Can you hear me now

Can you hear me now?

If you are asking this question of your employees about their benefits, all too often the answer would be “NO.” 

According to a 2016 Harris poll commissioned by interactive software development firm Jellyvision, only about a third of employees really pay attention to benefits materials. Although about two thirds of them prefer to get benefits information electronically (email, video, the web, calculators and other interactive tools), barely half of employers provide a benefits portal, the same percentage of employees actually use it and many don’t have regular access to a PC or company email.

And, unfortunately, instead of being informative, beneficial and engaging, too much benefits content and process is considered complex, boring, out of date or even a waste.

A recent Watson Wyatt survey indicated that a skinny benefits plan that is well understood is more appreciated than a richer plan that is less understood. So better understanding means better value. Further, in the same Harris poll, about half of employees find annual enrollment confusing and/or stressful. One in five employees actually regrets the choices they make. Clearly stress and regret sap value.

What’s to be done? The key is to engage employees, year round, starting before annual enrollment. If you’ve ever conducted or attended benefits enrollment meetings, you know that employees want help choosing their benefits. Fortunately, interactive tools are available to provide a customized, personal experience to evaluate each plan based on the expected needs of each individual, and just as important, each dependent. The best of these tools are conversational, engaging and even funny. Really.

When employees know what they want, let them enroll online. Who wants the hassle of paper enrollment forms?

Throughout the year employees have needs. They go to carrier web sites to find doctors and other providers but all too often end up with nonparticipating providers. Many would like to research the quality and cost of facilities and prescriptions. They need help evaluating and understanding courses of treatment. Then they need help understanding their medical bills and claim payments. 76% go to their insurance carrier for help, yet they trust their employer more by two to one. So the answer is to provide a patient concierge or advocacy service staffed by clinical professionals to help. When employees get the right care by the right provider at the most appropriate facility, everyone saves. Return on investment is positive.

According to recent Pew Research, 68% of Americans own smartphones and 62% of them used it within the last year to look up health information. So why not provide all this support where your people live, in the palm of their hands, in an all-in-one mobile app? What if all your plan materials resided there including ID cards and regulatory requirements? What if employees and their families could interact with support professionals any way they wanted, including by text? What if you could push benefits, survey, wellness and other information and initiatives to even those without email, and track their responses?

Need to give another reason to download, visit and learn the app? Include free or low cost telemedicine for routine ailments like cold and flu symptoms, allergies, ear infection, rash and skin problems and so much more. Let employees solve medical problems on the way to work and avoid delayed care, wasted time in waiting rooms and missed work. Think you can’t afford all this? Think again.  At less than one percent of plan cost it more than pays for itself!

After you ask “Can you hear me now?” you want to be able to say “Good.”