Technology has revolutionized many aspects of health plan design, and now dental plan providers seeking ways to differentiate themselves from the competition are turning to tech innovations as well. From mobile apps to virtual ID cards to gamification and even Bluetooth smart brushes, it’s not your father’s dental plan anymore. Brokers seeking innovative plan designs for employers should take note. The future is here.

Technology innovations in health plan design are a dime a dozen these days, but modernizing dental plans is just taking root. Huge opportunities exist for carriers to stand out in a stagnant industry, experts say, adding the same is true for brokers and employers, too.

It’s imperative that brokers and agents evolve with the industry’s new technology because these innovations can help grow their businesses and enhance their consulting capabilities, according to Deborah Sternberg, president of AlwaysCare Benefits.

The Baton Rouge, La.-based ancillary benefit carrier has recently built three online platforms for consumers, brokers and HR professionals to buy dental and vision benefits. The platform is modeled upon the user experience of Amazon.com and offers users up to eight dental plans offered in their area that can be purchased. In three steps, Sternberg says, users receive a quote, enter enrollment and payment info, and receive a policy number and ID card.

“We tried to make it very streamlined,” she says.

For brokers and agents, she says, the carrier offers a custom agent link to help advisers cross sell dental plans easily. The link can be added to a broker’s website and any individual business coming through that link is attributed to the broker.

For employers, she says, the platform can easily accommodate enrollment for seasonal employees and management employees through payroll deductions using a single interface.

The company has also designed a mobile app through which members can access virtual ID cards, find providers and access benefit information.

The brush off

Beam, a Columbus, Ohio-based company, is also taking innovation one step further, integrating a mobile app and a next-generation “smart” toothbrush with group dental plans. The Bluetooth-enabled smart brush connects to your smartphone and automatically tracks brushing habits.

Alex Frommeyer, Beam’s CEO and founder, says the company uses the data about employees’ brushing habits to provide more targeted coverage for employee populations.

“Many companies are overpaying for dental plans,” Frommeyer says.  

“The brush itself is a toothbrush and in the background we’re collecting data on how and when you brush your teeth. This allows us to display on our app that core monitoring data, just like Fitbit does. But we consider that the barebones of what we do,” he says.

Beyond the monitoring aspect, he says, the whole experience is intended to help employers better customize plans and also improve dental health by driving engagement.

“We’ve set up a system of stars, which is gaming currency,” Frommeyer explains. “The more you’re brushing the more you’re earning stars.”

Eventually, he says, the company hopes for the stars to translate into rewards.

“The cool thing we’re seeing in terms of data and the brush,” he says. “Our users are brushing their teeth an average of 1.8 times a day – for two minutes. That’s demonstrating major improvement rates and double the national average.”

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