The digital health gap: what employees want and what employers provide

It’s an exciting time to be selecting digital health solutions, as more than 98% of employees take advantage of one or more forms of technology to meet their health goals. But as an employer, how cognizant are you of what your employees want?

Although today’s employers are offering more and more innovative solutions to help employees live fuller, healthier lives, benefits leaders are not always aware of what programs are most attractive and useful to the people they serve. In fact, there’s usually a gap between what employees want and what employers provide.

To explore the extent of this gap, we launched a research initiative with Employee Benefit News. We surveyed more than 340 employers from mid- to enterprise-sized companies about how they use digital health tools, their satisfaction with them, and the value they are seeing.

We also surveyed more than 1,030 U.S.-based employees at large organizations about their overall health goals, how they use digital health tools, and what they want from their employers.

Our aim was to understand what employers are offering, and whether this meets employee demand. Through our research, we learned a lot about employers, employees, and the gaps between their perspectives.

In this article, we’re sharing the gaps we found between what employees want and what employers provide when it comes to digital health technology.

Employees’ biggest health goals are not always in line with offered digital health solutions

Employees aren’t ignoring their health. In fact, they have clearly defined health goals, and many of them are goals that benefit their whole person, rather than their physical body. For example, employees want to lose weight, save money for retirement, sleep better, and reduce stress.

However, when you compare what employees want most with what employers regularly offer, many of the employee goals are not met. Most of the employer offerings meet employees’ moderately common goals, as opposed to their top common goals.

Employers need to find solutions in the sweet spot

Employers want to find digital health solutions that make sense financially with a strong business case. But they also need to make sure these solutions drive employee happiness, and that employees will actually use them. In fact, we call this the “sweet spot.”

Digital health solutions that employers should look to provide

When it came time to map digital health solutions into the sweet spot, we had to create a methodology. We decided that:

  • “A strong business case” is considered solutions that over 40% of employers report having a strong or very strong business case
  • “Drives employee happiness” includes solutions where 20% or more employees report it as a top health goal
  • “High engagement” consists of solutions that have over 25% active participation rates.

When we mapped goals to our chart, we found that financial wellness emerged as a top contender for employer focus. Weight loss, gym access, sleep improvement, and health risk assessments were also good options, depending on the employer’s goals.

What else do employees think? What about employers?

Despite the gap outlined in this article, employers are doing their best to choose the right digital health offerings for their employees. This article covers a small sampling of the insights found in The State of Digital Health 2018 Report. To learn more about how employers and employees engage in digital health programs, download the report.