April 30, 2018

4 Key Trends in Employer Perspectives on Digital Health

It’s an exciting time to be a benefits leader, as digital health offerings get more and more innovative. New solutions seem to burst into the marketplace every day, and benefits leaders are working hard to make the best choices for their companies. After all, choosing the right health solutions makes a major impact, as 150 million Americans are affected by the offerings of their employers.

But what are employers offering? To find out, 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.

Our aim was to understand how employers evaluate digital health stratifying by financial business case, impact on employee satisfaction, overall health impact and employee engagement. We learned a lot about employers, employees, and the gaps between their perspectives.

In this article, we’re sharing some trends in employer perspectives. Here’s what you need to know about the employer’s perspective on digital health in 2018.

1. Employers are engaging and investing in digital health technologies

In the past 6 years, we’ve seen huge increases in investments in digital health. Last year, digital health initiatives received $6 billion in funding. The explosion in funds has led to opportunity, but also fragmentation. It’s been difficult for employers to leverage the power of available health solutions.

Even so, employers reported significant investment in tools for employees. The average employer offers 14 health benefits solutions, through their health plan and from third-party vendors. Large employers– those with 15,000 or more employees– are 1.5x more likely to offer 10 or more digital health programs. Additionally, 20% of small employers (1,000 to 14,999 employees) and 30% of large employers offer 20 or more programs.

2. Employers are on a quest to find solutions in the “sweet spot”

Benefits leaders want to help the employees they serve, but they’re also cognizant of cost savings and engagement rates. After all, benefits leaders need to sell leaders in the organization on digital health solutions, while the programs go no where if employees don’t engage with them.

Employers need to find the sweet spot in digital health benefits — those benefits that match employee health goals, have a strong business case, and truly deliver better health. In order to do so, employers must use data insights to track and measure employee engagement, health outcomes, and cost savings across their health benefits offerings.

3. Most employers maintain the status quo

Many employers are sticking with more mature digital health benefits which means they are maintaining the status quo, offering mostly the same solutions they always have, even though they fall short of expectations for improving employee health or satisfaction.

For example, 82 percent of employers offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) when they themselves admit that it does not offer much of a business case at all. And, only 1 percent of employees rank using an EAP or similar program as a top health goal.

4. Employers are increasingly taking a holistic approach

In the past, digital health was always related to the physical body. However, research shows that employees perform better if they are not stressed by their emotional, social, or financial well-being. To best serve their employees, employers are increasingly taking a holistic approach to wellbeing. Rather than focusing on diabetes management and smoking cessation, employers are beginning to offer solutions for financial wellness, weight loss, sleep improvement program, and mental health.

What else do employers think? What about employees?

Employers are doing their best to choose the right digital health offerings for their companies, but are there choices aligned with what their employees want? 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.

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