Employers need to get smart about evaluating health tech solutions

LAS VEGAS — What can high tech companies like Uber, Airbnb and Lyft teach employers about their healthcare? In much the same way employees are looking for new ways to take taxis and book hotels, they want innovative solutions to help them purchase their care, said Michael Serbinis, founder and CEO of health technology company League.

“Healthcare, no matter who was providing it, seemed to be stuck in the Stone Age,” said Serbinis, speaking this week at the Society for Human Resource Management annual conference.

Health benefits are often confusing for employees. About 84% of employees said current systems for selecting care are confusing, and only 14% feel healthcare is headed in the right direction. Many are unable to define key terms such as copay, deductible and a premium, he added.

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Family practice provider uses a stethoscope to examine a patient in an exam room. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

“Most people are not effective at picking the right plan,” he said. Another problem, he added, is that many health benefits are not designed to focus on the needs of the worker and instead focuses on ease of administration.

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Large employers are working to tackle these issues internally, though. Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase, for example, are doing so through the launch of their joint healthcare venture Haven. Walmart, meanwhile, has said that it plans to pinpoint ways to innovate on employee healthcare.

“Large employers are taking matters into their own hands and trying to fix healthcare, how it’s financed and offered [as] benefits to their employees,” he said. But not everyone works for a large employer that is capable of independently tackling the healthcare crisis, Serbinis added.

There are a number of health technology companies that have emerged to address these issues — some of which include Accolade, HealthJoy, Castlight Health and Vitality. But overburdened HR executives often struggle to sift through the offerings and find one that best fits worker needs. Serbinis advised that employers look for solutions that are easy-to-use, accessible and personalized.

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“You’re going to get flooded with new solutions,” Serbinis said. “[There’s about] 1,500 new solutions that want to get in touch with you to modernize that experience.”

Employers should target tools that focus on the whole employee by helping them find the right care, receive personalized help and drive smart decision making about their health. It’s also imperative to find a solution that employers can use to engage workers beyond open enrollment, is easy to administer and provides technical support, Serbinis said. Traditional solutions just don’t cut it anymore.

“You need to move to a model that is more like Netflix and less like your parents’ cable TV,” he said. “The future is about health and your people, not about insurance.”

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