How Technology Will Transform Employee Benefits in the Next Five Years

How Technology Will Transform Employee Benefits in the Next Five Years
Workforce

08 of 12

This insight is part 08 of 12 in this Collection.

June 22, 2023 19 mins

How Technology Will Transform Employee Benefits in the Next Five Years

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Advances in technology will not only transform healthcare and treatment outcomes — benefit offerings, access to care, diagnosis, treatment and affordability challenges will also be radically changed. Here is what to expect as these efforts take shape globally.

Key Takeaways
  1. In the next five years, technology will make health and benefits programs more individualized, which will increase health and resilience in the workplace.
  2. Cost pressures will remain high, and organizations need to maximize the value of their investment and ensure programs match employee needs.
  3. A platform powered by data and analytics can enable employers to upgrade their benefit design and enhance employees’ experience.

Technology has led to significant advancements in the healthcare industry. One such example can be seen in the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only was there a race to produce an effective vaccine, but lockdowns around the world also accelerated the possibilities of virtual care, placing telehealth in the spotlight. Technology is also helping to transform medical devices and prescription medicine into even more effective agents of care. All of these developments are just the beginning. The future of healthcare will see an acceleration of the change we have already experienced. The world of healthcare will soon be a very different place.

Data, analytics and technology will combine to play a crucial role in strategic decision making. Employers are increasingly turning to technology to provide the analytics they need to support their decisions. This allows them to predict the impact of their investment in healthcare and benefits more accurately.

How can employers stay ahead of these trends? How can they take advantage of new developments to make healthcare affordable, keep their employees’ wellbeing top of mind and create a differentiated employee experience? In this guide, we discuss how technology is projected to reshape these areas of the health and wellbeing experience:

  Up to Now Future
The Future of Benefit Design Employees must seek different providers to satisfy their wellbeing needs: physical, emotional, financial, social wellbeing and work/life balance. A single provider may be able to furnish all of employees’ health and wellbeing needs.
The Future of Healthcare Enrollment Most employees have no guidance to help them make better choices for their unique circumstances. Recommendations could be based on individual data points, previous benefit choices and what people in similar situations have selected.
The Future of Access to Care Accessing care can vary depending on your provider type, location and social determinants of health. “Click-and-mortar” companies that combine digital and in-person care will be commonplace. Asynchronous messaging will simplify booking appointments.
The Future of Diagnostics and Treatment Care Wearable devices and sensors are gathering detailed patient data. 3D printing of human organs for transplants is just getting started. Lab and radiology testing and other hospital outpatient services will be done at home. 3D printing of human organs for transplants will become commonplace.
The Future of Healthcare and Benefit Costs Organizations examine claims and then make the decision for a single benefit the following year. By auditing the progress of employee benefits in real time, companies will make meaningful adjustments to their benefit programs.
The Future of Workplace Technology The employee experience is reactive — you enroll by ticking boxes, completing forms and reading policy information. Artificial intelligence will offer tailored assistance, with a human touch. Behavioral science will help companies understand why employees make certain choices, and tech tracking will gather data about employee choices and needs better than surveys can.

The Future of Benefit Design

Currently, benefits address five distinct employee wellbeing needs: physical, emotional, financial, social wellbeing and work/life balance. But imagine going to a provider who caters to not just one of these needs, but all of them. Employers are recognizing that these five “pillars” of wellbeing are all interrelated.

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Historically we may have directed a client to an Employee Assistance Program for their emotional wellbeing or to a provider for their physical wellbeing, but now we're recognizing the interrelationship between physical and emotional wellbeing.

Emma Bassett
People Solutions Client Leader, EMEA, Aon’s Health Solutions

For example, new research shows that physical exercise in many cases is more effective than medication in treating depression.1 Our bodies influence our minds and vice versa.

When it comes to these five pillars of wellbeing, organizations have traditionally considered different providers for each. But now employers are asking if it’s possible for a provider to offer benefits for all these categories to maximize the value on investment, whose value is broader than merely financial in nature. Providers are being challenged to offer a holistic wellbeing approach, which could lead to new pathways for care.

In the meantime, we expect employers to expand the benefits they provide employees related to financial wellbeing and family support. Aon’s 2022-2023 Global Wellbeing SurveyOpens in a new tab reported that financial wellbeing was the benefit component that represented the greatest mismatch between employee needs and employer services.

