Four tips to modernize your benefits engagement

Seth Cohen, Vice President of Strategic Accounts and Alliances, Castlight Health


Blame it on Google search or Netflix’s recommendation engine—either way, we are now accustomed to getting information the way we want it, when we want it. Yet many employers are still physically mailing out lengthy open enrollment booklets to their employees once a year, crossing their fingers that they’ll somehow hop out of the drawers they’ve been stashed in when employees need to make a health care choice. There has to be a better, more contemporary way to get employees the information they need.

Innovative benefits technologies are changing the game, leveraging best practices from leading consumer-centric companies like Amazon and Netflix to give employees an easy way to make the best choices for their health.

With rising premiums and growing legislative pressure, employers should focus on empowering employees with the information they need to make smart health care choices that can help control costs and improve the overall health care experience. Here are some engagement practices you can use to help your employees make better health care decisions.

1. Create a one-stop shop

A typical employer offers health-related services from at least a dozen vendors. For employees, that means a maze of websites to navigate, multiple logins to manage, and an 80-page guide collecting dust in a drawer. What employees need instead is a single place to go where they can easily understand and access all their health benefits and programs. Most importantly, this central location should be personalized to the end user, with seamless integration of individual medical, dental and pharmacy spend, as well as data-driven displays of key programs. All of this information should be presented in a user-friendly manner, with easy search capabilities so employees can access the right information at the right time.

2. Make sure it’s personal with targeted, tailored outreach

Having a central location with a simple, easy-to-use interface is important, but it’s not enough. A benefits platform is only effective if employees actually navigate to it when they’re making health care decisions. To do this, it’s critical to engage employees with proactive and tailored communications that reach them at the moment they’re making a decision. This is where data comes in. Using claims, search, social and demographic data, it’s possible to predict when employees are about to make decisions and proactively guide them to the right care, benefit or program. An employee with back pain, for example, could turn to information resources contained within their wellness or benefits platform, which could capture that interaction and then follow up with the employee through a personalized email with back-stretching exercises and other suggestions.

3. On demand and on the go

These days, most of us are accustomed to accessing information from multiple platforms at any time. To order take-out, for example, a customer can call, order online or use an app. Pizzas can even be ordered through Twitter now! Employees want and expect that kind of flexibility for health benefits, as well. It makes practical sense, too, since there’s a good chance they will not be sitting in front of their office computer when a health problem crops up. The ability to connect with employees through multiple channels, including text, mobile push, email and apps is critical to “meeting employees where they are,” and connecting with them in the way they want.

4. Real-time data means real results

Timely, real-time data is the key ingredient to a personalized and relevant benefits experience. In most cases, though, benefits managers are working with information that is at least six months old, and often have no way to gather feedback from their employees. No business can operate effectively without timely ways to gather feedback. Benefits leaders need activity reporting on a daily basis so they can benchmark engagement and satisfaction. Imagine being able to launch a benefits campaign and immediately determine if members are engaging with the content and if they find it helpful. Such information can enable a new model of experimentation and the development of better strategies.

As health care options and benefit plans become more complex, it’s up to employers to find ways to simplify the experience for employees and drive engagement. A new breed of health benefits technologies, powered by data, is helping make that possible.

After all, it’s 2016. In almost all other areas of life, your employees are already behaving as informed and empowered consumers. Isn’t it time to help them become informed and empowered health care consumers, too?

This article originally appeared on Benefitfocus’ blog.