Supplier Diversity

Employee Benefits Programs Seeing More Innovation From Tech-Based Suppliers

There is plenty of discussion on the transformation of employee health benefits programs through technology. What can suppliers bring to the table to create superior value?
— By James Hsu

In any endeavor, it makes sense to learn from the people and companies that achieve excellence. Pinterest is such a company. The company collaborated with Lyra to develop a mental health program for employees, and the outcomes have been excellent. One of the important features that makes this effort so noteworthy is that is starts with what employees need rather than what the employer wanted to offer. One of the reasons many companies have expensive underutilized programs is because they are not built on employee needs but rather on what the employer thinks they need. The Pinterest experience in establishing an effective mental health benefits program offers suppliers a path for developing products and services in the employee benefits arena that meet the needs of employees and produce desired outcomes for the employer and the workforce.

Thinking in Terms of Desired Outcomes
Pinterest focused on mental health in 2020, but the principles the company used apply to all health benefits. The company first developed its top goals which were to attract and inspire talent to do their best work; support the health and well-being of diverse employees and dependents; and provide employees a peace of mind so they can focus. The COVID pandemic accomplished something that has been out of reach for many employers – convinced people that mental health in the workplace is as important as physical health and justifies investing resources. It brought mental health into the limelight.

As suppliers develop tech-based employee benefits programs, they should start with the idea of meeting employer and employee needs. Needs are identified through quality data collection and analytics. In the case of Pinterest, a mental health program was needed. Pinterest considered the results of a KFF Health Tracking Poll conducted during the pandemic which found the people experiencing the highest stress level were women, Blacks, Hispanics, and parents. Pinterest is a tech company that sets specific goals for hiring women and minority engines and underrepresented minority employees. Per the last diversity report published in January 2020, the 2019 hiring rate goals were exceeded which meant the workforce is more diverse than it has ever been.

The next step was to look at mental health data. Mental health accounted for the second highest number of claims, but only 1 percent of employees were using the free legacy Employees Assistance Program (EAP). The need was there and was identified. Finding the right supplier to partner hinged upon identifying one able to solve the access problem, make the program easier and smarter via technology, and capable of delivering the best care in-network.

The one thing that must be avoided is the potential burnout of employees feeling like they must be constantly plugged into technology in order to access the services needed.
Selecting the Right Vendor
Pinterest chose to partner with Lyra because it offered what people needed to access mental health benefits. Lyra provides instant access to high quality mental health care; reimagined the EAP and health plan integration; and had a lengthy list of advantages like next day appointments with high quality coaches, therapists, and expert prescribers; online sign-up; personalized recommendations; in-person or live video; digital tools and exercises; 1-on-1 messaging with a provider; and assessments to track progress.

Lyra also relies on rigorous data-driven network screening to find and onboard top evidence-based providers and tracks ongoing clinical outcomes for provider network performance monitoring. The company can offer a tailored approach for each employer and a wealth of customized webinars for employees and managers. Also of importance is that 90 percent of mental health care sessions are conducted via live video. Lyra provides a wealth of tools and outcomes data. Lyra measures outcomes with the highest clinical standards, and that is a critical feature which suppliers need to offer employers in the health and wellness industry. For example, data shows employees who are improved or recovered as a result of utilizing the benefits program.

Another point that suppliers should consider is the ability to offer product enhancements. Lyra added coaching through live and recorded videos on nutrition and cooking, fitness and wellness, guided meditation and effective communication. Products should also be scalable.

Asking the Right Questions
A research project conducted by the Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces investigated the ways technology can interface with work and organizational design to deliver ways to improve worker health and psychological well-being. The Healthy Workplaces meetings with experts and stakeholders, including company executives, created a technology inventory. These are the same questions that technology suppliers of health benefits should ask. What do workers need and want to achieve the most productivity at work? How can feedback and information assist worker productivity and a sense of well-being? What factors in the built environment are indirectly or directly related to emotional well-being, stress and discomfort? How can emerging technologies be integrated innovatively and strategically to create a healthy workplace?

The result of the study identified eight basic physical and psychological states that have the greatest impact on overall health, and those are the targets for suppliers of health benefits programs. They are a sense of meaning, sense of belonging, being challenged to grow personally, sense of autonomy, sense of accomplishment, high ratio of positive to negative emotions, feeling secure and safe, and physical health and well-being. Suppliers who address as many of these factors as possible will develop tech-based programs that meet employee needs.

Maintain the Human Side
The one thing that must be avoided is the potential burnout of employees feeling like they must be constantly plugged into technology in order to access the services needed. This concern supports Lyra’s additional benefit of providing a variety of resources to employees that include printed materials and including providers in the network who offer face-to-face opportunities for employees to meet with counselor and other health professionals. It is easy to get deep into technology, but even technology companies recognize that humans still need other forms of communication.