From smartphone apps to integrated systems, the health care sector is undergoing massive transformation driven in part by advances in technology.
There has been an unprecedented level of investment and funding for new companies and solutions intended to disrupt the health care system. This has created a challenging environment for today’s business leaders and health care decision makers.
A more streamlined, efficient health care system and healthier, more engaged consumers are the goals of technological advancements that will continue to make a profound impact on the industry.
Technology will continue to shape the health care system. Finding the best ways to use these new technologies — without sacrificing quality or escalating costs — becomes an increasingly important job of health insurers. Investing in leading-edge technology to ease benefit administration burdens and engage employees in their health is an equally important role for health insurers.
George Burks, lead executive for group market segment for Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, said, “From open enrollment to onboarding to ongoing benefit management, a health insurer should support, continually assess and modify platforms and systems to accommodate employers ‘where they are.’
“Health insurance is complex — making the process easier for you should be your insurer’s priority. Seeking simplicity in a health insurance provider is as important as securing excellent benefit plans, price and service.”
This applies to small, medium and large employer groups.
“As market leaders, Arkansas Blue Cross aspires to bring meaningful technology to the members we serve and pioneer new ways to improve health care. For small business, we launched a one-stop shop for buying health, dental, vision and life insurance all online,” Burks said. “TES [total enrollment system] made it easier for small business owners in Arkansas to work with an agent to secure coverage for their employees — all from the comfort of their computer. Now they can review, enroll and pay for their company’s insurance in minutes.”
Bridging platforms and connecting interfaces can help mid-size to large groups as well. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all model for any company. Insurance benefit partners should be able to provide full-service solutions, whether engaging employers with systems they host or integrating with systems hosted by an employer.
Burks also said that when seeking an insurance solutions partner, employers should look for a company that is applying technology to make their life easier for their human resources and benefits teams. Providing ongoing communication with employers through digital platforms allows information flow 24/7. A shift from paper to paperless enrollment — and even virtual open enrollment — allows administrators to streamline functions and efficiently process employee insurance benefits. Access to online benefit portals for employers and agents can augment real-time updates to ensure accuracy and thorough information.
“Look for a benefits partner that can provide transparency tools, reporting tools and better plan management tools,” Burks said.
Individuals who embrace new technology become more empowered health care consumers. This helps the employee and the employer.
“Consumer-facing tools give people the opportunity to be more responsible for their own care by giving them access to more health information that allows them to manage their own care better,” Burks said. “Other tools allow patients to communicate in new ways with their care team and better coordinate care, creating more connected ecosystem to support that person.”
Health insurers can leverage cutting-edge technology to improve the health of its membership while helping educate members on where to get the highest quality and lowest-cost care. Whether it’s effectively managing Type 2 diabetes with a smartphone app and strategic coaching opportunities, connecting members with their doctor or an available doctor via virtual health, or using data to help determine potential future health care expenses, technology will play a role in shaping your company’s health.
“Arkansas Blue Cross hears about new companies each week that claim to revolutionize a part of health care,” Burks said. “Our job is to parse through the new tools and technology to find truly meaningful opportunities that we think will, (a) improve a person’s quality of life and (b), control the cost of health care. These technologies are an important part of the future but must be thoughtfully adopted and implemented.”
Not all technology is created equally. As an employer, you should be looking for a health insurance carrier that is willing to sift through the vast universe of health care solutions and bring you the technologies that truly work. That kind of partnership can help prevent you from trying technologies that sound good but don’t work.
“Health care has shifted from an industry of patients to an industry of consumers. More people want more information about their health care decisions and a seat at the table when it comes to their care — and who can blame them?” Burks said. “People should be more engaged and empowered to learn about their health care and health care financing options to ensure they’re making the best decision for themselves and their families.”