How to utilize big data in the age of the internet of things to improve employee healthcare

Smartphones, wearable devices and mobile apps are changing the way we collect data. The Internet of Things (IoT) pushes data and connectivity to the forefront. How can employers and HR professionals tap into the power of data and create better employee health policies? Can they use data to manage healthcare costs that are rising 10% annually in Asia and over 9% globally1?

Data is smart, but we should be smarter…

Think about an employee’s life cycle. The minute they join until the end of their employment, employers have a 360 view of their health and risk profile. By linking these data points, meaningful analysis can be made to create employee-centric programs that are targeted, specific and relevant to employees’ needs.

In fact, data is being collected this very minute through wearables or mobile apps. Yet, it sits in silos. Why not incentivize employees and insurers to share these data on Machine Learning (ML) or Artificial Intelligence (AI) platforms? Employers can then correlate the data collected with past medical records and insurance claims. This helps create a modern healthcare offering for today’s diverse workforce and ensures that benefits budgets are optimally used.

Seize opportunities with smart data analysis…

In India, doctors are using ML to enhance predictive analytics for early diagnosis and treatment of critical illnesses. Why shouldn’t HR do the same? By analyzing employee data such as sleep patterns and heart rates, organizations can identify trends for early detection, prevention and intervention. Designing focused healthcare benefits becomes easier, and in the long-run, this minimizes costs and maximizes personalization.

However, with big data comes the issue of privacy. Some employees remain skeptical of sharing personal data with their employers. Data integration online or on the cloud also means that data is vulnerable to cyber attacks. However, investing in long-term cyber security to protect employee data and ensure confidentiality can ease the naysayers’ minds.

Like communication, the use of big data and connectivity is a two-way street. Employers are enabled to design better healthcare programs while employees gain access to holistic healthcare online. It helps employees become more engaged with their healthcare and make smarter decisions. Imagine personalized medicine reminders and 24-hour access to healthcare providers online. No more wasted hours of sick leave for a doctor’s appointment when there are pharmacy drop-offs done at the office. 

What the future holds…

In a recent survey for 2018 Medical Trends Around the World conducted by Mercer Marsh Benefits, employers and insurers are preparing for the future by focusing on digital and data analytics. Nearly half (47%) of insurers surveyed ranked data analytics as the top three strategic areas of investment, followed by plan member technology and incentive-based design.

Today’s workforce expects a seamless consumer-grade digital experience. Thus, we expect significant changes and expansion in digital capabilities – from integrated health navigation and payment coordination, to online appointment booking and electronic medical record management.  

As big data becomes increasingly important in healthcare, synchronizing it with other data into actionable, relevant insights becomes essential. The types of data available are also evolving and organizations need to innovate beyond traditional ways of viewing, analysing and interpreting data analytics. It is time to embrace disruption. 

2018 Medical Trends Around the World, Mercer Marsh Benefits

Shelly Chang
by Shelly Chang

Principal, Asia Regional Consulting Team

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