The healthcare industry must move into the technological era to give employees the best user experience, finds Brian Hall, MD at BHSF Employee Benefits
The healthcare industry has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, providing innovative employee offerings such as workplace assistance programmes, stress counselling, debt and finance counselling, 24 hour GP access, and so on – but these services are only of value to either employer or employee if they are actually used.
When schemes are first launched, they see spikes of employee awareness, but as the email reminders stop and posters are replaced over time, the awareness and ease of access dwindles and the instant accessibility of the services tends to reduce. This is where technology can ease the path to employees engaging with their health and wellbeing.
The idea of a healthcare app is that it quite literally places your existing health services into your pocket and gives you instant reminders of the services your employer gives you access to. If information is on an employee’s smartphone, they can check it easily, see who they need to contact for assistance, and contact them there and then.
Of course, there is also the risk that people can forget all the things their app has to offer; BHSF has overcome this challenge by placing our discount platform within the same app. The platform has up to 65% engagement levels, so as employees regularly go in to use their discounts, they are also constantly aware of the various help and support services that are available.
AN EASY JOURNEY
Creating a successful employee healthcare offering is about ease of access and ease of user journey. We are an ‘always on’ culture – you can find any information on Google, and people have grown used to that and want their support services delivered in the same way.
Indeed, the workforce has already fallen in love with their smartphones, because everything is accessible that way. They have become the go-to place in every aspect of our lives, so the healthcare industry must evolve that way: we must be in that tech space, giving employees the appropriate places to go to for good information.
Healthcare apps of this nature also allow joined-up thinking: if an employee signs up for wearable technology and tracks their fitness, or does an online health assessment that flags up health issues, then where do they go next with that data? If the next icon on the app allows them to talk to a counsellor or GP, then they have somewhere to go with that information and can speak to someone there and then. It gives them the people-to-people support service that they otherwise don’t have, and it encourages people to take action without self-diagnosing.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Being able to use technology such as this has a huge impact on both absenteeism and presenteeism, and consequently a company’s bottom line. The time taken to get a GP appointment, especially if that service is far from your place of work, is a logistical nightmare for employees. For those ‘critical’ individuals in a company, who know that key organisational processes run through them, this can be extremely off-putting when taking time out for illness.
The ability to ring a service at any time of the day or night is also of great benefit in family situations, when a parent might get a speedy and reassuring diagnosis for an ill child.
Smartphone technology will ultimately be key to encouraging employees to engage with their healthcare. Two years ago in 2014, only a tiny minority of people were using technology in this space, but by the end of 2016, the majority will be using healthcare apps and technology.
The picture will soon be turned on its head, and employers need to engage now. If they want to manage the message and reap the rewards of the data, they need to be on board – they need to take the lead or get left behind.