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Innovative approaches to medical utilisation for a better employee experience

Benefits and the employee experience – Part 4

Health and Benefits|Wellbeing|Global Benefits Management
Modernising Benefits

By Alan Zhu | May 18, 2022

With growing pressure to contain costs while prioritising employee health and wellbeing, employers have an opportunity to realign and optimise the use of medical benefits.

One of the impacts of the pandemic has been to considerably change the face of the healthcare industry. In turn, this has affected how employees interact with and utilise their medical benefits. Continuous social distancing measures and physical meeting restrictions have caused many to delay seeking medical care and look for alternative methods of treatment.

These changes have heightened concerns over already soaring costs that employers and insurers face in Asia Pacific (Figure 1). The medical trend is expected to rise even further due to ongoing COVID-related claims, medical cost inflation and the rebound of previously deferred elective procedures.

64% of Asia Pacific health insurers expect higher medical trend; 7.6% average medical trend expected for Asia Pacific in 2022
Figure 1. Asia Pacific employers and insurers expect a higher medical trend in the next three years

Employers are under pressure to manage costs; one of the ways they can do so is by realigning their benefit portfolio to the unique and changing medical needs of their employees. This would also allow them to improve the accessibility and ease of use of medical benefits post-pandemic.

Employees can access and utilise their medical benefits in new ways

How can employers enable this access? Here are some recommendations:

Allow flexible coverage
  • As travel restrictions may still be in place in some regions and people continue to be wary of making trips, Flexible Spending Account (FSA) credits allotted for transport and/or travel could be redirected to medical-related costs. Employers must place resources where they are currently needed and used by employees.
  • Extension of medical coverage such as allowing purchase of services not covered by traditional medical plans, and extending when and where employees can access them, can allow employees to build a bespoke set of benefits based on their circumstances.
  • While we see lower COVID-19 cases, continuous coverage of COVID-related products such as subsidy allowances to cover the costs of accommodation and/or food when in quarantine and vaccination complication coverage are still relevant.
Invest in technology to communicate and deliver benefits

Technology is moving quickly, and it will be key for employers to have a plan in place to help employees manage and access their medical benefits , and file and track their claims remotely. For instance, a simple platform can be implemented to provide online access where employees can navigate through all these features, and also enrol themselves for supplementary medical benefit options ad hoc.

It will be key for employers to have a plan in place to help employees manage and access their medical benefits.

Employers can also use a digital platform to communicate their benefits, for instance through live streaming where communication and engagement with employees is real-time. Do this during open enrolment and throughout the year, and partner this with circulating digitised pamphlets and handbooks containing information about medical benefits, so your employees are consistently up-to-date and aware of their healthcare coverage.

Continue moving towards telemedicine

Telemedicine or telehealth has been commonplace to provide basic healthcare functions during the pandemic. As it is here to stay, it is the right time for organisations to consider adopting insurance products that cover telemedicine. Our 2022 Global Medical Trends Survey also found that more insurers see telehealth as an emerging cost management method through remote diagnosis and treatment of patients (Figure 2).1

46% of Asia Pacific insurers report that telehealth is an effective cost management tool in 2021 and 60% in 2022
Figure 2. A growing number of Asia Pacific insurers recognise telehealth can help manage costs

Seek a healthcare provider who can provide online booking of appointments and consultations for your employees, and where they may enjoy offline to online features such as accessing medical results of procedures done in hospitals through an app or website.

Innovative digital health initiatives

Many Asia Pacific markets are embracing change through public and private players innovating to integrate technology and allow the labour force to manage, access and utilise their medical benefits and health information. Employers will need to weave in their workforce’s access with these changing platforms.

Here are some examples of health initiatives in Asia Pacific using technology to support health and wellbeing:

  • China: Through a digital platform from a major provider, patients can see doctors online within minutes, instead of lining up in the hospitals. E-commerce transactions for medicines, providing consumer health products, generics and health check-up kits are also integrated in a digital platform.
  • Australia: The Australian government has introduced My Health Record to safekeep patient information such as reports of their medications, allergies, laboratory tests and chronic conditions – digitally accessible to both patients and healthcare providers. This is beneficial in accidents and emergencies where patients may not be able to immediately access their health records.3
  • Singapore: A comprehensive digital application, called HealthHub, serves as an entry point for all citizens in Singapore to book appointments, order medications, access vaccinations, disease risk assessments and other health content.2
Adapting new policies and practices
  • Where appropriate, organisations can better support and safely administer employee health programs through company check-ups and arranged on-site scheduled vaccination or medical tests for employees.
  • Launch mental health programs and employee assistance programs (EAP) to support overall wellbeing, of which 43% of Asia Pacific employers are integrating into their benefit packages.4

There are creative and thoughtful ways to address wellbeing concerns that employees may not be vocal about and stepping up can help prevent stress and burnout.

Supporting overall employee health and wellbeing
  • Available hotlines connecting employees to professional mental health counselling and consultation
  • Webinars that tackle mindfulness, mental health first aid and financial wellness
  • Workshops are held regularly for employees to understand their purpose, learn to manage their energy and time
  • Consistent workplace communication to identify early signs of stress and assure employees that there are resources are available to assist in their welfare and mental wellbeing
  • Paid sabbatical leaves, granted depending on the milestone years the employee has been with the company to allow employees

Medical benefits that are designed and delivered with the employee experience and wellbeing in mind remains at the forefront of employer priorities.

As employees come to expect support from their employers on medical benefits, more so with the emergence of new health and wellbeing needs and expectations, making them accessible and convenient is one of the initial steps to achieve positive employee health outcomes.

In our next article in this series on benefits and the employee experience, we will look into how employers can make this a reality with the power of technology.

Sources

1 WTW 2022 Global Medical Trends Survey

2 McKinsey: The future of healthcare in Asia: Digital deal ecosystems

3 Australian Digital Health Agency: My Health Record

4 2021 Benefit Trends Survey – Asia Pacific

Author

Head of Health & Benefits, China

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