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The benefits industry is like amerry-go-round. Benefit popularity is cyclical, and market trendsand themes always seem to circle back into the foreground overtime. However, the acceleration of technological innovation ispropelling the benefit carousel faster each year, making itchallenging for many brokers and employers to keep up with changes and new products in themarket.

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2018 focused on the individual'srole in health care, and more specifically, their access totransparency tools,education and the adoption of technology tofoster more informed health care consumerism. The spotlight onindividual privacy, security, and protection continued to shine aswell. As we close out the first quarter of 2019, I expect thosetrends to continue through the evolution of benefits on which wealready rely as well as adoption of new, innovativeproducts.

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Looking back at 2018, we sawcontinued growth of several cornerstone benefits:

  • Telemedicine adoption increased by employers, health careproviders, and health systems; pro-telemedicine legislation passed;and services expanded beyond acute care into behavioral health,dermatology and more
  • Constant data breach headlines and privacyconcerns contributed to a continued rise in interest foridentity theft protection
  • Healthcare didn't become less complex or more transparent, so the needfor health advocacy remained prevalent

These benefits are continuing togain traction in 2019. As our comfort with telehealth technology increases, so dotelehealth options. Behavioral health is one of the most populardevelopments for telehealth providers, as is the expansion ofspecialist offerings like second opinions and dermatology. Accessto an expert medical opinion (or second opinion) through telehealthtechnology eliminates time spent traveling to another city or stateto see a specialist, helps avoid unnecessary surgery by findingalternative treatment options, and ultimately saves individuals agreat deal of time and money by ensuring correctdiagnoses.

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Extensive attention was givenlast year to the growing population of employees who double ascaregivers, illustrating effects on productivity, physical andmental health, and personal finances. Caregiversupport platforms are gainingtraction as a result, and will likely get even more attention thisyear as we continue to understand the challenges faced by workingcaregivers. Caregiver support is an emerging space similar to wheretelemedicine was five or six years ago. As employers betterunderstand how important these services are to the overall healthand well-being of their workforce, the more prominent thesebenefits will become.

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Another benefit trend isfinancial wellness, and theimpact of financial health on employee well-being. Researchindicates the strong correlationbetween all aspects of a person's health – physical, mental,financial – and how impactful financial stress can be to a person'soverall wellness. While the interest in financial wellness grows,2019 will be a year of determining the best mix of resources tooffer employees. Each generation represented in the workforce hasdiverse financial needs, and many financial wellness productsaddress only one or two key areas. The key will be identifyingproducts addressing the spectrum of financial topics includingstudent loan repayment, budgeting, taxes, insurance, retirementplanning, and more.  

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There are many new and excitingbenefits on the horizon. With accelerating adoption of newservices, access, and technology across healthcare, I am lookingforward to enjoying the ride in 2019!

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Amanda Franklin is ExecutiveVice President of Operations at NewBenefits, where she cultivates relationshipswith vendor partners, implements new and relevant benefitsolutions, and ensures efficiency throughout the company. NewBenefits is a leading aggregator of non-insured benefits, includingtelemedicine, health advocacy, and caregiversupport.

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