mentality: By default, most leaders show a preference for innovative solutions that offer immediate financial rewards. Innovative solutions with brighter prospects but long term financial incentives are in most instances placed on a back burner.

• Bureaucracy in the distributive network:Innovators have to wade through multiple third parties if they are to stand any chance of getting their products to the end user, a process that is not only daunting but financially implicative.

• Stringent regulatory practices: In addition to scaling through the bureaucracy, innovative solutions looking to make a market appearance have to pass several screenings, some of which have been tagged redundant by experts.

Innovation is a necessary tool in the health care sector that gives an essential boost to scale insurmountable obstacles and limitations. For health care to evolve into a more sophisticated and efficient system, cross-industry collaboration and inter-professional cooperation must become the norm.

 

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Pando A. (19 September 2017). "Collaborative Innovation Is Necessary To Advance In Health Care" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2017/09/19/collaborative-innovation-is-necessary-to-advance-in-health-care/2/#6743d07669c9


Pagers, AI, And Google: 3 Tales Of Technology And Medicine

 As a society, we owe technology applause for helping improve our medical abilities tenfold. Today, we thought it would be fun to take a look back on how technological advancements have succeeded in making our medicine better than ever, and how they continue to do so. Take a moment of your time to read this article from Forbes on Pagers, AI, and Google.


Medicine and technological advancement have been intimately intertwined, from the invention of the stethoscope to the latest innovations in MRI scanning. But the road isn’t always smooth. There can be interesting bumps and glitches along the way, as illustrated by these three recent stories.

1) Old tech can linger

The Guardian recently reported that the UK National Health Service uses more than 10% of the world’s pagers. The pagers cost £6.6 million ($8.9 million) per year. Furthermore, the UK will soon only have one provider of pagers nationwide after Vodafone exits the market.

One critic noted, “Taxpayers will wonder why the NHS is spending millions on outdated technology, especially at a time when savings need to be made.”

As a young doctor in the 1990s, I carried a pager. But nowadays, most physicians I know use cell phones to take emergency calls. However, The Guardian notes that there are still a few advantages to pagers, namely:

...[S]lightly more reliability. Where mobile phone networks can be patchy, or slow, or overloaded, the separate paging network offers a modest improvement in reception and reach, especially in rural areas. Compared with modern smartphones, pager batteries also last much longer.

I can see pagers lingering on for special niche applications. But for most people, their time has passed.

By Jakez (Own work), Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

An old pager/beeper.

2) New tech can be overhyped

I believe that artificial intelligence (AI) will some day have a major impact in the practice of medicine. But STAT News reporters Casey Ross and Ike Swetlitz have described how the IBM Watson AI system “isn’t living up to the lofty expectations IBM created for it.”

Specifically, the Watson for Oncology was intended to help improve cancer care by helping physician with treatment recommendations based on the best available worldwide data

Ross and Swetlitz reported:

While it has emphatically marketed Watson for cancer care, IBM hasn’t published any scientific papers demonstrating how the technology affects physicians and patients. As a result, its flaws are getting exposed on the front lines of care by doctors and researchers who say that the system, while promising in some respects, remains undeveloped...

Perhaps the most stunning overreach is in the company’s claim that Watson for Oncology, through artificial intelligence, can sift through reams of data to generate new insights and identify, as an IBM sales rep put it, “even new approaches” to cancer care. STAT found that the system doesn’t create new knowledge and is artificially intelligent only in the most rudimentary sense of the term.

Because of problems with Watson, the highly-regarded MD Anderson Cancer Center (part of the University of Texas) cancelled its partnership with Watson “amid internal allegations of overspending, delays, and mismanagement.”

I still believe that AI will revolutionize medical care, even if specific products might not (yet) be ready for prime time. I take heart in the fact that the Apple Newton was also a product not ready for prime time — but it did set the stage for the much more successful Apple iPhone and the current mobile technology revolution. Similarly, I think the long-term future of medical AI remains bright, even if specific products may struggle to meet expectations.

