How to increase engagement in your health care benefit programs

Many people think communication is the key to driving engagement. In the employee benefits space, employers push more communication to get employees to use different tools (i.e. transparency, telemedicine), programs and other resources in their benefit ecosystem. But mass communication isn’t the answer.

“You have to step into the shoes of the employees to understand their needs. Engagement is connecting with employees throughout their health care journey and meeting them wherever they are with the expertise and ability to deliver exactly what they need in the moment they need it,” says Kara Trott, founder and CEO of Quantum Health.

Today, communication and information are available through multiple channels. People sort out what doesn’t matter to them at that moment. More communication isn’t effective because the relevance is random.

Smart Business spoke with Trott about how to better engage employees.

Why is it important to increase engagement?

Employers typically spend more than $13,000 per employee per year on health insurance — and that is expected to rise. The top cost drivers are specialty pharmacy, high-cost claimants and specific diseases/conditions. To help with cost, employers are adding tools and resources to create competitive benefit package options for their employees. The problem lies with connecting the tools and resources to the person, family member or provider, when they need them.

A person who has been given a life-threatening diagnosis is thrust into an un-chosen health care journey. According to Quantum’s research, on average, that journey takes 11 months, involves five to seven doctors, 50 or more claims and more than 40 decisions. Certain tools only have value at specific points along the way, like when an employee needs an MRI and uses a transparency tool; the tool needs to be connected to the employee at the most relevant time.

Almost all health plan programs suffer from low engagement. It is typical for many solutions to get less than 5 percent utilization.

What steps are employers taking to increase engagement in their benefit plan programs?

Employers are providing a high-touch option to their benefit plans to help people use the health care system. It’s known as navigation and care coordination.

When employees are given a diagnosis or want to figure out a claims issue, they don’t think about the flyer in the company bathroom or the last corporate email. They typically reach for their insurance card.

Often, engagement occurs when someone has a discrete question or a provider inquires on eligibility. When people initially reach out, it’s best to have someone work with them in a broader way. Increasing the capabilities in navigation support with care coordination adds to the effectiveness.

Many health care solutions provide employees with a portal, website or application. However, when a health problem occurs many people haven’t downloaded the app, or don’t remember where to go. Employers, in return, don’t get the engagement they expect.

Does everyone want the same engagement?

Whether baby boomer or millennial, when something goes wrong with their health, people want personal support. For example, a recent survey by Oliver Wyman, in collaboration with FORTUNE Knowledge Group, found that millennials don’t want today’s health care delivered through an iPhone screen. They see technology as a way to deliver convenience, but they also seek guidance when going through a health issue.

When employees are truly engaged, what will employers see?

Employers will see employees feel better about the overall benefit plan. Navigation and care coordination leads to higher satisfaction scores from plan members. In just six months, the net promoter score, which gauges the loyalty of customer relationships, can go from a negative number, less than 20, to the low 70s.

When navigation and care coordination are coupled together, the impact is noticeable. Together they can create a better overall health care experience that saves both the employee and the employer money while continuing to flatten claim trends.

Insights Employee Benefits is brought to you by Quantum Health