BY YJ LEE
VIRTUAL is the new normal. With the effects of the pandemic spurring the proliferation of customer centric digital platforms, a wellspring of virtual marketplaces for consumers and businesses makes purchasing the right products and services convenient and easy. But what about the healthcare and benefits industries? As we adapt to what has become the norm for other industries, we see a number of trends taking shape across this landscape.
One such example is the shift from simply selling a product to selling a broader service through experience. Over the course of the past year, we’ve seen traditional solution providers embrace virtual delivery to provide exceptional care. With the pandemic, vendors, brokers and employers have shifted to virtual environments and options for clients. Christi Coleman, EVP of employee engagement at Proactive MD, shared that their business has embraced this concept due to increasing demand for “virtual care and supporting remote employees.”
At this year’s Self-Insurance Institute of America’s (SIIA) 1st Annual National Educational Conference, keynote speaker and futurist Mike Walsh shared this with the audience:
“There is no digital disruption, just digital delivery.” The past year and a half has been full of disruption, so much so that all of us have become more adept at handling the curve balls life and business have thrown our way. Business has not stopped, and the demand from clients to remain alert regardless of environment is a factor in how advisors are managing the virtual world.
At this year’s Self-Insurance Institute of America’s
(SIIA) 1st Annual National Educational Conference, keynote speaker and futurist Mike Walsh shared this with the audience: “There is no digital disruption, just digital delivery.”
Christine Schindewolf, VP of employee benefits and wellbeing at Alliant Insurance Services, is based in the Bay Area and continually educates herself on the solutions coming to market. Says Schindewolf, “Finding effective solutions, educating clients on emerging vendors, and performing vendor reviews are important and constant.”
Virtual is growing, not going
Schindewolf goes on to explain, “We found the pandemic didn’t create new trends, it accelerated existing trends: around distributed workforces, digital-first engagement, DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging) and integrated wellbeing. That’s where we’re leaning in for our clients to help structure the next generation of employee support programs. Initially, we made a quick push to assist clients with COVID-19 testing and tracking. The conversion to remote work quickly increased the demand and success of many virtual care options, not only for acute or primary care, but ongoing chronic condition management.”
As people have become more comfortable with virtual meetings, their comfort level with virtual care visits have increased. The value of a virtual visit is being realized.
Decisions are being made online
The benefits industry is going through a seismic shift with the rise of new and younger workers being covered. They come to the job with a greater appetite for experience Benefits solutions have embraced the importance of social media and rising above the noise in the industry. Chris Ziemke, business development lead with Prism Health Group, states that they “see Social Media being a good spot to continue to feature [their] brand.” And, sites like The Granite List (www.thegranitelist.com) leverage weekly social media posts on LinkedIn and Twitter to spotlight vendors and get their brands recognized.
Amazon has taught us to compare and cull choices
Similar to a comparison-shopping engine or virtual marketplace such as Amazon, TripAdvisor, and OpenTable, The Granite List provides a consumer-centric virtual marketplace to connect employers and brokers to healthcare vendors. On the website, employers and brokers can compare benefits that improve the health and wellbeing of their employees, function as a tool to attract and retain talent, or provide workers comp — all while being cost-conscious and finding the perfect solutions for their business. The Granite List provides real-time information about emerging and existing vendors and verified reviews from clients and members. A product powered by the team at Connect Healthcare Collaboration, The Granite List mixes marketing and sales in an efficient manner. States Sally Pace, CEO of Connect Healthcare Collaboration, “we saw an opportunity in the marketplace that is so helpful in other industries, and we built upon that concept to save time and energy for brokers and employers searching for innovative benefits solutions.”
Ziemke echoes that importance, “You can lead a horse to water, but it is up to them to drink. The Granite List helps connect us to those wanting to drink the water, as well as provide a consumer centric ecosystem that also validates solutions. The [digital] platform itself represents both a microphone and connecting tool that allows us to feature our message and unique offerings, such as: procurement, auditing, contract negotiations, and analytics platform. We give those who want change the ability to connect in a fast and easy setting.”
Moving from cold calling to warm introductions
When rising above the noise in the industry, Lani Glancy, VP of talent development, diversity equity and inclusion and communications at AutoZone, states,
“the sheer enormity of choices among vendors can
be overwhelming for industry leaders.” Thus, finding the right vendors for employers and brokers is difficult due to the countless solutions available. However, it’s easier with access to a digital marketplace. Ryan Rice, principal and practice lead with Prism Health Group, shared they “are optimizing how we connect with the right consumers actually seeking services and solutions we also offer.”
As Pace explains, “We work with many groups
on both the innovation marketing side and on the employee engagement side. What we hear from employers and brokers alike is that they are short on time but long on desire to add meaningful solutions for plan members. By introducing these solutions to prospective buyers at point of interest through The Granite List, we can fast track the buying process for all parties involved. Helping each of those three audiences get valuable time back in their day is an added bonus for our team.”
The world has changed for the foreseeable future, and part of that change is the massive global shift toward virtual. Brokers who embrace this move will
be the ones who best serve their clients, who find themselves on the same path in meeting the needs of their employees.
YJ LEE is a data analyst and incoming marketing strategy advisor for Connect Healthcare Collaboration. She has been writing and editing for four years for a local nonprofit newspaper in Memphis, Tenn. Lee is passionate about optimizing the way technology, data and information is utilized and shared in business. Reach YJ Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org