3) Current technology can alter the doctor-patient relationship in unexpected ways

Many patients routinely use search engines like Google to find good doctors or to learn more about their physician’s professional qualifications. But to what extent should doctors be searching for information on their patients?

Erene Stergiopoulos discusses this issue in a fascinating essay, “Getting Googled by Your Doctor”:

Searching for patients’ information online gives physicians a way to gather collateral data about a patient who either cannot or will not communicate important clinical information, says Paul Appelbaum, a psychiatrist, professor at Columbia University, and world expert in medical ethics and the law...

That online collateral information is especially useful [in the acute setting, Applebaum] says, where patients may be psychotic, intoxicated, or suicidal. In these acute settings, social media can provide clinicians with valuable context to make decisions — whether the patient uses drugs or alcohol, has self-harmed, or has family support...

However, Stergiopoulos notes that patients can feel betrayed if content from their social media posts ends up in their medical record without their consent.

Furthermore, this can create medico-legal problems:

As more and more providers Google to guide their decisions, they may be shifting the clinical standards to which all practitioners are held... If practitioners neglect that standard, and something preventable goes wrong, they risk accusations of malpractice. In other words, if patient-targeted online searches become the new standard of care, then clinicians could become liable for information patients post online. If a patient leaves a suicidal message on Facebook, and the clinician misses it, there’s a future — seemingly more plausible by the day — in which that clinician could be sued for malpractice if the patient then attempts suicide.

In informal discussions with other health professionals, some colleagues have said they never Google their patients. Others do so selectively. Yet others consider it a legitimate part of conscientious medical practice. And some physicians feel strongly that if patients can Google their doctors, they as physicians should similarly be able to Google their patients.

Clearly, this is an area where medical and legal standards are still evolving. In the meantime, if patients are uncomfortable with their physicians Googling them, they might wish to make their preferences clear ahead of time, before they and their doctor suffer a misunderstanding.

You can read the original article here.
Source:
Hsieh P. (25 September 2017). "Pagers, AI, And Google: 3 Tales Of Technology And Medecine" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.forbes.com/sites/paulhsieh/2017/09/25/pagers-ai-and-google/3/#67ac15ab7a47

CC0 License ✓ Free for personal and commercial use ✓ No attribution required

Apple, Fitbit to join FDA program to speed health tech

Wondering how technology can speed the process of developing health tech? In this article from BenefitsPro written by Anna Edney, gain a close insight on how Apple and Fitbit are working together with the FDA to make your health of vital importance.

You can read the original article here.


A federal agency that regulates apples wants to make regulations on Apple Inc. a little easier.

The Food and Drug Administration, which oversees new drugs, medical devices and much of the U.S. food supply, said Tuesday that it had selected nine major tech companies for a pilot program that may let them avoid some regulations that have tied up developers working on health software and products.

“We need to modernize our regulatory framework so that it matches the kind of innovation we’re being asked to evaluate,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

The program is meant to let the companies get products pre-cleared rather than going through the agency’s standard application and approval process that can take months. Along with Apple, Fitbit Inc., Samsung Electronics Co., Verily Life Sciences, Johnson & Johnson and Roche Holding AG will participate.

 

A new report and video from the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) identifies six promising practices for effectively integrating wearables...
The FDA program is meant to help the companies more rapidly develop new products while maintaining some government oversight of technology that may be used by patients or their doctors to prevent, diagnose and treat conditions.

Apple is studying whether its watch can detect heart abnormalities. The process it will go through to make sure it’s using sound quality metrics and other measures won’t be as costly and time-consuming as when the government clears a new pacemaker, for example. Verily, the life sciences arm of Google parent Alphabet Inc., is working with Novartis AG to develop a contact lens that could continuously monitor the body’s blood sugar.

Faster Pace

“Historically, health care has been slow to implement disruptive technology tools that have transformed other areas of commerce and daily life,” Gottlieb said in July when he announced that digital health manufacturers could apply for the pilot program.

Officially dubbed the Pre-Cert for Software Pilot, Gottlieb at the time called it “a new and pragmatic approach to digital health technology.”

