One Place 2015 Recap: Have Benefits Become “Amazoned”?

In its fifth year, One Place 2015 brought together the best of technology, industry thought leadership and a customer experience that could possibly rival that of Dreamforce. Closing the first day with a dazzling fireworks display, the event was a reminder of the power and brilliance that come from bringing together so many of the best minds in the benefits business.

Several key themes were prevalent throughout the 3-day conference, but there was one theme that continued to surface: healthcare transparency. Regardless of the quantity and quality of benefits choices you provide, without transparency into medical costs – and an easy way to understand the implications of our choices within the context of our personal health and financial circumstances – the value of benefits is substantially reduced.

In order to enable greater transparency, Benefitfocus is taking extraordinary effort in the second key theme of the conference, “data is the foundation.” A team of some of the best and brightest data scientists, specializing in data visualization and the transformation of structured and unstructured data sets, is revolutionizing the benefits lifecycle to enable greater personalization based on conventional claims data as well as unstructured data from social media, web trends and wellness devices such as a Fitbit®. Even benefits technology supports the Internet of things (IoT).

Healthcare transparency and “Amazoning” the benefits industry

Perhaps one of the most exciting themes from this year’s conference is the Amazon-like shopping experience data and transparency will bring. This is ground-breaking because it powers the convergence of health and wealth management at the consumer level. This is unheard of in the staunchly conservative benefits and insurance business, where current business models and legacy on-premise IT systems continue to perpetuate higher costs and less transparency. Consider this… you have more data at your fingertips when shopping for a television on Amazon than you do when selecting your benefits, and your choice of benefits has more far reaching consequences to your health and wealth than the television. Shouldn’t your choice of benefits come with similar data to help you make a wise decision—data about costs, product reviews, what to look for and what to avoid?

Data alone will not bring transparency. It’s the data plus interface design and integration with HRIS systems that will drive the shopping experience—one similar to shopping on Amazon—where you’ll have a more personalized experience, product reviews and tools that provide greater insight and understanding from the data. You’ll have, at your fingertips, the support required to make the best benefits choices for your personal situation during open enrollment and throughout the year.

The future of mobile devices and benefits technology

The conference also showcased the company’s efforts in enabling a similar elegant user interface on mobile devices thanks to responsive web design (RWD). Again, tying design back to data and healthcare transparency, Benefitfocus President and CEO Shawn Jenkins portended the future of healthcare and benefits technology as one in which every consumer would possess his or her healthcare data on a mobile device. The data would then be applied to improve benefits decisions. For example, Shawn cited his own retinal scan, where the digital scan would not only reside on his doctor’s system, but also on Shawn’s mobile phone or tablet, giving him flexibility to easily take his scan for a second opinion. Or during the enrollment process, knowing there’s an issue, suggest ancillary benefits such as increasing his health savings account (HSA) to cover additional medical visits to a specialist.

Benefitfocus has been pioneering both data and design for the past 15 years. A most notable outcome of the company’s elegant design and robust engineering is an agnostic platform that’s extensible to a host of ecosystem partners. And perhaps that’s one of the most important points that surfaced about the Platform during the conference—flexibility, given uncertainty around public and private exchanges. Regardless of the political climate, the Platform enables brokers, consultants, employers and carriers to give consumers more choice, while reducing the administrative cost and burden that often come with it.

Personalization of benefits

The data guiding consumers to make more informed wealth and health benefit choices will do the same for benefit providers. Aggregate demographic data enables benefits providers to personalize benefits offerings based on the makeup of any given workforce or member population. So whether you’re a broker, carrier or employer you’ll gain greater agility to create benefits bundles that are relevant to your whole population and then adapt benefits as the data dictate. The Benefitfocus Platform does for benefits providers and administrators what open source cloud computing platforms have done for software— it enables agile development and scalability.

In his keynote, Shawn Jenkins explained that the Benefitfocus Platform, with its robust data-as-the-foundation engine, is one platform that addresses the needs of four markets—employers, carriers, brokers and consultants. And as the healthcare reform debate rages on, layering additional complexity on top of an already uncertain benefits situation, the Benefitfocus community – including partners, customers and stakeholders –continues to apply technology to revolutionize the benefits industry.