3 strategies to simplify health care enrollment and navigation

HR leaders need to think about sustainable wellbeing – how to keep their employees busy with their health care long after they’ve submitted their performance decisions for the year. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The pandemic has led many employers to focus more on the holistic health and wellbeing of their workforce, and ultimately to put health services strategy at the heart of their workforce strategy.

Reaching a healthier, more productive workforce is not easy, however. The US healthcare system can be intimidatingly complex, making it difficult for consumers to navigate and sometimes preventing them from using it in the first place. Additionally, the exploding ecosystem of digital health and virtual care options has made it even more overwhelming – both for employers who have to manage an average of 14 health care providers (some of which juggle more than 20), and for employees trying to do so do determine the best care options for their individual health needs.

Related: Complex health services can negatively impact employee wellbeing and productivity

With open enrollment just around the corner, employers have the opportunity to redesign the health care experience and get their employees back on track for their health and wellbeing – not just during the open enrollment season, but for the whole year and beyond. Here are three strategies leaders can use to achieve this.

1. Avoid the “adjust and forget” mindset

Far too often, health promotion programs are only advertised during open enrollment, which leads many employees to quickly forget what they have chosen and not think about their health until an emergency occurs. In addition, employees are often not even aware of all the advantages that are available to them. All of this leads to a delay in care, which can lead to more harmful health problems and add to increasing health care costs for employers. Postponement of nursing care was tightened during the pandemic.

Going forward, hiring managers will need to think about sustainable wellbeing – how to keep their employees busy with their health care long after they’ve submitted their performance decisions for the year. It is imperative that they not just hand over their comprehensive benefit package to their employees and expect them to read it carefully, fully understand everything, and remember what is available to them when a critical health need arises – especially considering that 73% of employees said they didn’t even understand its benefits.

Instead of restricting messages about the benefits to right before or during the open registration, you will find ways to communicate with employees early and frequently, be it via a navigation platform, consistent e-mails, company chat, at company-wide meetings, in Monthly webinars on benefits or pinned on the company intranet. Information should be accessible and understandable, avoid technical jargon and be made available in all required languages. Employers can improve their communication strategy even further by tailoring it to the preferences of their employees. In addition, all HR managers should be trained on the benefits available for the holistic wellbeing of their team members and encouraged to speak frequently with their team about these benefits.

2. Provide employees with better resources to make health navigation and enrollment easier

The better employees understand their health services and the easier it is for them to follow their personal health path, the better – this leads to more engagement, better health outcomes and cost savings.

To make it easier for you to sign up for services and navigate your way through the healthcare sector, there are a few things that HR managers can do:

  • Customized Communications for Specific Employee Segments: Rather than promoting every benefit program to the entire workforce, employers could take steps to understand the health needs of different employee segments and then send targeted messages based on those specific needs. For example, employees with type II diabetes would receive more information about diet and exercise programs, while employees with high blood pressure would receive alerts about heart health resources. Personalization is key to engagement as it helps employees connect more seamlessly with the right care.
  • Provision of educational resources and financial advice: Poor health literacy is associated with less healthy choices, riskier health behaviors, poorer health, inappropriate use of health services, and higher costs. Make it as easy as possible for your employees to understand basic health information and make informed decisions based on the cost and quality of care. It’s important that they have a good understanding of things like out-of-pocket expenses, what a deductible is and how to counter it, and what to look for when looking for the most suitable provider.
  • Partnership with a Health Navigation Solution: This will make it easier to inform employees of new benefits available to them as most navigation platforms can act as a communications hub and reduce the administrative burden for the performance team. In addition, through the use of predictive analytics and member data (i.e. claims, biometrics, and user search activities), the navigation platform can narrow down which programs and providers should be recommended to which employees in order to avoid inundating employees with a deluge of both and irrelevant options.

3. Include the C-Suite

As performance management becomes the core of the overall HR strategy, discussions about critical performance need to go beyond the HR team. Aligning corporate culture with employee health and wellbeing becomes much easier when the company’s decision-makers are involved and engaged – because change often starts at the top. If business leaders adopt a culture of health and wellbeing, their direct reports and their teams will also adopt a culture of health and wellbeing.

It is time for C-suite executives to engage more deeply with their employees’ experiences with health services – and hold themselves (and each other) accountable for making performance strategy a top priority and understanding how they feel on all aspects of and the engagement, satisfaction and productivity of talent.


The good news is that employers are paying more attention to the health and wellbeing of their employees to help them live healthier, happier, and more productive lives. Registering benefits and navigating healthcare can be complex, but employers have options to make both of these easier for their employees. If performance leaders use open enrollment as a catalyst to keep their team members engaged with their health and wellbeing, they are likely to have a healthier workforce and cost savings.

Richa Gupta is Chief People Officer at Castlight health.

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