The other companies included in the pilot are Pear Therapeutics Inc., Phosphorus Inc. and Tidepool.

The program is part of a broader move at the FDA, particularly since Gottlieb took over in May, to streamline regulation and get medical products to patients faster. The commissioner said last week the agency will clarify how drugmakers might use data from treatments already approved in some disease to gain approvals for more conditions. In July, he delayed oversight of electronic cigarettes while the agency decides what information it will need from makers of the products.

Rules Uncertainty

As Silicon Valley developers have pushed into health care, the industry has been at times uncertain about when it needed the FDA’s approval. In 2013, the consumer gene-testing company 23andMe Inc. was ordered by the agency to temporarily stop selling its health analysis product until it was cleared by regulators, for example.

Under the pilot, the FDA will scrutinize digital health companies’ software and will inspect their facilities to ensure they meet quality standards and can adequately track their products once they’re on the market. If they pass the agency’s audits, the companies would be pre-certified and may face a less stringent approval process or not have to go through FDA approval at all.

More than 100 companies were interested in the pilot, according to the FDA. The agency plans to hold a public workshop on the program in January to help developers not in the pilot understand the process and four months of initial findings.

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Edeny A. (27 September 2017). "Apple, Fitbit to join FDA program to speed health tech" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/09/27/apple-fitbit-to-join-fda-program-to-speed-health-t

 


How data analytics is changing employee benefit strategies

As technology continues to grow and expand, more employers are turning to digital platforms when it comes to managing their employee benefits program. With more access to technology, employers can use data accumulated from their employees to better personalize their employee benefits package to fit each individual's needs. Take a look at this column by Eric Helman from Employee Benefit Advisor and find out some more tips on how you can better leverage the data from an employee benefits program to fit your employees'es needs.

In the realm of employee benefits, surveys, focus groups and anecdotes about specific employee encounters with the benefits program typically drive the discussions about how that program should evolve in the future. Unlike the situation at Outback, it is difficult to “observe” how people actually consume benefits and tailor a program that is attractive to them.

Fortunately, recent developments in data analytics have unlocked the potential of using consumer behavior insights to drive employee benefits strategy.

Leading practitioners are beginning to leverage these developments to change the annual renewal process. The technologies that support data aggregation, normalization and reporting have been aggressively developed to support the provider and payer communities. Only now have these advancements been made available to employers and their advisers.

The most successful practitioners point to the value of standardized claims reporting based upon credible data. By combining current claims data with industry benchmarks and predictive analytics, employers gain insight into the ongoing performance of their benefit plans. They “see” for themselves what industry professionals have been telling them for years. Plan performance is based upon claims, both in terms of the number of units of healthcare consumed and the price of those units. In recent surveys, benefit professionals report the difficulty they have in convincing CFOs and CEOs to make the necessary changes to benefit programs. Standardized reporting from a credible analytics platform can greatly enhance the ability for benefit professionals to communicate their agenda.

But standardized reporting is not the panacea. Benefits are complex. And the relationship between risk and consumption of healthcare add to the complexity. Even in the best reporting environments where executives are well informed about the performance of their plans and how the key metrics compare to industry norms, they are often perplexed about what to do with the information. Advancements in the realm of “actionable analytics” are beginning to address this problem as well.

While artificial intelligence or AI is all the rage, the underlying concept of having a computer suggest a course of action based upon data is not a new idea. The new application to employee benefits is the ability to provide “suggestions” in the context of standardized financial reporting. The number of ideas to bend the cost curve are numerous. The challenge is matching these ideas with the appropriate populations, convincing decision makers to invest and engaging the appropriate cohorts of employees to take specific actions necessary to realize the return on investment for these initiatives.

New systems are now available to close the gaps on this execution continuum. The foundation for these new systems is a robust analytics platform. But actionable analytics build upon this foundation by evaluating the employer’s data to discern whether a specific cost-saving initiative might generate savings worthy of the investment. These new systems present the output of that analysis in an easy to understand graphical format for benefit consultants and HR professionals to effectively communicate the potential of cost savings initiatives to decision makers.

