Virtual assistant Employers andbrokers should be thinking about voice technology now and how theycan implement it for the employee population for 2020. (Image:Shutterstock)

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Americans are welcoming voice assistants into their homes with morethan 36 percent of consumers owning a smart speaker and 75 percentof owners using them at least daily. People are finding that voicetechnology is not only a simpler form of communication but that itcan also be a comforting source of information, entertainment andeven companionship. But there is so much more that this technologycan offer beyond the consumer standpoint, which has focusedprimarily on entertainment features.

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From an employer perspective, voice technology is an opportunityto help employees manage their family's health and benefits in thecomfort of their home.

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Related: Amazon launches HIPAA-compliant Alexa health careskills

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While voice assistants are one of the fastest-growing consumertechnology trends in the home, there have been some barriers toproviding the service as a benefit to employees and health planmembers. The voice technology that has been implemented by thehealthcare industry is extremely fragmented consisting ofspecialized skills for specific conditions, hospitals, or medicaldevices, that must be enabled for each specific company. Inaddition, platforms need to easily integrate into existing companybenefit offerings.

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For health care specifically, it is also important that aplatform is dedicated to health, secure and HIPAA compliant. Foremployers, the technology also needs to be easy to implement andsimple for an employee to ask questions and get quick answers tohealth and benefits information. For example, employees need tounderstand the cost of care and be able to easily ask and receiveprocedure pricing in their area.

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But there is a solution. When implemented as part of acomprehensive health-focused platform, voice technology overcomesmany barriers of use for both employees and their employer's humanresources (HR) team, including ease-of-use. Voice technology allowsemployees and their family members to just ask a device a questionversus accessing a computer or mobile device or contacting their HRdepartment.

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Voice assistants can also help address time management issuessuch as forgetfulness and lack of routine. This technology canprovide users with a simple form of communication, integrated intotheir home, that makes it easy for them to seek out answers and setup reminders. In addition, employees can be prompted for timelyprescription refills, reminders to administer medicine, learn aboutcost alternatives for prescriptions and better understand theproper use and side effects. Voice assistants can also help bridgean information gap where there is a lack of knowledge; with adatabase about proper use and side effects.

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Voice technology in the home can also help make a family'shealth a priority. It allows employers to not only engage with theemployee, but also with all of the dependents on the health plan.It can keep plan members on track with fitness goals and remindersto work out, and provide health monitoring such as blood pressureand weight. It can also make sure the family gets immediate answersto health and benefits questions 24/7 including pricing estimatesand answers during busy times such as open enrollment.

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Employers and brokers should be thinking about voice technologynow and how they can implement it for the employee population for2020. Some questions to consider when looking at vendorsinclude:

  • How secure is the platform?
  • Can this be easily integrated into our company benefitsoffering?
  • Can the platform be personalized for our employee base?
  • Can the product be easily integrated with our current healthplan offering?
  • Does the system offer any additional devices such as a personalemergency response system?
  • Can the product be customized for specific family members?
  • Can the system be accessed by a caregiver?

When an employee is provided with a simple and easy technologyin the comfort of their own home, they can be empowered to seek outanswers to benefit, health, and medical questions whenever it isconvenient for them. This type of engagement benefits both theemployee and their employer to help increase utilization of pricingand benefit information.

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Janice Washeleski is chief commercial sales& marketing officer at HandsFreeHealth.


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