Five things CEOs should know about the latest health care technology

As in so many areas of business, technology is radically transforming health care and health plans.

“But there’s good technology and there’s bad technology. Seamless technology and non-integrated technology. Essential, intuitive technology and bells-and-whistles technology. You get the idea,” says Kismet Toksu, president of eBenefits Solutions, an affiliate of UPMC Benefit Management Services and UPMC WorkPartners. “The key is to find the right technology.”

Smart Business spoke with Toksu about five of the latest developments to keep an eye on,when you make your health care plan decisions.

Integration = efficiency.

The right health plan technology includes such things as Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliance and private exchange capabilities. Keeping up with ACA-driven rules and regulations is a massive chore all by itself for any size company, and these changes affect countless aspects of your plan administration.

Thus it is best for both to be administered on the same platform. Capabilities often associated with private exchanges, such as defined contribution and employee support tools, will bolster your benefit strategies today and in the future.

Communication is key.

Health plan platform technology must now have smart communication capabilities baked into it. As the ACA and other external forces continue to change the world of employee benefits, it becomes ever more vital that businesses keep their employees up to speed on their plan options via their employees’ preferred communications channels.

Case in point: A recent workplace survey found that when employees received benefits communications through their preferred channels (i.e., email, web, mobile, etc.), 70 percent were very confident in their selections. When employees didn’t receive benefits communications through their preferred channels, less than 40 percent were very confident in their selections.

Optimizing the user experience.

Gone are the days when employees accessed their health plan exclusively by mail, interoffice memo or an HR benefits fair.

Today, employees expect to be able to instantly access their health savings account and this month’s wellness incentive, via the same platform anytime, anywhere and on any device.

Emulating the ‘Amazon Effect.’

When an employee accesses his or her health plan — via phone, tablet, desktop, laptop or watch — he or she then expects a retail-like experience akin to ordering a book on Amazon or browsing rug styles at Overstock.com.

Similarly, the technology must now include capabilities such as easy-to-use cost-comparison and decision-support tools. These user-friendly tools help customers make the right health care choices that suit their needs, budget and lifestyle.

Tailored human engagement has reached a new level.

To retain the still-important human factor in an increasingly self-service tech world, leading-edge technology partners are now employing customer service avatars and other voice recognition capabilities.

The best of these provide targeted, real-time, in-depth answers to questions that customers are actually asking. Using voice or text, human avatars guide consumers through the decision-making process. This improves customer trust, engagement and brand loyalty — just as “live” customer service always has.

Having a health care plan that meets your employees’ expectations is a powerful recruiting tool for your workforce needs. But don’t just add features to add features; be thoughtful when it’s time to renew your health care plan.

Insights Health Care is brought to you by UPMC Health Plan