Targeted engagement maximizes compliance and ROI
Getting executives to commit to intentional actions to affect the rising costs of benefits solves one half of the problem. The second half of the problem is one of focus. Rather than attempting to engage all employees with generalized messaging, these new systems use analytics to focus their engagement on a specific cohort of individuals in order to drive the greatest impact. This focus allows for a concentration of resources on the targeted populations, resulting in increased compliance and larger return on investment. The best implementations are integrated with benefits administration platforms and can incorporate multiple initiatives simultaneously. Point solutions, from an engagement perspective, have been proven to result in single-digit compliance. The power of an integrated engagement solution allows for initiatives that, because they are both focused and automated, can be executed simultaneously.

Advancements in technology have created a new era in which the democratization of big data allows for non-technical professionals to access detailed information and convert that information into intelligence. According to a recent survey, more than 65% of employers confess they are not strategic when it comes to benefits cost management. In spite of the many cost savings ideas available, more than 40% say they are not engaging in any new initiatives in the upcoming year. While the future of healthcare reform is in doubt, the potential for actionable analytics to significantly change the trajectory of the employer’s benefits costs is certain.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Helman E.  (2017 September 5). How data analytics is changing employee benefit strategies [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/closing-the-execution-continuum-on-employee-benefit-cost-savings


4 Trends Shaping Cybersecurity in 2017

The threat of cyber attacks is increasing every day. Make sure you are stay up-to-date with all the recent news and trends happening in the world of cyber security so you can stay informed on how to protect yourself from cyber threats. Check out this great column by Denny Jacob from Property Casualty 360 and find out about the top 4 trends impacting cybersecurity this year.

No. 4: Growing areas of concern

Organizations with a chief information security officer (CISO) in 2017 increased to 65 percent compared to 50 percent in 2016. Staffing challenges and budgetary distribution, however, reveal where organizations face exposure.

Finding qualified personnel to fill cybersecurity positions is as ongoing challenge. For example, one-third of study respondents note that their enterprises receive more than 10 applicants for an open position. More than half of those applicants, however, are unqualified. Even skilled applicants require time and training before their job performance is up to par with others who are already working on the company's cybersecurity operation.

Half of the study respondents reported security budgets will increase in 2017, which is down from 65 percent of respondents who reported an increase in 2016. This, along with staffing challenges, has many enterprises reliant on both automation and external resources to offset missing skills on the cybersecurity team.

Another challenge: Relying on third-party vendors means there must be funds available to offset any personnel shortage.

If the skills gap continues unabated and the funding for automation and external third-party support is reduced, businesses will struggle to fill their cybersecurity needs.

No. 3: More complicated cyber threats

Faced with declining budgets, businesses will have less funding available on a per-attack basis. Meanwhile, the number of attacks is growing, and they are becoming more sophisticated.

More than half (53 percent) of respondents noted an increase in the overall number of attacks compared previous years. Only half (roughly 50 percent) said their companies executed a cybersecurity incident response plan in 2016.

Here are some additional findings regarding the recent uptick in cyber breaches:

• 10 percent of respondents reported experiencing a hijacking of corporate assets for botnet use;• 18 percent reported experiencing an advanced persistent threat (APT) attack; and

• 14 percent reported stolen credentials.

• Last year’s results for the three types of attacks were:

• 15 percent for botnet use;

• 25 percent for APT attacks; and

•15 percent involving stolen credentials.

Phishing (40 percent), malware (37 percent) and social engineering (29 percent) continue to top the charts in terms of the specific types of attacks, although their overall frequency of occurrence decreased: Although attacks are up overall, the number of attacks in these three categories is down.

No. 2: Mobile takes a backseat to IoT

Businesses are now more sophisticated in the mobile arena. The proof: Cyber breaches resulting from mobile devices are down. Only 13 percent of respondents cite lost mobile devices as an exploitation vector in 2016, compared to 34 percent in 2015. Encryption factors into the decrease; only 9 percent indicated that lost or stolen mobile devices were unencrypted.

