In some cases, brokers can receive commissions from these solution providers for referring clients to them.
But in all cases, the value-add services can generate greater appreciation from their clients, resulting in stickier relationships.
Here are five companies that use technology to provide innovative value-add solutions:
1. SONIC BOOM
High-tech wellness company Sonic Boom offers fun and active daily challenges via web-based portals and mobile apps.
The program includes activity tracking, social networking, games, competition, and proprietary tools to influence behavior change. The firm offers a variety of activity tracking devices, or participants can use their own.
“We’re all about social contagion—making wellness activities personally relevant, inviting, and fun so people actually want to engage in them and improve their health habits for life,” says Danna Korn, founder and “chief energizing officer” at the Carlsbad, California company. “Our competitors tend to focus too much on rewards—assuming people need extrinsic, remunerative motivation to do healthy things and accordingly bribing them with hefty incentives. We incorporate rewards into our program too, but they’re secondary to social contagion and are only remunerative if clients insist.”
Part of the program entails a “Challenge-of-the-Day”—anything that “gets employees’ blood pumping,” has stress-reduction or nutritional value, or otherwise provides an “a-ha!” nugget of wellness knowledge with an energetic call-to-action.
For example, the nutritional value of rutabagas or an invitation for coworkers to join in doing wall squats for two minutes, or doing lunges on the way to the bathroom.
“It's a dance-floor mentality, like at a wedding,” Korn says. “No one wants to be the first out on the dance floor, but everyone wants to be out there together. It's fun because it's social—there can be 35 people participating, giggling, chatting it up. Or employees can do them at home with their families. Either way, it's a social break that's healthy.”
Sonic Boom's programs are “infinitely customizable.”
Programs focus mostly on physical activity, optimal nutrition, stress reduction and other leading health indicators, but when client demographics call for it, programs might even focus on pet health, safety or financial well-being.
Programs also need to be customized to fit the level of activity of the employee base.
For example, while many vendors focus on walking or “steps” challenges, certain employees might be marathon runners who would not want to participate.
With Sonic Boom, employers can come up with any kind of challenge that fits their particular workforce, such as a swimming challenge or a ping-pong game challenge.
Employers that have outcomes-based wellness programs with biometrics particularly like the programs.
“We like to focus on improvements in addition to outcomes, so we’re not over-rewarding the already healthy, and we’re properly rewarding those who are making a legitimate effort to improve their health—even if they’re not quite in the ideal biometric range yet,” Korn says.
The company markets primarily through brokers and consultants, though occasionally directly to employer groups. “For brokers and consultants,” she says, “it's a way to offer a value-add service that's out-of-the-box.”
2. TELADOC INC.
Teladoc Inc. delivers on-demand health care anytime, from almost anywhere, via mobile devices, the Internet, secure video and phone.
More than 12.6 million U.S. members are connected to Teladoc's network of over 2,650 board-certified, state-licensed physicians and behavioral health professionals who provide care for a wide range of non-emergency conditions.
Median doctor call back time is eight minutes, and 92 percent of members resolve their medical issue with Teladoc. Unlike nurse-run call centers, Teladoc doctors can diagnose, recommend treatment, and prescribe medication, when necessary.
“To use our product to lower health care costs is one thing, but we don't talk enough about how it increases productivity,” says Lisa Bana, assistant vice president of broker/consultant sales at Teladoc Inc. in Purchase, New York. “Employees don't have to take a half day off to drive their kids to the doctor—they can have access to health care in their own homes and offices.”
Teladoc markets both to employee benefits brokers as well as directly to employer groups and health plans.
“Brokers are looking for something they can bring to their clients that is a value add, and Teladoc is a high-impact, low-risk solution for brokers,” Bana says. “When employers bring us in, our program highly impacts their health care costs, and it's low risk. We’ve been doing this since 2005 and we’ve done more than 1 million consultations.”
Implementations take few resources, and the standard implementation can be completed in 30 days.
Teladoc's account management team monitors clients to make sure they are getting a higher return on investment through greater utilization of the product. To aid in this, Teladoc offers specific communications strategies to drive utilization.
Clients are satisfied because of Teladoc's scalability, she says—the ability to put on clients, the ability to have the technology that enables call backs from doctors within eight minutes, the ability to make sure things are running smoothly even when there are huge surges during flu season.
“Scalability is really important,” Bana says. “Even if a company has all the bells and whistles, if they don't have scalability, it won't make a good experience for their clients.”
Brokers can get commissions when their clients implement Teladoc, but some don't want commissions, as they are fee-for-service consultants. “They are marketing this as a value-add elective benefit for their clients.”
3. RX SAVINGS SOLUTIONS
Rx Savings Solutions has a patented software platform that allows consumers to locate the best costs for their prescription medications.
