Picwell Blog

For Brokers: How to Differentiate with the Right Decision Support Solution

May 27, 2020 2:36:03 PM / by Picwell

As a health insurance broker, your job is to help your clients make wise benefits decisions, and they count on you to provide the insights and best practices needed to implement successful employee benefits programs at scale.

The biggest areas for improvement typically include increasing participation in Consumer-Driven Health Plans (CDHP) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA), making open enrollment more efficient, and increasing benefits awareness.

The right decision support solution can make it dramatically easier for your clients to achieve their strategic objectives, which is why finding the best benefits decision support solution should be at the top of your to-do list.

Modern decision support solutions are built to drive optimal employee behavior for your clients.

Benefits objectives cannot be achieved without tools that effectively educate and engage a workforce. Employee financial wellness and employer objectives are not mutually exclusive. The right decision support tools not only influence behavior but also track that behavior over time. These types of tools make it easy for you to demonstrate the effectiveness of your efforts in providing the best recommendations for your clients.

In the past, decision support has been relegated to “fun and games”, but today’s most trusted benefits advisors know the value that more modern and sophisticated decision support solutions bring in an era when benefits engagement and education are so crucial.

Digital decision support tools are no longer a convenience - they’re a necessity.

With the advent of COVID-19, social distancing, and the new age of remote work environments, open enrollment must adapt. Effectiveness is now measured in part by how well technology reaches employees where they already are — their phones, computers, and tablets.

In other words, digital decision support solutions are no longer simply tools that allow brokers and consultants to provide additional value to their clients. Social distancing has transformed them into legitimate necessities. You will need to prioritize digital decision support as you help your clients evaluate all of their options such as benefits administration platforms, transparency tools, and wellness programs.

Your clients are depending on you, as their trusted advisor, to provide information on the best tools available for their needs. When you bring better decision support solutions to the table, your clients will be able to more easily reach their organizational objectives.

However, not all decision support tools are created equal. It’s important to evaluate your options carefully, and ask the right questions, before making a decision.

Here are the top 5 questions you should be asking when evaluating a decision support solution:

#1 - Can the solution easily integrate into my clients’ existing communication and education strategies?

From small businesses with 100 employees to enterprises with more than 10,000, your clients’ employees have varying knowledge of the benefits available to them and how best to use them. Digital access complicates things as well: employees use different devices to get information including smartphones, computers, and tablets.

The right decision tool should drive results across all education levels and platform preferences, regardless of your client’s existing benefits stack. This means its experience should be fluid and well-designed on all platforms. It must be informative and useful to every employee regardless of how much they know, and it should integrate into a client’s benefits technology stack by working seamlessly alongside any existing benefit administration and enrollment software.

Design and user experience directly affect employee engagement, which has a widespread impact on utilization rates and the money you can save your clients. Plus, if a benefits team can’t get used to a new tool alongside their existing stack, it will never be utilized to its full potential.

In short, a decision support solution shouldn’t be a hassle — in fact, the right technology will simplify the entire process.

#2 - Is it truly a predictive decision support solution or just a cost calculator in disguise?

Many decision support solutions are just cost calculators. Cost calculators allow employees to calculate narrow, cost-based scenarios, but they require employees to predict how much medical care they will need. This is a flawed approach; it’s almost impossible for the average individual to estimate how much medical care he or she will need due to ever-changing scenarios and behavioral biases.

Cost calculators tend to ask your client’s employees difficult-to-answer questions like,

How many times will you go to the emergency room?” or “How many times do you think you will need urgent care?”

Meanwhile, a predictive tool actually analyzes individual risk based on unique health profiles and predicts both utilization and costs based on that data. Modern decision support solutions recognize that along with different needs, people have different preferences when it comes to insurance. Some people are willing to pay more up front if it means they’ll get more coverage if and when they need medical care. These preferences are common and important, and for these people, the lowest cost option isn’t always the best option.

These “smart” decision support tools are in a different class, and they are the answer to outdated cost-calculator issues such as:

  1. Not helping people plan for the unknown.
  2. Pointing everyone toward the same, lowest cost plan even when it isn’t the best option.

Predictive tools provide a customized, data-driven approach that predicts risk, eliminates the guesswork for employees and ensures they are matched with the right health plan for their unique needs.

Predictive decision support tools help your clients more easily achieve their strategic objectives.

A predictive decision support solution will help your clients reduce costs on unnecessary healthcare expenses. By getting their employees into the right healthcare plans, you can make a cost-savings case for a tool that makes your clients’ job easier. It’s truly a win-win.

This isn’t to say high utilizers of healthcare can’t see great benefits from cost calculators, but higher utilizers who have a lot of planned medical care are also often at higher risk of expensive, unplanned care — so even among these people, the “configurability” of a calculator offers false comfort.