IoT continues to rise as an area of concern. Three out of five (59 percent) of the 2016 respondents cite some level of concern relative to IoT, while an additional 30 percent are either "extremely concerned" or "very concerned" about this exposure.

IoT is an increasingly important element in governance, risk and cybersecurity activities. This is a challenging area for many, because traditional security efforts may not already cover the functions and devices feeding this digital trend.

No. 1: Ransomware is the new normal

The number of code attacks, including ransomware attacks, remains high: 62 percent of respondents reported their enterprises experienced a ransomware attackspecifically.

Half of the respondents believe financial gain is the biggest motivator for criminals, followed by disruption of service (45 percent) and theft of personally identifiable information (37 percent). Despite this trend, only 53 percent of respondents' companies have a formal process in place to deal with ransomware attacks.

What does that look like?

Businesses can conduct "tabletop" exercises that stage a ransomware event or discuss in advance decisions about payment vs. non-payment. Payment may seem like the easiest solution, but law enforcement agencies warn it can have an encouraging effect on those criminals as some cases lead to repeated attacks of the same business.

Many cybersecurity specialists argue that the best way to fight a ransomware attack is to avoid one in the first place. Advance planning that might include the implementation of a governing corporate policy or other operating parameters, can help to ensure that the best cybersecurity decisions are made when the time comes to battle a breach.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Jacob D. (2017 August 25). 4 trends shaping cybersecurity in 2017 [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/08/25/4-trends-shaping-cybersecurity-in-2017?ref=hp-in-depth&page_all=1


Closing the execution continuum on employee benefit cost savings

Are you using big data to reduce your employee benefits costs? As more employers switch their employee benefits to a digital platform, big data can be a great tool for employers looking to reduce the costs associated with their benefits program. Check out this great article by Eric Helman from Employee Benefit Advisor and found out how you can leverage your data to reduce to cost of an employee benefit program.

A revolution in employee benefits is on the horizon, and 21st century analytics is at the core. Big data holds the promise to scan huge amounts of information in a near real-time environment for insights that will impact the current and future trajectory for a given area. The advancement of true cross-vendor analytics, prescription, engagement and measurement brought on by the democratization of big data is enabling employers, brokers and consultants to improve the performance of their employee benefits plans like never before.

Two decades ago, I had the opportunity to hear Chris Sullivan, one of the founders of Outback Steakhouse, speak to a group of executives about customer research. His sentiments: “We don’t do focus groups. People don’t know what they want. Who would say they would like to stand in line for 30 minutes to eat salty food in a very loud restaurant? But that is exactly what they wanted. And that is what made Outback a success. Instead of focus groups, we place very talented and engaged proprietors in our stores and teach them to observe what people want. Then, we replicate that experience.”

In the realm of employee benefits, surveys, focus groups and anecdotes about specific employee encounters with the benefits program typically drive the discussions about how that program should evolve in the future. Unlike the situation at Outback, it is difficult to “observe” how people actually consume benefits and tailor a program that is attractive to them.

Analytics drive strategy 
Fortunately, recent developments in data analytics have unlocked the potential of using consumer behavior insights to drive employee benefits strategy. Leading practitioners are beginning to leverage these developments to change the annual renewal process. The technologies that support data aggregation, normalization and reporting have been aggressively developed to support the provider and payer communities. Only now have these advancements been made available to employers and their advisers.

The most successful practitioners point to the value of standardized claims reporting based upon credible data. By combining current claims data with industry benchmarks and predictive analytics, employers gain insight into the ongoing performance of their benefit plans. They “see” for themselves what industry professionals have been telling them for years. Plan performance is based upon claims, both in terms of the number of units of healthcare consumed and the price of those units. In recent surveys, benefit professionals report the difficulty they have in convincing CFOs and CEOs to make the necessary changes to benefit programs. Standardized reporting from a credible analytics platform can greatly enhance the ability for benefit professionals to communicate their agenda.

But standardized reporting is not the panacea. Benefits are complex. And the relationship between risk and consumption of healthcare add to the complexity. Even in the best reporting environments where executives are well informed about the performance of their plans and how the key metrics compare to industry norms, they are often perplexed about what to do with the information. Advancements in the realm of “actionable analytics” are beginning to address this problem as well.

