Wellness apps becoming more interconnected

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As wellness technology expands beyond nutrition and activity tracking to focus on nearly every aspect of physical, mental and financial health, a host of mobile applications have sprung up to help workers track and manage the many aspects of their wellbeing.

While the apps may save employees time, HR departments may find it a burden to research, select and vet the programs that work best for their workforce. Advisers are finding that by serving as vendor managers and not just insurance salespeople, they advise HR managers on the latest technology and in the process become an even more trusted ally of their clients.

Employers have a lot of reasons to care about the wellbeing of their workers beyond healthcare spending, explains Zachary Seavey, senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson in Charlotte. There is now an increased emphasis in recent time on the broader talent value proposition, he explains—not only employees’ physical health but helping them better manage their finances.

2017 saw a particular focus on combining wellness applications and service. Innovative Broker Services in Folsom, Calif., has advocated for their clients 24 hour concierge service. “The reality of it is the connectivity to get that 24 hours concierge service is done through the app,” says the brokerage’s founder and CEO, Tom Avery. “[Employees] can press a couple buttons and do it directly through the app."

In 2017, Teladoc found that nearly three-quarters of employees accessed their services through mobile devices. Thirty-one percent of all usage was through an app.

Avery explains that all the programs and apps are starting to morph together. Yet, he believes there is even more opportunity for brokers to interconnect all these apps, by finding apps that would work well together and bringing them to clients. Such apps as WaterMinder, which reminds people to drink water during the day, and Couch to 5K, which helps people exercise, are being combined to achieve better outcomes for emplyoees.

Other examples of apps coming together include an expansion beyond physical health and into emotional and wellbeing, such as video visits with ongoing therapists and text your therapist. “It really is expanding the access points, which has been a major challenge,” Seavey says. “A lot of these digital solutions help to address [that].”

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As they morph and change, it is on the broker to advise clients of the opportunities in the marketplace and address their needs, as well as connect employees in need, Seavey adds.

However, the need is only a starting point. An adviser then must have a measurement strategy in place, to expect outcomes and know what they are seeing, he explains.

Advisers also need to serve as a vendor management resource for their clients as new apps come out and others work together. “We try to find a solution for a client and bring it to them,” Avery says. “It can be insurance or non-insurance. Our world has changed. It used to be just about insurance policies; now it’s everything from wellness apps to payroll vendors to things like PTO policies.”

“We don’t provide the expertise in all those areas but we connect the people,” he adds. “We are more about vendor selection … than anything else.”

Looking toward the future, Anne Stowell, vice president of member experience at Teladoc in New York City, predicts more integration and connectivity between wellness apps. In 2018, she also predicts such coming together as geonotifications that connect personal with physical locations of service providers to.

“It’s really thinking about the consumer journey and the device’s capability and how [we use that] to connect different aspects of the toolset in a really convenient way,” she says.

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Wellness Wellness programs Health and wellness Technology Mobile technology Fitness apps Apps