HR Tech: The Power within Your Company’s Benefit’s Data

From controlling costs and offering competitive benefits packages—to managing uncertainty due to the pandemic—benefits are changing. Driving better business value from your company’s benefits program is a topic John Thomas, CEO of Benefitfocus, addressed at the 2021 HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas.

According to Thomas, an estimated 36% of people switch jobs to gain better compensation and benefits. With a growing number of people switching jobs worldwide, this heightens the importance of attracting the best benefits package for employees, while also looking out for a company’s bottom line.

As a result, data automation is growing in importance allowing HR and workforce leaders to easily track the effectiveness of benefits plans and prospective plans—with software to map out potential choices from both an employer’s and employee’s perspective.

These technological options come as the HR world is still navigating major changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Thanks to quick, real-time data analysis, HR professionals can help companies meet employees where they are at.”

3 Types of Analytics to use for benefits

Descriptive and Diagnostic Analytics

Increase in Mental Health Claims
Thomas recommends looking at what happened in the past to understand what will happen in the future, but with COVID-19, this can be tricky. However, even though COVID is still new, there is already some data to study. For example, during the pandemic we’ve seen a 29% increase year-over-year in terms of mental health claims.

By quickly understanding those changing needs, plans can be modified to make sure existing offerings allow people to get they help they need. Thanks to quick, real-time data analysis, HR professionals can help companies meet employees where they are at.

People Delaying Care
Since the pandemic began, a growing number of consumers are delaying annual physicals or routine doctor’s visits. This data allows for the opportunity to run an internal campaign to remind people to get their annual physical.

Increase in Telehealth
Another trend uncovered through descriptive and diagnostic analytics is an increased amount of virtual doctor’s office visits. Telehealth visits are at a 47% increase since 2018.

“This gives us the opportunity to incentivize and hold that behavior,” said Thomas. “We may want to offer employees a plan that decreases telehealth copays and increases in-office copays.”

The Emergence of HDHPs
High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) are on the rise. This is the result of more companies offering employees multiple options for health plans, with 71% now offering both high deductible plans and PPOs. On top of that, consumers are now using HDHPs 38% more since 2018. The move to HDHPs is also a shift away from companies previously offering only Preferred Provider Organization (PPOs) and Health Maintenance Organization (HMOs).

Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s) are also on the rise with more than 90% of people who opt into a health plan also opting into an HSA.

For example, based on all of the data from the previous year regarding each person’s health claims…if a plan changed, would certain modifications negatively or positively impact team members?

Predictive Analytics
Next on Thomas’ list is predictive analysis. Companies can use automated data to forecast what would be the best option for both employees and the company.

Employee Recommendations
To help your team navigate health plans, you can look at an individual person’s cost for the entire last calendar year. While looking at this, you can factor in unique factors. Perhaps the person just had a fourth and final child, so next year there won’t be any pregnancy costs. After looking at all of the data, everything can be re-simulated for what the next year is likely to be like in terms of costs. Based on that data, you can help an employee by recommending which plan would make the most sense economically for that individual person.

Employer Considerations
For employers, HR staff and business leaders can look directly at potential changes to plan offerings—and how they would affect certain percentages of staff. For example, based on all of the data from the previous year regarding each person’s health claims…if a plan changed, would certain modifications negatively or positively impact team members? Using predictive analysis tools, HR professionals can easily compare the human impact of different scenarios, with data formulated side-by-side for easy analysis.

Vendor Choices
This also works well for weighing options for different vendors. You can easily simulate cost-analysis scenarios for what would happen if you brought on a different vendor, creating an ROI at your fingertips.

Network Options
According to Thomas, restructuring networks is another way teams are beginning to use predictive analysis. HR leaders can look at what will happen if you take out the bottom 10% (in terms of quality) from a network provider list. This analysis allows for an entirely different look at aspects involving quality and cost of networks.

Prescriptive Analysis

Prescription Drug Costs
“The challenge of medication is that the physician writes a prescription with no information about what it will cost the patient,” said Thomas, who also cites that 80% of drugs are ‘maintenance medications’—those that are used by people on a daily basis for the rest of their life.

To help companies and employees save costs, new technologies are using pharmaceutical data to run through an algorithm for similar drugs. When savings are found, a message is automatically sent to the prescribing physician saying that the patient has been prescribed a drug for a certain condition, but a less expensive drug also treats that is available. The physician can then opt to change the prescription or to keep it the same. It’s estimated this type of program can reduce total pharmaceutical costs by 5-15%.

“This is the idea of trying to close this loop,” said Thomas. “The best part of this is that no one is doing any manual work. We are not asking the employee to have a conversation with the doctor.”

An Ongoing conversation
Want to learn more? Join our members-only discussion about leveraging data for your benefits. Log into the private message board area of our exclusive community today.


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