Imagine selecting a benefit in 2023 that will have an impact on your wellbeing in 2025, rather than just an immediate positive effect in 2023. Employers are focusing on resilience and sustainability by designing benefits that will meet future challenges and remain relevant over the succeeding years. This can be aided by Aon’s Human Sustainability Index, a tool that measures wellbeing, resilience and sustainability. It helps employees navigate volatility in their lives and build resilience to improve wellbeing.

The Future of Healthcare Enrollment

For most employees, choosing health benefits takes place online. However, there are very few, if any, analytics available to guide them to make better choices for their unique circumstances. In the future, we foresee employees enrolling in benefits online and many more using advanced recommendations similar to an online streaming service. These suggestions could be based on individual demographics, previous benefit choices and what people in similar situations have selected.

Technology can also support personalized healthcare treatment based on an enrollee’s medical history and other factors. This growing strategy would draw on data and analytics to tailor the appropriate mix of benefits, enabling individuals to choose a more appropriate health plan from several choices (a platform that is currently offered by Aon).

The Future of Access to Care

Accessing care can vary dramatically depending on many factors, including your provider type and where you are located. It is also related to social factors that affect health — bringing equity concerns to the forefront for many companies. Technological advancements are designed to yield higher levels of access to benefits and treatment across all employee demographics. Aon’s Health Equity and Affordability Tool (HEAT)Opens in a new tab uses data, analytics and machine learning on healthcare expenditure and affordability predictors to help optimize healthcare spend and identify strategies to address access and affordability.

Being able to schedule appointments with your provider through text messages or an instant messaging platform rather than phone or over the computer is beneficial. Asynchronous messaging is available in limited cases but scheduling on-demand appointments is expected to grow in popularity. This is likely due to both the convenience and familiarity associated with this type of technology among the public.

In the future, technology can also give people access to “click and-mortar” companies that combine digital and in-person care. This will come after virtual and traditional healthcare companies seize opportunities to join forces via technology-enabled acquisition strategies. Indeed, the pandemic showed that many areas of telehealth that were previously thought to be ineffective, result in poorer patient outcomes, or possibly not even feasible were actually effective in a virtual environment.

The Future of Diagnostics and Treatment Care

Imagine technology-enabled medical screening powered by machine learning that checks people for health risks, assesses underlying determinants of your health and informs patients how they can navigate healthcare barriers (e.g., matching providers with insurance coverage, solving language barriers, meeting transportation challenges). As artificial intelligence and machine learning advance, this technology will be able to discern patterns of care in patients and help guide them to optimal outcomes.

Detailed data is currently being gathered from wearable devices and sensors, which can tell people about their health in more immediate and personalized ways than before. As the use of smart devices in healthcare continue to grow, we foresee easier access to care, better care management and improved outcomes. Additionally, the speed of digitalization is shaping diagnostics and treatment. For example, AI is starting to be used to assess our health symptoms, delivering high-definition diagnostics and quicker response times.

The pandemic opened conversations around allowing more over-the-counter availability of self-diagnostic tests at retailers and pharmacies — an opportunity that technology could fulfill. Other areas of patient care and treatment will also become more accessible in people’s own homes, including lab and radiology testing that is currently required in-person and other hospital outpatient services.

Medical treatment and devices are readily advancing. Case in point: the 3D printing of human organs for transplants is in the planning stages. When this technology becomes more cost-effective and reliable, organ transplants will become more widespread and accessible. By using the patient's own cells to grow organs, 3D printing could eliminate waiting lists, reduce the odds of organ rejection and make harmful life-long immunosuppressive medication unnecessary.

The Future of Healthcare and Benefit Costs

As costs rise, getting a better return on investment (ROI) on employee benefits has become a major priority for companies worldwide. This is where technology can step in.

  • By implementing a highly customizable technology platform, companies can streamline enrollment and administrative processes. For example, Aon’s benefit platform uses automation to cut the administrative effort to create and implement benefit programs, improving ROI.
  • Employee health data enables companies to understand what benefits employees want.
  • Backed by technology and employee data, early intervention can shrink the long-term costs linked to chronic illness or problem debt.
  • With a better gauge on employee engagement, companies can use this data to reveal how benefit use aligns with initiatives such as promoting wellbeing and resilience.

