An AI benefits assistant that answers employees’ benefits questions. A financial wellness app that provides automatic budget planning and savings tips. Platforms that help employees and HR managers manage paid leave and student debt repayment programs. These are among the innovations that are transforming HR and benefits right now. As EBN and EBA editors pored through dozens of nominations for our annual list of Digital Innovators, I have to say, I was overwhelmed by the innovation that’s happening in our industry.

With each passing year that we recognize these visionaries — this is our third year — I am less overwhelmed by the technology behind new digital solutions and more excited by the possibilities they offer.

Though I’m admittedly old-fashioned when it comes to technology (buying new gadgets and downloading apps has never really been my bag), if tech is making benefits and healthcare easier, more digestible — and daresay, more fun — then I’m all for it.

An attendee photographs an autonomous parcel delivery robot, developed by Starship Technologies Ltd. at the AI Congress in London, U.K.
An attendee photographs an autonomous parcel delivery robot, developed by Starship Technologies Ltd. at the AI Congress in London, U.K. Bloomberg

The thing I like most about some of these digital solutions? That they empower employees to better understand their health and their benefits.

See also: Meet EBN’s 2018 Digital Innovators

In today’s healthcare environment, employees often are at a loss when it comes to understanding their health data and biometric numbers. Many don’t have immediate access to their own health records. That’s where technology can help. Take, for instance, Hello Heart, an app-driven platform designed to help employees manage hypertension, heart rate and cardiovascular health. The service also includes tools that help improve medication adherence, import clinical lab results and deliver personalized prompts to drive healthy behavior changes.

Its creator, Maayan Cohen, who is among the 20 innovators featured on our list, said her own personal and frustrating experience with healthcare was the reason she started the app in the first place.

“Eight years ago, my boyfriend at the time was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Overnight, I found myself collecting medical records and vital signs at home on a piece of paper and spending hours online every day trying to figure out what was going on and figuring out if he was better or worse,” she recently told me. “From that scary, personal experience with the healthcare system, I realized that we as patients don’t have any tools to understand or improve our own health between doctors’ visits. I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”

Of course, these kinds of solutions aren’t just helping employees; they’re helping employers, too. Hello Heart, which employers are now offering as a benefit to employees, targets heart disease, which is both the leading cause of death and the leading health cost driver for employers.

Employers, take note: If you don’t embrace some of these offerings, you might not only lose out on savings, but on helping your employees live better, healthier lives.

“Everything is becoming technology-oriented. People prefer to learn about their health and communicate on their phones,” Cohen told me. “Just like you wouldn’t want to call your bank to understand what your balance is — you’d rather just quickly see that online or on your app — you want to get an explanation as to what just happened in your blood pressure reading. It’s convenient, it’s important and it helps employees take action, because they might not be comfortable talking to someone about these very personal details.”

Innovation in HR, health and benefits solutions is here. So, employers, what are you doing to embrace it?

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