While artificial intelligence or AI is all the rage, the underlying concept of having a computer suggest a course of action based upon data is not a new idea. The new application to employee benefits is the ability to provide “suggestions” in the context of standardized financial reporting. The number of ideas to bend the cost curve are numerous. The challenge is matching these ideas with the appropriate populations, convincing decision makers to invest and engaging the appropriate cohorts of employees to take specific actions necessary to realize the return on investment for these initiatives.

New systems are now available to close the gaps on this execution continuum. The foundation for these new systems is a robust analytics platform. But actionable analytics build upon this foundation by evaluating the employer’s data to discern whether a specific cost-saving initiative might generate savings worthy of the investment. These new systems present the output of that analysis in an easy to understand graphical format for benefit consultants and HR professionals to effectively communicate the potential of cost savings initiatives to decision makers.

Targeted engagement maximizes compliance and ROI
Getting executives to commit to intentional actions to affect the rising costs of benefits solves one half of the problem. The second half of the problem is one of focus. Rather than attempting to engage all employees with generalized messaging, these new systems use analytics to focus their engagement on a specific cohort of individuals in order to drive the greatest impact. This focus allows for a concentration of resources on the targeted populations, resulting in increased compliance and larger return on investment. The best implementations are integrated with benefits administration platforms and can incorporate multiple initiatives simultaneously. Point solutions, from an engagement perspective, have been proven to result in single-digit compliance. The power of an integrated engagement solution allows for initiatives that, because they are both focused and automated, can be executed simultaneously.

Advancements in technology have created a new era in which the democratization of big data allows for non-technical professionals to access detailed information and convert that information into intelligence. According to a recent survey, more than 65% of employers confess they are not strategic when it comes to benefits cost management. In spite of the many cost savings ideas available, more than 40% say they are not engaging in any new initiatives in the upcoming year. While the future of healthcare reform is in doubt, the potential for actionable analytics to significantly change the trajectory of the employer’s benefits costs is certain.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Helman E. (2017 September 5). Closing the execution continuum on employee benefit cost savings [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/closing-the-execution-continuum-on-employee-benefit-cost-savings?brief=00000152-146e-d1cc-a5fa-7cff8fee0000


Benefits Technology: What do Employers Want?

Do you know which technolgy will be the most benefical for your employee benefits program? Take a look at this article by Kimberly Landry from Benefits Pro on what employers should be looking for when searching for the right technology for the benefits program.

It’s no secret that we are in the midst of a revolution in how employers manage their insurance benefits. Enrolling and administering benefits was once a manual process involving plenty of paperwork, but much of this work has now shifted to electronic benefits platforms. A recent LIMRA survey, Convenient and Connected: How Are Employers Using Technology Today?, found that 59 percent of employers are now using a technology platform for insurance benefit enrollment, administration, or both. In addition, more than 1 in 3 firms that do not use technology are currently looking for a platform.

Brokers can provide value to their clients by helping them find a technology system that meets their needs. In fact, over one quarter of employers say their broker should have primary responsibility for researching and evaluating possible technology solutions. However, to do this successfully, it is necessary to understand what problems employers are trying to solve with technology.

The advantages of benefits technology tend to fall into two categories: improving the experience for HR/benefits staff and improving the experience for employees. While employers see the value of both aspects, it is clear that the desire for technology is driven more by HR needs such as reducing costs, improving management of benefits data, and reducing the time and resources needed to administer benefits, rather than employee needs (Figure X). In seeking technology, employers are, first and foremost, trying to make their own lives easier.

This provides insight into some of the key features employers are seeking in technology, many of which revolve around greater convenience in managing benefits. For example, 80 percent of employers say it is important for a technology platform to be accessible all year so they can use it for ongoing administration and updates, rather than a “one-and-done” enrollment system. Ongoing access is one of the top features employers look for in a platform, with sizable portions also specifying that they want a system that can enroll new hires and support ongoing life event and coverage changes.

