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What are the 2019 trends in employee benefits?

Published on February 7th, 2019 by Triton Benefits & HR Solutions

The precise future of healthcare and benefits remains uncertain, but there are some new developments and increasingly popular practices in both fields that have led many to speculate on what exactly the next phase will look like. 

With a new year upon us, we are poised to find out if the 2019 trends in employee benefits that have been predicted by many HR professionals and experts are actually realized, and if so, to what extent. 

The rise of telemedicine and artificial intelligence

One big healthcare trend of 2018 that is expected to continue on and expand in 2019 is the adoption of new technologies, most notably telemedicine and artificial intelligence.

Remote services and mobile apps that can connect patients to medical professionals in a faster, more modern and convenient manner are likely to continue to grow in popularity, meaning we can expect to see more benefits packages that feature telemedicine offerings. The online aspect, particularly in the case of mobile video, has great appeal to younger employees who are more savvy with smart devices, and is likely to become standard for the next generation of digital natives entering the workforce.

Telehealth counseling and remote therapy could also become more common, as the rise in mobile connectivity coincides with a renewed focus on the importance of mental health. 

Another major technological advancement that's becoming more prominent in the worlds of human resources and healthcare is artificial intelligence. Though AI has been attracting attention for a while now, 2019 could be the year we see it actually having a significant and meaningful impact on patient health. 

Signs of the imminent rise in healthcare technology have already been spotted at the 2019 Consumers Electronics Show that was held in early January. This year, the annual Las Vegas tech expo saw a demonstration of Abbott Laboratories' new FreeStyle Libre, a digital, FDA-approved personal glucose monitor roughly the size of a quarter, which diabetic patients can attach to the back of their arms to receive real-time glucose levels, an eight-hour history and a trend of where glucose levels are likely to move.

The product is similar to Sugar.IQ, a device designed by Medtronic and IBM Watson, which uses artificial intelligence software to track glucose levels and show how they are impacted by medications and lifestyle choices, reports Stat News. 

Though the use of artificial intelligence in diabetes applications still remains in the early stages, health companies are excited by the potential of smart algorithms to take into account all of a person's physical data, including diet, sleeping habits and gut microbiome, and prescribe lifestyle changes.  

Telemedicine, which has become a popular solution for rural areas with less direct medical access, is poised to grow further throughout 2019. 2019 should produce exciting new waves in the employee plan program.

The creation of innovative and personalized new plans

In the past, employers have made minor changes to their benefits plans, adding or subtracting certain items each year to keep pace with the general industry standard. In 2019, though, many companies will likely move away from that strategy and begin embracing wholly new and innovative plans.

With customization being en vogue, we will likely see more creative benefits that allow a member to create a plan tailored to his or her needs. College loan repayment programs, a wider range of paid parental and family leave options and even health benefits for pets are among the newer and more intriguing offerings. With unemployment at historic lows, employers will need to offer perks that set them apart from competitors and attract top talent. 

In order to encourage good employee health and wellbeing, wellness programs have also been expanding, with a corresponding increase in health-conscious office amenities such as on-site massages, meditation rooms, desk-based workouts and healthy food.

In general, companies will likely stress healthy living and proactive behavior, with incentives that encourage employees to take advantage of early screenings and other forms of preventative care. With the top 1 percent of healthcare spenders using more resources as a group than the bottom 75 percent, and the healthiest half of Americans accounting for only 3 percent of overall healthcare spending, there are clear savings advantages to investing more in preventative measures to create a healthy workforce. 

In addition to their potential for reducing the risk of future medical costs, wellness programs are also proving to be one of the more coveted benefits among employees themselves. A recent analysis by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health on the overall perceptions of wellness programs concluded that roughly 59.4% of employees think employers should attempt to improve the health of their workers.

The simplification of benefits selection and enrollment

Despite the breakneck speed at which technology advances, many companies are still having employees fill out paper forms each enrollment season. 

In 2019, more and more of these employers will be converted to digital processes, as online HR platforms for benefit enrollment and management continue to increase in popularity. Online platforms that feature decision-making tools will enable employees to more easily understand and select the health plan option that is the most cost-effective choice for them and their families. With an increasingly diverse workforce, technology will be key to different individuals all ascertaining and selecting the unique plan that is right for them. 

HR professionals will also embrace these systems, which will reduce the number of transactional tasks they are currently performing. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, HR managers say they lose 14 hours a week due to lack of automation. 

To motivate your staff with the latest in employee benefits, and to simplify the process for everyone involved, contact the experts at Triton Benefits and HR Solutions today.

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