Employee data concept We arestill in the infancy of trying to understand how to use health caredata and analytics to change employee behavior, but the picturedata paints becomes clearer each year. (Image:Shutterstock)

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The employee benefits market saw a high demand for financial andbehavioral health services this past year, both from employees whosought support and employers who saw the impact of these issues ontheir productivity and bottom line.

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We also experienced an expansion of telemedicine services, withmore interest in virtual access to behavioral health, secondopinions, chronic health care and more. Like shopping,entertainment, and even transportation, consumers want health careon-demand.

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I believe 2020 will build on the progress we saw in 2019,including expansion of on-demand care, increasing health caretransparency and realizing the power of data.

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Related: Health care data analytics: true meaning,actionability and value

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Employers will continue searching for proactive ways to redirecthealth care costs. These strategies should include a holisticapproach to overall wellness rather than a myopic one. Benefitstrategies including access to behavioral health, advocacy andprice transparency, financial coaching and wellness tools,caregiver support, and access to second opinion or co-diagnosisservices will most greatly impact employee well-being and employercosts.

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Behavioral health

Currently, behavioral health services are viewed as significantadditions to a benefit package, but still just "nice to have." Asthe need for behavioral health support becomes clearer and theworkforce becomes more demanding, behavioral health benefits areincreasingly becoming a necessity. Organizations can no longerignore the massive impact poor mental health has on productivityand physical health. Millennials are projected to make up 50 percent of the workforce in 2020,and Gen Z is just starting to enter the workforce. These youngergenerations boldly reject the mental health stigma and vocalizetheir desire for support.

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Caregiver support

One in five employees double as caregivers, and that number will continue toincrease as our population ages. These employees are distracted atwork, take more time off, and experience higher levels of stressdue to their multitude of responsibilities.

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While still a relatively new concept, interest in caregiversupport services continues to grow. There's a rapidly increasingpopulation of aging adults who need some level of assistance, andan equally growing number of caregivers who need help providing it.Caregiver support offers value to everyone involved in thecaregiving journey.

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Second opinion/co-diagnosis

Twenty percent of medical cases are misdiagnosed. Not only can these misdiagnosesbe life threatening, the cost of unnecessary overtreatment or mistreatment canbe enormous. Redirecting just one unnecessary medical procedure canoffer incredible value. Virtual access to second opinions andco-diagnosis from world class physicians can make a big impact onboth employers and employees. The employee has peace of mind fromreceiving more education on their options and gaining more controlof their health care journey, while employers redirect claims andsave massive amounts in health care spending.

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Harnessing data

We are still in the infancy of trying to understand how to usehealth care data and analytics to change employee behavior, but thepicture data paints becomes clearer each year. 2020 should bringwith it a new perspective on harnessing health data to make moreinformed health care decisions and identify valuable benefits.

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Pharmacy discounts

Pharmacy discounts have unfortunately become too "out of sight,out of mind." While they might not be the focus of theconversation, likely due to market saturation, they're still acritical piece of the health care puzzle. Beyond increasing pricetransparency, the future of pharmacy discounts lies in consumereducation. We can use these discounts on so much more than peoplerealize: pet medications, fertility drugs, dermatologicalmedications, OTC items written as prescriptions such as vitaminsand folic acid, and drugs that typically fall outside the formularylike acid reflux medication. Not to mention, the convenience andcost savings associated with mail order pharmacy should not beoverlooked.

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As Helen Keller said, "The only thing worse than being blind ishaving sight but no vision." The benefits market is alwayschanging, and possibly even more so in an election year. Keep youreyes open, and if you haven't started already, start building yourbenefits vision for 2020.

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Amanda Franklin is EVP Operations atNewBenefits. She ensures efficiency throughout the company andchampions new processes to support the company's strategic plans.She cultivates relationships with vendor partners, and isresponsible for the implementation of new and relevant benefitsolutions to meet evolving customer needs.


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