I would love to find a product … that would allow us to reduce the amount of time that we spend during the enrollment process and also during the course of a year, adding employees or terminating employees.

—Employer with 65 employees (Voice of the Employer,LIMRA, 2016)

Similarly, 77 percent of employers want a technology system that can manage all of their benefits on the same platform, regardless of which carriers are providing the products. Consolidating benefits on one platform helps employers save time and allows them to quickly get a complete view of their overall benefits package in one place. In fact, employers that currently manage all of their benefits on one platform are more satisfied with their technology than those that don’t have this capability. Moreover, roughly 1 in 6 employers say the ability to handle all benefits in one place would motivate them to switch technology platforms.

Employers also want the convenience of a platform that integrates smoothly with other technology systems, including carrier, payroll, and HRIS systems. When it comes to carrier systems, employers want to feel confident that no errors are occurring in the data transfer and don’t want to spend a lot of time checking for mistakes.

Our HR benefits administrator has spent an exorbitant amount of time trying to, literally person by person, dependent by dependent, go through each little piece and figure out why somebody's kid is getting dropped…So I think I'd like to see those communications [work] a little bit better.

—Employer with 320 employees

Employers also want technology to integrate with their payroll and other HRIS systems so they do not have to make changes in multiple systems, which is perceived as time-consuming and inefficient.

And those two systems...they don't communicate with each other... Without that communication, it's almost like double work because if there's an address change or anything like that, you have to go to one system, then go to another, and that just seems broken to me.

—Employer with 32 employees

While employers are primarily seeking convenience for their own HR staff, it is important to note that they would like this value to extend to their employees as well. Overall, 85 percent of employers think it’s important that an enrollment platform be easy and intuitive for their employees to use. In fact, user-friendliness is often one of the first priorities that comes to mind when employers describe their ideal platform.

I want to make sure it's easy, as simple as possible, as fast as possible, and I don't want it to be a burden every year.

—Employer with 30,000 employees 

When it comes to selecting benefits technology, it is clear that convenience is key. By guiding employers to technology solutions that will make it quicker and easier to administer benefits, brokers can improve the experience for everyone involved and help the industry move into the future.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Landry K. (2017 July 21). Benefits technology: what do employers want? [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/07/21/benefits-technology-what-do-employers-want?kw=Benefits+technology%3A+What+do+employers+want%3F&et=editorial&bu=BenefitsPRO&cn=20170721&src=EMC-Email_editorial&pt=Daily&page_all=1


Is Data Collection Key to a Successful Wellness Program?

Are you looking for the key to unlocking a successful wellness program? Check out this article by Joseph Goedert from Employee Benefit Adviser and see how data collecting can be a great resource to use when creating a successful wellness program.

The collection and analysis of consumer data can provide insights to employers, including healthcare organizations, into their employees’ health status while offering the basis for information for the creation of wellness plans.

An individual’s buying habits, voting affiliation and voting history, television viewing, financial status, family status and social sentiments—which are the emotions behind social media mentions—together can give a view of the individual’s overall well-being, says April Gill, vice president of analytics solutions at Welltok, a vendor that offers health optimization services.

Social media mentions, for instance, can be analyzed to generate a sentiment score on the general happiness of an individual. A regular voter can indicate a person who may be active in community affairs and may be agreeable to accepting a walking program to improve health.

Consumer data, matched with health data like lab results, claims and biometric data, can be used to start making correlations that detail the healthcare needs of a person. The goal, Gill says, is to have a better understanding of an individual’s receptivity to joining a health program that can offer the highest probability of success.

If an individual subscribes to Netflix or other television services, data collection companies can see what television shows a person is watching and if they are a couch potato and need to exercise more. A person watching a lot of sports might be a candidate for suggesting a step program or playing a sport. A diabetic who often is online may be a good candidate for an online diabetes management program and to stay engaged in the program. “We need to offer resources in a manner that patients are ready for,” Gill asserts. These resources could come from an employer, health plan or provider organization.

