In today’s employee benefits ecosystem, there are more digital health solutions available than ever before. From tools that help employees manage chronic illnesses such as diabetes, to nutrition apps that help them lose weight, employers are now able to offer solutions that truly support their employees’ overall health and wellness.
As the Director of Population Health Strategy and Wellbeing at EBS, my role is to support all our clients with their population health strategy and wellness programs. I also help them manage their vendors so they can build a culture of health in which employees leave work healthier than when they arrived.
There’s much to consider when it comes to choosing the right innovative digital health solutions for your employee benefits package. Today, I’m sharing some of my top tips and insights that will help you and your organization as you embark on your digital health journey.
Why Employers Want to Use Digital Health Solutions
First off, why are so many organizations introducing new digital health solutions to their teams? From what I’ve seen, employers turn to healthcare technologies because they want to create a culture of self-responsibility and autonomy. They want employees to understand and become aware of the full suite of options available to them, of which to take advantage.
Digital health solutions are attractive to employees, too. A recent survey by Transcend Insights found that 64% of patients say that they use a digital device (including mobile apps) to manage their health. Additionally, nearly 80% of internet users have gone online to learn more about health-related topics, according to Pew Research.
But digital health solutions do more than help employees take control of their health. They’re also a smart financial decision, as organizations can avoid high cost claims by giving employees convenient and effective tools that can help them engage often and manage their health more proactively. In addition, these tools help them act responsibly. Improving self-responsibility when it comes to health is extremely cost-effective.
Finding the Right Solutions for Your Company
Despite the fact that employers want to provide digital apps and software for health, finding the right ones can get confusing because there’s a lot to choose from. Of course, each tool has its pros and cons. Cost is also a barrier, as healthcare costs are already so expensive.
Oftentimes, teams don’t know what they’re looking for. If they’re struggling, we recommend narrowing it down through a series of questions. As you’re considering new digital health tools for your organization, ask:
- What is our overall budget for health and wellness spend? How much can be allocated to new digital health tools?
- What are the top five features that are a must-have for you? What’s just a nice to have?
- How essential is HIPAA compliance? How can we prove these apps meet our standards (ex. case studies or research that show its effectiveness in a population)?
When I work with clients, I create a project management tool where I collect all of their must-have features. Then we score the vendors based on the priorities that the employer has already decided are important.
Tools Should Make Things Simpler for Employees
Navigating healthcare plans is difficult. From understanding a benefits package, to finding the right providers, to working with insurance companies, employees are struggling to find simple and clear answers to their questions.
That’s why employers are paying more attention to digital health services that help people navigate the complex healthcare system. There are even tools that deploy a friendly cartoon to provide information and answer questions, versus trying to click buttons on a computer. An interactive and approachable employee experience will always win.
When you’re choosing new digital health mechanisms, keep in mind that you’re trying to make things easier and simpler for employees (and their families) who use these tools. It’s tempting to go for the bells and whistles, but if they make things more complex, you’re unlikely to see high engagement rates with your employee population.
Holistic Solutions Work Well For Today’s Employees
Rather than focusing on one area of health – like fitness – employers are wisely considering holistic solutions that support employees’ entire wellbeing. The companies we work with want solutions that support physical, financial, social, and emotional health as well as healthcare solutions that can improve employee health literacy and full understanding of their benefits.
Examples of digital health solutions extend far beyond the physical body. They help employees:
- pay off student loans (financial health)
- find the right healthcare provider (physical health)
- save for retirement (financial health)
- find resources for mental health (emotional health)
Along with this holistic approach, organizations are giving employees freedom of choice. Rather than setting aside funds for a particular service, employers are finding opportunities that allow employees to choose what they want for themselves. For example, an employee might choose a massage or a gift card to their local health food store, depending on what they feel will be most beneficial to them. This sense of autonomy where employees choose their incentive instead of having it chosen for them can potentially improve engagement with the technology tool and improve employee satisfaction and engagement at work.
When it comes to choosing digital health solutions, there’s a lot to consider. At the end of the day, you want to choose ones that yield high impact and high engagement for employees. Sometimes that means leaning on trial and error. Don’t be afraid to admit that one tool or solution didn’t work well with your population. Move forward with others and get creative with your ideas.
It is important to remember that each population is different, even inside one company! You will see that certain populations engage differently and are very different culturally. Following best practices such as creating a wellness committee with representation from all locations and cultural backgrounds can ensure you choose tools and programs that almost everyone will engage, enjoy and thrive.
It’s not easy to choose, as there’s much to consider. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your employee benefits provider to get more information and get assistance throughout the process.