Employers interested in adopting personalization techniques, yet few report proficient implementation

According to a new survey conducted by Castlight and the National Business Group on Health, 87 percent of employers would give themselves a C grade or worse on their current benefits personalization efforts.
By Laura Lovett
09:40 am

The rise in machine learning and data analysis has led to a new wave of discussions over personalization in healthcare. However, despite the expected potential, many employers have yet to implement the systems, according to the Employer Perspective of Personalization in Digital Health survey conducted by Castlight and the National Business Group on Health. 

In the report 84 percent of employers said they believed personalization has a high or very high potential to match employees with the right benefits and resources. However, the percentage of employers actually using personalization is much lower. According to the study, 87 percent of employers would give themselves a C grade or worse when it comes to the current implementation of those plans. 

“Our survey showed that there is a strong belief that personalization has the ability to significantly impact employers and employees,” the authors of the study wrote. “However, employers recognize there are opportunities to improve the technology that powers personalization in benefits, to increase knowledge and education about personalization, and take greater advantage of existing technology.”

In the survey, which included 58 large and medium employers with more than 1,000 employees, chronic condition management was the most popular means of personalization (64 percent). However, few were using it for telehealth (23 percent) or nutritional counseling (20 percent). 

The report lays out three major areas that employers can take advantage of. The first is by leveraging more data sources, including user behavior, medical and pharmacy claims and activity trackers. Secondly, it says employers could invest in machine learning-driving personalization. Lastly, employers could expand program personalization to target specific individual needs. 

“Employers are keenly focused on benefits strategies that address rising health costs and improve the employee health experience,” Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health, said in a statement. “One of the most effective strategies relies on leveraging the many data resources and digital health solutions available today to offer personalized recommendations that connect employees with the right health benefits at the right time.”


Many in the in industry are starting to look to personalization as the future of health. The authors of the survey report point out that technology has the potential to give patients relevant programs and help with employee engagement. 

“Industry advances in machine learning and data liquidity have created new opportunities to tailor benefits to the individual employee and unlock additional value for employers,” Maeve O’Meara, EVP of product and customer experience at Castlight Health, said in a statement. 


Insurers are starting to take notice of this personalization trend and started creating tools to address this. In November UnitedHealthcare made updates on a number of digital resources designed to provide employers insight on their employees’ health, as well as encourage those employees to better apply their health benefits.

These tools included Health Plan Manager, an interactive analytics tool for self-funded health plans; Digital Onboarding, a plan enrollment system; PreCheck MyScript, a tool integrated into existing EHR platforms that lets patients and providers view how much a medication costs; and Personalized Claims Videos, a system that offers bespoke video explanations of benefits and medical bills.

Anthem has also been working on technology in this space. It personalizes the search tool for patients so the providers that come up in the search first are the most cost-effective appropriate care and are the ones chosen by employers. 


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