As a trusted advisor, you should always recommend the decision support stack that is the best fit for your client. In most scenarios, a predictive decision support tool yields better results for both your clients and their employees.

#3 - Are there case studies and a proven track record of success?

Big data, AI, and machine learning are today’s industry buzzwords. Many tools claim to use these approaches in their recommendations, so you should always evaluate a company based on client results instead of supposed tech.

To do this, we recommend searching for case studies. Look for thorough writing, exact numbers that you can use in future conversations, and summaries that demonstrate expertise and strategic thought. It’s all about aiming for a positive ROI for your clients and this type of information will prove whether employers are actually able to cut costs by using the tool, and by how much.

For example, on average, Picwell users save over $1,000 per year when they choose a recommended plan, and some companies have saved an average of $94 per year per employee. These types of tangible numbers and proven results bring validity to your recommendations so you can feel confident you are presenting the best solution to your clients.

#4 - Does the solution offer measurable return on investment (ROI) statistics?

Providing accurate ROI measurements is critical as your clients work with their colleagues to describe the tool and get approval from their CFO. The bigger the company, the more people you’ll need to convince, and face-to-face meetings are much less common these days.

ROI can be difficult to quantify in this industry, but the decision support vendor should be able to help determine their impact on the organization by tracking a few key metrics.

Here are the most important statistics the decision support vendor should be able to provide:

Utilization Rate

What is the utilization rate in years 1+, and what does it look like when broken down by location, age group, employee seniority level, etc.?

This information should dig deeper than simply displaying how many people clicked. You need specific analytics like how many employees got to a recommendation and then enrolled based on that information.

It's also a great indicator of how many employees are actually using the tool - after all benefits decision support won't work if it's not utilized.

Medical Plan Selection Impact

Are employees making the best enrollment decisions and is decision support driving them towards better choices? The vendor should be able to provide your client with an analysis on the plans employees select and break it down further by showing which employees should be in which plans.

Picwell users consistently make better plan selections, delivering more value to employees, and the longer people use Picwell, the more likely they are to pick recommended plans.

HSA Enrollment Impact

Are more employees enrolling in HSAs? Have contributions increased? If so, by how much?

On average, Picwell users are 1.6x more likely to enroll in a qualified HDHP than similar employees who do not use Picwell, and they are also much more likely to contribute to HSAs. Not only can this have a huge impact on employers’ costs, but it also improves employees’ financial wellness.

Benefits Satisfaction

How confident are users in their decisions? Are they happy with their selections? Is the tool valuable to employees?

These are the figures key decision makers need. Executives know that when these numbers are sound, employee satisfaction and morale are higher. When employees feel valued, they stay in their jobs longer and have more confidence in their employers.

By using a decision support solution that collects and makes these statistics easily accessible, brokers and consultants can better serve their clients.

#5 - Does the solution provide thorough and useful insights reports?

As a trusted Benefits Advisor, you should be able to share insights reports with your clients. With these reports, you can work with your clients to help shape their future benefits communication and plan their designs based on how the decision support tool shows “plan fit” for the employee population. This is also an opportunity for you to provide added value and ongoing support to your clients.

Your decision support solution should have reports that go beyond basic utilization data and include specific data points such as:

Medical Plan Recommendations

Which plans were recommended to employees? Do the plan offerings fit the employee population?

Employee Preferences

Do employees have strong preferences for more coverage or do they prioritize cost savings?? How much can employees afford to pay if they receive an unexpected medical bill?

With this type of data in hand, you can help your clients find the right benefits plans for their employees year after year.

What your ideal decision support solution looks like.

The ideal decision support solution must address all of the above while also providing a great user experience. Employees want to make decisions quickly, and they need helpful and accurate information to get to the right decision as soon as possible. Without this type of solution, utilization rates will suffer and employees will be more likely to choose high-cost, ineffective plans.

Your clients need a tool that will fit into their existing programs while still enabling them to meet their objectives. Affordability and easy set-up are key as well as the ability to act as a standalone experience or integrate deeply into the benefits technology stack alongside benefits administration and enrollment software.

Without all of these features, the chosen decision support solution will only hinder progress and cost money in lost savings potential, resulting in lackluster results for your clients.

Picwell is the dream decision support solution for brokers and consultants.

Brokers and consultants need a flexible tool that drives tangible user behavior changes with statistics to show how it affects your clients’ bottom line, and that’s what we’ve built.

Picwell’s intuitive, data-driven tool makes you more effective as a benefits advisor by helping your clients raise CDHP/HSA enrollment numbers, making open enrollment more efficient, and increasing benefits awareness — all while tying that information back into reports that let you easily show the impact to your clients.

Successful brokers love Picwell. Schedule a demo today to see why.

Topics: Open Enrollment, Benefits Decision Support, Health Insurance, Consumer Directed Health, HR Tech, benefits advisors


Written by Picwell