Managing group health benefits costs, digitizing benefits delivery and data insights are key areas of focus for plan sponsors and advisors. However, our research shows another top priority going forward is improving plan member experience. From mental wellness to independent living for seniors, new technologies are supporting all of these health benefits management goals.
Here’s a look at four trends that should be on your radar.
Supporting mental wellness.
It’s no secret that Canadians are struggling with mental health. Since the pandemic took hold, they have reported a seven-fold increase in depression, along with growing anxiety concerns, particularly among working age women. First responders and frontline workers are burning out, and workers across the board are saying they are struggling with higher stress levels and isolation. Unsurprisingly, this has also led to increased problematic use of alcohol and cannabis, particularly among men. With more than four in 10 Canadians worried that their mental health struggles could be an issue for their employers, there are likely many plan members suffering in silence.
Group health benefits design should focus on improving access to care – both mental and physical – so employees and their families can get the support they need. One tool that is proving effective is mobile apps: accessible from any device at the time and place that works best for plan members, these apps offer three key elements to support mental wellness:
- Quick access to quality, updated information and resources
- Tools for building resilience and healthy habits, such as meditation or exercise
- One-click access to peers and trained clinicians for support, training and learning
One example is Espri from TELUS Health, which was designed by clinicians specifically to support frontline workers with access to content and programs curated by their employer. Plan members can set and monitor their own goals with integrated access to other group health benefits elements, such as employee assistance programs or virtual healthcare. The app can provide help across the mental wellness spectrum, supporting both healthy employees who want to build resilience and those with stress or isolation, or even more serious concerns such as chronic anxiety or acute crisis interventions.
Streamlining the pharmacy experience.
In the last year more so than ever before, Canadian consumers have expected everything from office equipment to diapers to land on their doorstep quickly. They have also been embracing virtual healthcare and wellness, including online fitness classes and consultations with practitioners using mobile apps. The same expectations also apply to how plan members manage their prescription medications.
Whether it’s transferring an existing prescription or ordering refills, benefits program managers are taking note of the ways in which virtual pharmacies can improve plan member experiences, while helping to reduce dispensing fees and patient co-pays.
In addition to mailing medications, some virtual pharmacies also offer quick access to licenced pharmacists for discreet conversations at a time that is convenient for the plan member. As one of Canada’s most trusted healthcare professionals, pharmacists can support key health goals including:
- Medication adherence
- Help with medication side effects
- Chronic disease management
- Lifestyle coaching
TELUS Health Virtual Pharmacy is a great addition to most group health benefits programs that provides skilled experts who help each individual realize the value promised by their medications. Centralized dispensaries help keep costs down and quality high, while integration with Adjudicare and other TELUS Group Health Benefits platforms support efficient processing and actionable data insights for administrators and plan sponsors.
Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are a sadly underutilized health benefit. In some cases, plan members simply don’t know about the resources available to them; in other cases, those resources are little more than a contact centre with a list of phone numbers for referrals. This disconnected care experience tends to focus on crisis response rather than a holistic one-stop support needed for a healthy workforce.
With TELUS Health LifeJourney, the approach is different. Each plan member is assigned a trained Care Advocate who can connect them with the physical, mental and wellness support they need, 24/7 in French and English.
The Care Advocate actively manages each case, setting up appointments, following up to track progress and providing a single source of contact for the plan member. In addition to clinical support, this innovative EAP also provides access to legal, financial and nutrition experts for a holistic approach to wellbeing. Member-centric EAPs are a great way to improve plan member experiences, while supporting better outcomes for the whole family, including children and elders.
Canada’s seniors were hit hard by the isolation and uncertainty caused by the pandemic. In addition to virtual healthcare, there are technologies that can help seniors stay safe, while also providing some peace of mind to their families. For example, pendants or smart watch apps can allow seniors to summon help immediately with the touch of a button. Some of these devices also offer fall detection and can notify an emergency contact if the senior isn’t able to do so on their own.
Services such as TELUS LivingWell Companion is a great added value to group health benefits programs, particularly for plan sponsors who are trying to attract and retain experienced employees in the 45 to 64 year age range, who account for about half of carers. Some health benefits managers add these programs as an approved supplier for health spending accounts, while others provide discounts to plan members who want to use the solution.
Supporting sponsor priorities.
The digitization of health benefits management is here. Whether it’s app-based mental wellness support, the convenience of virtual pharmacy services or an employee-centric one-stop EAP solution, technology is changing group health benefits.
Digitization helps improve plan member experience by reducing barriers to care and offering intuitive, convenient tools for patients to access the services they need on their own terms. These tools also help reduce group health benefits costs by streamlining delivery, reducing redundancy, and making administration more efficient.
Of course, digital platforms also generate the robust data benefits program managers need to better understand – and to improve – how they design and deliver the support Canadians need to live their healthiest lives.
Learn more about these and other group health benefits tools from TELUS.