Organizations must consider the entirety of their people investment and then use analytics to drive decisions. Historically, claims were examined resulting in a single benefit the following year. But the shift is finally happening. Now organizations are being driven to rely more on analytics to make decisions to ensure their entire benefit investment is connected.

The next five years are going to be more focused on expanding the types of health and lifestyle-related benefits, and on maximizing health, productivity and quality of life. More emphasis will be placed on enhancing the experiences employees have as they navigate the healthcare system. Better benefit integration can help make this possible; and by auditing the progress of employee benefits in real time, companies can make meaningful ongoing adjustments to their benefit programs, instead of waiting until the next benefit selection cycle to check on results.

As employers call on insurance carriers and healthcare providers to help them deliver enhanced benefits to employees, data and analytics can be important tools for employers to use when designing health and benefits programs.

To support their overall HR strategy, companies can use a global structure relying on technological innovations to streamline benefit design and enrollment, and then overlay local/regional nuance.

Amid rapid change, technology is a force that is not only upgrading healthcare, but also enabling employers to better design their benefits, improve the enrollment experience, facilitate access to care, and upgrade diagnostics and treatment care. We know that the connection between better health and benefit programs and business performance is strong. According to Aon’s 2022-2023 Global Wellbeing Survey, improving employee wellbeing can enhance company performance by at least 11 percent and up to 55 percent (depending on the areas of wellbeing that are being improved). Companies can leverage technology to increase employee satisfaction via better healthcare and wellness benefits, and as a result, gain a substantial competitive advantage.

The Future of Workforce Technology

For decades, employee benefit technology has largely only been applied to benefit enrollment and communications. As a result, the employee experience has become a box-ticking exercise. AI has the power to enrich this experience through scalable automation. It will transform employees’ expectations while allowing organizations to mass-customize specific help and guidance on complex benefit issues. AI largely removes the need for expensive administration help desks and creates an immersive experience for employees. Chatbots will be replaced by a fully interactive AI assistant that will interact like a human. This technology could potentially offer a human touch at difficult times of emotional distress or significant personal upheaval that will be able to guide, support and direct like a real person.

Deeper insights on employee behavior will support workforce technology. Methodologies used to analyze consumers will be applied to the workforce. Knowing what people really want will shape how employers design a benefit package, what they should offer and how they should offer it. Technology will be able to collect data more accurately than surveys, offering benefit experiences that are relevant and meaningful to the workforce.

The most important future trend will be the creation of true, insightful performance analytics for HR teams. Measuring online benefits is typically limited to basic enrollment data and costs, yielding simple metrics that are limited in insight value. An analytical engine, however, can generate insights into workforce behaviors. This has the potential to transform how HR departments evaluate benefits. By moving away from what users are doing to why they are doing it, companies will be able to mobilize predictive analysis that will shape benefits while mitigating benefit risks.

How Aon Can Help

Aon is harnessing the power of applying data analytics to employer-based health and wellbeing benefits. Our health analytics hub delivers valuable data insights, while The Benefit Solution (TBS)Opens in a new tab guides informed decision making with a benchmarking tool and data analytics portal. TBS helps manage employer costs by improving the visibility of benefits expenditure and helping to predict and manage future costsOpens in a new tab. TBS also helps employees understand their available benefits, while simplifying the process of reviewing health and financial options.

Aon’s Cost Efficiency Measurement solution can assess the relative efficiency of any mix of health and lifestyle benefits. Coming soon, Aon’s Health Risk Navigator tool will help employers better understand the trajectory of costs experienced by their insureds so they can predict and manage healthcare costs. Aon’s Human Sustainability IndexOpens in a new tab can be used as a yardstick to measure wellbeing, instill resilience and create sustainability. Employers can then use these insights to shape their benefit design to meet ongoing needs.

1 Physical activity more effective than counseling or medications to manage depression

General Disclaimer

The information contained herein and the statements expressed are of a general nature and are not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavor to provide accurate and timely information and use sources we consider reliable, there can be no guarantee that such information is accurate as of the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future. No one should act on such information without appropriate professional advice after a thorough examination of the particular situation.

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The contents herein may not be reproduced, reused, reprinted or redistributed without the expressed written consent of Aon, unless otherwise authorized by Aon. To use information contained herein, please write to our team.

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