Benefits are an increasingly important way to attract and retain talent, and an emerging offering—digital therapeutics—can help make your package more attractive, says Valarie Arismendez, senior vice president of people at Hello Heart, based in Menlo Park, California.
Arismendez spoke with StrategicCHRO360 about how digital therapeutics can improve employee well-being, lower healthcare-related costs for the organization and amp up DEI efforts.
Why are more companies turning to digital therapeutics as a benefit offering?
The presence of digital therapeutics within an employer’s benefits plan used to be a rarity. However, an increasing number of companies are turning to digital therapeutic offerings because there’s been a shift in the benefits that employees and potential candidates seek out—people have become more conscious of their health and well-being and want to work for employers who support this.
The shift in preference was advanced by the pandemic, and as a result, companies are turning to digital therapeutics to build a stronger preventative health culture and improve the health and well-being of their employees. Whether they are designed to address chronic diseases, mental health, heart health or nutrition, digital therapeutics will become a mainstay within the benefits ecosystem. Further, if companies avoid incorporating digital therapeutics into their benefits plan, they’ll likely end up facing costly healthcare-related expenses and miss out on a happier, healthier workforce.
Consider heart health as an example. Nearly half of U.S. adults suffer from hypertension, and employers spend an average of $9,842 in total medical costs for individuals with hypertension. As if this wasn’t enough of a wake-up call, the CDC has called employers to provide home blood pressure solutions as an intervention. Clearly, improving employee heart health is critical, and digital therapeutics can play a powerful role with accessible education, resources and support.
How can digital therapeutics build a stronger proactive health culture within an organization?
While building a stronger proactive health culture is a goal that encompasses several business functions, digital therapeutics can strongly support this effort. The first way that digital therapeutics can help organizations achieve a strong health culture is through improving accessibility to educational tools and resources.
Oftentimes, digital therapeutics are available via a mobile app that employees can access directly on their smartphone, allowing them to leverage the technology at anytime from anywhere. Additionally, digital therapeutics make personalization possible. Instead of antiquated educational whitepapers that are blasted to company emails, HR and benefits leaders can layer in personalization to health education and awareness through digital therapeutics.
Digital therapeutics can provide a level of personalization to health and wellness that empowers people to better manage and understand their own health—ultimately enabling them to build better health habits that work for them. By putting personalized resources directly into the hands of employees, employers can more effectively promote stronger health and wellness habits, and in turn, build a more proactive health culture.
What are the other benefits of digital therapeutics that leaders may be overlooking?
In addition to helping people build healthier habits, digital therapeutics can be a powerful strategy to lower healthcare-related costs. A more proactive health approach powered by digital therapeutics may significantly reduce the need for expensive and avoidable procedures.
Another benefit to digital therapeutics that often goes undiscussed is how it can improve a company’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. It’s no doubt that DEI initiatives are now a key focus for organizations of all sizes but improving health equity can be an often-overlooked aspect to DEI. There are significant health disparities across gender, race and socioeconomic status, but HR and benefits leaders can help close these gaps with digital therapeutics that make health education, tools and resources more accessible to people of all backgrounds.
What’s holding HR and benefits leaders back from adding digital therapeutics into their benefits stack?
There are several misconceptions that stop HR and benefits leaders from choosing to incorporate digital therapeutics into their benefits stack. The first is the cost. HR and benefits leaders are often navigating budget constraints, but there can be a significant ROI on the technology with potential reductions in medical costs for avoidable procedures, diagnostics, treatments, etc. Additionally, many leaders may not realize that wellness funds can often be used for therapeutic technologies or that the cost to implement the technology can be billed as a preventative benefit through the organization’s health plan.
The second misconception is that the technology can be difficult to implement. While that can be the case for some technology vendors, many vendors will own the entire implementation process from enrollment to billing to employee communications.
Finally, the third and most daunting misconception: engagement. Many benefits and HR leaders have likely tried to implement a program only to have it shut down due to lack of engagement. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. By turning to digital therapeutics that deliver targeted, personalized benefits to different sectors of the workforce, organizations can provide a benefits program that employees will find valuable and effective for them.
Also, look for the solutions that prioritize engagement with a positive, friendly user experience. Taking the time to vet vendors and identify the industry leaders that prioritize implementation, engagement and user experience, will ultimately take the heavy lifting off the benefits and HR staff. It’s time to throw away the one-size-fits all approach to health and wellness benefits.