Privacy laws may limit the types of health data that employers can see, but Welltok will work with local providers to identity employees to be targeted for health interventions. “We can get individual level data from providers,” Gill says. “It behooves employers to establish relationships with local providers.”

That relationship includes working with providers to move beyond a focus on utilization—tracking how many individuals participated in a certain programs, she advises.

But while data can paint a picture of wellness, there are many gaps in the available information, Gill cautions. A lot of commercial data is not identifiable, and sometimes the data is incorrect.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Goedert J. (2017 June 9). Is data collection key to a successful wellness program [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/is-data-collection-key-to-a-successful-wellness-program?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


Employers Need to Protect Benefit Plans Against Cyberattacks

Is your employee benefits plan properly protected from cyberattacks? Here is a great article by Marlene Y. Satter from Benefits Pro on why employers must make sure that their employee benefits program is protected from cyberattacks and data breaches.

Think only credit card data and bank accounts are the targets of cyberattacks? Think again—because employee benefits data is in the hackers’ crosshairs.

That’s according to a report by the Society for Human Resource Management, which says that attacks on benefit plans can result in more than just loss of data for employers who fail to safeguard the information.

The report quotes Neal Schelberg, a partner with law firm Proskauer Rose in New York City, saying at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ 2017 Washington Legislative Update in Washington, D.C. that employee health and retirement plans “are big targets and particularly susceptible to cyberattacks,” and warning employers to defend their plans against hacking attempts.

Schelberg pointed to some major attacks, including a June 2016 hit on more than 90 deferred-compensation retirement accounts of Chicago municipal employees. Hackers not only got personal information, but managed to pull money from 58 accounts, with the city losing $2.6 million that had to be replaced in participant accounts and also providing credit monitoring services to account holders.

Another big hit the very next month targeted a grocery workers union pension plan in St. Louis, with hackers demanding a three-bitcoin (about $2,000) digital currency ransom to return control of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 655 pension plan’s computer servers.

Among the data at risk were employee names, birthdates, Social Security numbers and bank information. While the union refused to knuckle under and pay ransom (it had a backup system), it did end up footing the bill for a year of credit monitoring and theft restoration services.

But in another case, the University of Massachusetts Amherst was on the hook for a $650,000 penalty and had to follow a corrective action plan after a malware infection targeting the university's employee health care plan exposed the sensitive health information of 1,500 people in a potential violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Why so much? The Department of Health and Human Services found that the university had failed to accurately assess the risk of malware infection and adopt procedures to secure its data.

According to Schelberg, benefit plans “are particularly susceptible to cyber-risks because they store large amounts of sensitive employee information and share it with multiple third parties.” And even though security measures may not be foolproof, cyber-risks “can be managed.”

It could be argued, he said, that it’s actually within a plan trustee's fiduciary duties not only to prepare for a possible cyberattack but also to ensure that any breach results in as little exposure, and cost, as possible.

Some actions he suggested sponsors take to protect plan data include the following:

  • Developing and implementing a framework to address cybersecurity issues
  • Addressing third-party vendor vulnerabilities that could add risk, especially for electronic transfer of sensitive data to third parties
  • Backing up sensitive data, then storing it off network where it is not accessible to hackers
  • Boosting passwords, including adding multifactor authentication for accessing data systems
  • Increasing investment in security software and systems
  • Involving boards of directors more directly in security matters
  • Considering the purchase of cyberliability insurance

Sponsors must also be current on the HIPAA requirements for notification of people whose health information may have been breached, even if a third party is involved, as well as for ERISA requirements for notification and for other actions in the event of a security breach.

And in the case of ERISA, the process could be far more complicated than sponsors believe.

In the report, Kristen Mathews, another partner in Proskauers New York City office, was cited saying that benefit plans are affected by the laws of states where health plan enrollees or retirement plan participants live—not just the state where the company is headquartered or where the plan is administered.

She pointed out that pension plans could be affected by security laws in any state in which a retiree or beneficiary resides.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2017 June 9). Employers need to protect benefit plans against cyberattacks [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/06/09/employers-need-to-protect-benefit-plans-against-cy?ref=hp-news&page_all=1