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Group taps health benefits platform to personalize choices

To boost benefits offerings, the Healthcare Transformation Alliance chose the Welltok platform. All 47 member companies will now share data on claims, health outcomes and more.

The Health Transformation Alliance, a group of 47 major companies that joined together in early 2016 with a goal to improve employee healthcare and lower costs, hopes a SaaS-based health benefits platform will bring an individualized approach to benefit choices across the entire group.

The move will enable the member companies to share real-time information on claims outcomes, employee activities and the success or failure of health and benefits offerings. "Other companies have tried to do this," said Rob Andrews, CEO of HTA and a former U.S. representative in Congress. "But I think we're different. We want to break through the babel of solutions out there. There are literally thousands of options to help you quit smoking or lose weight, but which ones actually work? We're going to share the information and provide better health outcomes for people."

With healthcare costs rising and employees expecting a wider range of benefits, particularly in the health and wellness area, HR teams are under pressure to meet those needs, while, at the same time, cutting costs. Companies are also experimenting with the idea of wellness as a prime tool for engagement, but finding the right mix of programs and incentives can be tricky. A huge pool of data that can offer guidance could be a step in the right direction, said Brent Skinner, co-founder of consulting company #CareerGravity.

Brent SkinnerBrent Skinner

"Lots of organizations recognize they need to offer programs like these, but they need to make them as cost-effective as possible, and they don't have time for a long vetting process," he said. "This could help make the choices much clearer."

A personalized health benefits platform

That was certainly the goal for George Murphy, senior vice president for total rewards, HR technology and operations at Lincoln Financial Group, one of the early members of HTA. "Recent reports project that employee benefit costs will reach $15,000 per employee next year," Murphy said in an email. "We want to meet employees where they are -- on their terms -- to drive and reward healthy behaviors. But to do that, we must understand how to engage them and what their needs and goals are so we know which programs are most effective on an individual level."

HTA has chosen Welltok to provide a health benefits platform across the entire group. The platform will replace an internal intranet or other technology in each member company with a single point of employee engagement for health, wellness and even financial benefits, explained Scott Rotermund, Welltok's co-founder and chief growth officer. With the platform, employers can customize the offerings to fit their employee populations, and the tool can reach out with reminders for everything from training to a flu shot or 401(k) sign-ups using email, text, AI-powered chatbots and automated calls, Rotermund said.The Welltok health benefits platform will track use data from the combined 6 million HTA member employees, Rotermund said, and use machine learning to pair it with external, nonhealthcare information that could include income, voter status, property ownership and more. "We want to know what's going to drive an employee's behavior," he said. "If we modify one or two actions, it could lead to significant savings if we can find the correlation between this action and that action." Each member company will have access to a hosted platform on which shared data will be available.

Personalized approach may improve engagement

Lincoln Financial needs such information, Murphy said, because the company wants to find a way to truly tailor messages and offerings to its employees so there is less time and money wasted. "What might motivate one employee may, in fact, do very little for their colleague down the hall," he said. "But with advanced machine learning that combines traditional healthcare data and consumer data, we can determine which programs and rewards will work best for each individual employee and how best to engage them. We believe this personalized approach will help encourage our employees to take a more proactive role in their health, both in and out of the workplace."

How HTA member companies use the Welltok health benefits platform will be up to them, Andrews said. "They could just educate people to make sure employees know who is a quality provider," he said. "Other employers might use incentives -- if you use an effective provider, your share of your out-of-pocket [cost] is $10 versus $30 a visit. And the most aggressive technique might be the only provider we pay for is the first one. We're going to leave it up to each of them."

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