“I’m a pharmacist by trade,” says Michael Rea, PharmD, founder and chief executive of RX Savings Solutions in Overland Park, Kansas. “I went to work for a major drugstore chain and had a Groundhog Day moment: Too many people telling me that they were paying too much money for their prescriptions, and asking if there was anything I could do to help them. With our patented Web-based software, we not only save members and their employers money, but make them better consumers of health care.”
About 12 percent of the savings that clients realize using the software comes from pricing differences between stores in a member's specific geography, Rea says.
Conversely, 88 percent of the savings that clients realize is from some type of clinical intervention, such as utilizing an alternate, therapeutically-equivalent medication for less money to manage the ailment or disease.
Another example is assisting the member and their prescriber to change from a combination medication that has two active ingredients—and a $100 price tag—to writing two separate prescriptions with each of the same active ingredients that may be available for $4 each, a savings of $1,000 per year.
“We advise consumers to talk with their doctor about these and other types of clinical interventions with specific cost savings that can be realized through the changes,” he says. “The prescribers we work with rarely, if ever, have access to pricing information, so this helps them evaluate and decide on what therapy is most efficient for their patient.”
Prescription drug expenses are rising at alarming rates and make up a large portion of benefit-related expenses for employers and their employees.
According to Express Scripts, medication-related costs rose over 13 percent in 2014 and are expected to rise sharply again in 2015 and beyond.
“By using our service to educate employees on savings opportunities, employers can rely on their employees to make the right choice, thus saving both parties money,” Rea says. “Rx Savings Solutions supports a collaborative approach where employers offer our consumerism solution in order to deliver proper information to their employees, which ultimately leads to savings for everyone.”
The company, which launched its “employer solution” in 2012, is expected to have had 600,000 users by April 2016. Most employers report proven cost-savings and a measurable ROI within the first six months.
One of its employer clients, BH Media Group, signed onto the services for its 4,600 lives and within 10 months, more than 40 percent of its employees enrolled and saved themselves and the company more than $182,000—and the monthly savings continue to increase.
RX Savings Solutions markets both through brokers and directly to employers.
4. CONSOLIDATED CREDIT COUNSELING SERVICES
Consolidated Credit Counseling Services helps employees deal with life-altering credit, debt and financial issues.
The Consolidated Credit Counseling Services app provides free financial planning information and videos to educate employees on the skills necessary to live a financially secure lifestyle.
Budget calculators, worksheets and more than 30 videos teach employees to live within their means and stay financially fit. By using these tools, employees are encouraged to save and invest while they reduce expenses and debt.
The app offers guidance on establishing achievable financial goals, building a personal budget, managing financial stress and planning for the future.
What's most unique about the Knowledge of Financial Education (KOFE) portal is that it's not a static package, says Gary S. Herman, president of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
It includes online resources such as videos, webinars and interactive courses, but nonprofit also offers the ability to have financial coaches go out to locations or help them over the phone.
The nonprofit starts by consulting with employer groups to find out what they are looking for, including whether or not they want the personal finance education to be co-branded or white labeled.
After the initial consultation Consolidated Credit Counseling Services will build the program based on how the employer communicates with their employees.
“Some employers just want to require employees to complete a session with a financial coach before receiving any pay advances or loans from qualified plans such as 401(k) plans,” Herman says.” It's a good idea to have employees go through a confidential budgeting session so that they can figure out how to pay themselves back, which many times they can't. Some employers want a program to get their employees to understand the importance of savings and the secrets to building and maintaining good credit.”
The app also includes financial advice on how to understand credit scores and how to rebuild credit; organize and categorize savings, and how to cut costs on energy, health care, insurance and other household bills; student loan consolidation and using credit on campus; planning for live events such as weddings, births and unforeseen disasters; information on 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts and debt elimination versus retirement savings.
Consolidated Credit Counseling Services markets directly to brokers. “Having financially savvy employees, benefits employers and brokers will be appreciated by their employer clients for introducing our services to them.”
The advantage of working through the nonprofit is that its community counseling programs have been paid for by financial services companies such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp.
Due to the funding, the cost of the program is very affordable to employers, he says.
5. RETAIL BENEFITS
Retail Benefits partners with thousands of retailers to offer employees, members, or customers rewards on the online shopping they are already doing through white-labeled shopping experiences.
“We bring a software solution, mobile, browser and Web technology to businesses so their employees have access to a merchant-funded pool of money,” says Michael Russo, founder of Retail Benefits based in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. “Every time they shop online, they effectively get paid for shopping—even after they use coupons.”
Brokers with large employer groups can partner with Retail Benefits.
For example, David Richman, a principal at David Richman Insurance Strategies LLC in Simsbury, Conn., offers his clients an employee purchasing program through Retail Benefits, through which employees earn cash back on purchases of more than 300 million products from more than 5,000 merchants.
In 2012, Retail Benefits bought My HSA Rewards, a program that allows employees to fund their health savings accounts by depositing cash back rewards they earned while shopping online.
Retail Benefits combined that brand with its technology and back office systems, “further improving and expanding our offerings to the industry,” Russo says.