16 Feb Technology plays growing role in benefits
Originally posted January 27, 2015 by Mike Nesper on www.ebn.benefitnews.com.
Employers of all sizes are increasingly shifting toward using technology for enrolling in and managing their employee benefits. The market for technology-based platforms has been “growing leaps and bounds over past the five-plus years,” says Mark Rieder, an Austin-based senior vice president at NFP.
Ten to 15 years ago, he says, only large groups were focused on technology. Today, “they’re all very much interested in becoming more efficient,” Rieder says. “Technology has become affordable enough to [deploy] regardless of size.”
Offering a variety of support tools is important to help employees make the best selections, Rieder says. Employees want to be able to compare the cost of a procedure at various providers, he says. “Transparency tools are becoming more and more of a hot topic,” Rieder says. “Folks want to know what they’re buying.”
Employees also want to manage all of their needs — payroll, HR, benefits — in one location, Rieder says. The goal is to have a useful platform when it’s needed but not be in the employee’s face when they don’t, says Michael Askin, senior consultant with Mind Over Machines, a Maryland-based software development technology company.
The fact that many employers are still using paper isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Askin says. “There are lessons to be learned from other industries,” he says. Perhaps more importantly, paper protects employee information from hackers, Askin says. Ultimately, the goal of a technology-based platform is to increase employee engagement without increasing security exposure, he says.
A common misconception about security breaches is where the vulnerability lies, Askin says. “Most security issues are actually internal,” he says. For consumers, Askin recommends having a credit card for Internet-only purchases.