As high-deductible and consumer-driven health plans continue to increase in popularity, EBA spoke with Nitra LaGrander, a product manager at Evolution1, a provider of electronic payment, on-premise and cloud computing health care solutions, for tips on how plan participants who are new to these types of plans can easily access their online accounts and take charge of managing their health care dollars.

 

As employers transition into consumer-driven health care, educating employees becomes critical. What kind of tools are powerful additions to a communication campaign?

Education is absolutely critical for anyone who's introducing a consumer-directed health care offering and is really expecting to have a successful option because [these types of plans are] about engaging people; it's getting them involved, it's helping to make them active participants in their own health and health care.

 

Adding education and engagement

One thing that employers should really look at adding to their campaign is tools that leverage technology to approach the education through interaction and engagement. You can think about it almost like providing entertainment value to the education process. This may sound like an unusual approach, but really what we're talking about are visual learning aids - that could be something like a video testimonial from the type of person an employee may identify with or video animation that allows the employee to really interact and choose what they want to listen to.

It might even engage them to answer certain questions as part of the process so they can almost build a profile of what type of information would be more pertinent for their situation. What I like about these types of solutions is that they can be accessed anytime, from any location.

 

Multiple entry methods

Whether that's sitting at work, accessing it via the Internet, using [a personal] computer or maybe a tablet PC like an iPad. . . . I'm sitting at home with my significant other and we're talking about what our benefits might be and how we plan for our health care next year, I can pull up an education tool like this right on my iPad.

More and more we're actually seeing these types of tools and solutions being available via a mobile smart phones.

These are all technologies that people are more than familiar with and they're very comfortable using. What these interactive tools actually enable are employees to self direct on the information they need and they can really manage the amount of information they're consuming at one time.

 

Helping users to understand the system

It's giving them more control, it's helping them to break down a complex subject matter into something that's more easily comprehended as opposed to if you imagine sitting in some of these benefit enrollments meetings where an employee may be flooded with an overwhelming amount of information [where] really the average person has a difficult time trying to retain all of that.

 

How important is it for plan participants to access all of their accounts online in one place?

I think this is so important. It seems like such a basic concept but it's really not uncommon to see employers who are offering a benefits package to their employees that require something like a separate enrollment process for different plans depending upon what I might be signing up for.

 

Too many debit cards

We even see multiple debit cards being issued to one person, so maybe I'm getting one debit card to access my health savings account dollars and then a second card to access my reimbursement account, like an FSA. Employees [are] being directed to go different places to get balance information about the different plans they may have signed up for.

 

Turning users away

For the participants this whole process can be so counterintuitive, it actually turns them away from CDHC - which is the exact opposite of what an employer, and really we as an industry, are trying to achieve. Now people don't have time to figure out how to navigate a system where they have to go multiple places, use multiple methods.

It can be really confusing and I don't think it has to be that hard.

 

Knocking down the barriers to consumer engagement

If people are going to successfully make that jump into CDHC, employers have to knock down the barriers; they have to make it easier. Having something like an online portal, where employees can see all of their accounts in one place; they can take action on all of these accounts in real time. Having a single debit card that allows easy access to all account dollars. Those are things that are really critical. That is really just one component.

 

Multiple entry points

You have to think of this as, "How are you enabling participants to have multiple entry points to the same information?"

An online portal is one entry point, but you can even expand on that and think about phone apps and being able to pull up information ... for people who are more comfortable picking up the phone and calling into a service center.

How are you enabling that service team to have access to all account information that a single consumer or a single employee might be enrolled in so that they can get the best service and really have that one point of contact?

I think all of these things have to come together in order to really create that seamless experience that's going to make it easier for the end consumer.

 

How do you suggest advisers talk with baby boomers and those that are nearing retirement age, since many may not be as technologically savvy as those in the younger generation?

Well one difference . . . that we know is with people nearing retirement versus a Gen X or a Gen Y is that this segment of the population does really require a more person[able] high-touch experience. Make sure you have resources available, like that knowledgeable call center that has access to all the information they need, so that they can support those individuals who are looking for more assistance.

 

Messaging

Messaging should really focus on the wealth management components of CDHC. Generally speaking, [the] baby boomer population cares about wealth management specifically as it relates to preparing for retirement because this is something they are well informed on. For a large percentage they have been taking an active role in [planning for] this for many years.

 

A new line of thinking about messaging

When I think of CDHC it's really just dealing . . . directly [with] the health side of wealth management. The concept isn't a foreign one and drawing those parallels between something like a HSA and a 401(k) plan really helps to pull things into context for people who are more familiar with that line of thinking.

I don't necessarily think that the baby boomer population is not technologically savvy because in certain respects I think that they are.

They may not be jumping onto social networking or text messaging like a 21 year old [would do], but they are savvy when navigating the Web and with electronic communications like email. I think that advisers and employers can leverage tools like the Internet and email when really reaching out to this certain demographic.

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