Things Got Too Personal at Conference Board East

By Michelle Snyder

I had the good fortune of being in NYC this past week at Conference Board East mixing and mingling with leading employers who are all looking for ways to improve the health and wellbeing of their employees. There were many interesting presentations and new point solutions on display, not to mention some good schwag. I had two key takeaways from the conference: 1) employers are finally realizing the need to move beyond the one-size-fits-all approach they’ve traditionally taken and 2) the realization that “we built it, but they didn’t come”.

This shift was definitely on display in the exhibit hall as personalization was the “it” word of the show. In the agenda and walking the exhibit hall you saw: “Taking Wellness Personally”, “Create Personalized Experiences”, “Personalized Wellbeing” and “If It’s Not Personalized, It’s Trash”.  Okay, I made up that last one, but you get my point. So, it got me thinking – what do people think personalization really means, and are most of the companies who claim to create personalized experiences really walking the talk?

To me personalization means I am getting an experience that my husband, neighbor, friend or co-worker is not. It’s specific to me and my particular circumstances. So, even though a co-worker and I might share the same zip code, age and number of kids, we need and want very different health and wellbeing benefits from our employer based on our own needs, interests and experiences.

What I realized in talking to many vendors at the show is that for many vendors personalization is really segmentation. They are segmenting by serving up different programs to men and women; millennials and baby boomers; or those in the southwest and northeast. Likewise, with communications – using a person’s name in an email or mobile app is not personalized communications. It’s identifying which type of communications channel(s) an individual employee would be most receptive to and then utilizing those distinct channels (text, email, IVR, direct mail, chatbot, etc.) to drive engagement.

Don’t get me wrong – moving beyond the one-size-fits-all approach to segmentation is surely a step in the right direction for employers and the healthcare industry as a whole. But like cell phone adoption in Africa (they skipped the landline and went mobile) it’s time to make the leap and not settle for “better than what we had”. It’s not only possible, but in many cases more economical to create truly personalized experiences for employees (or members, patients for that matter). By leveraging rich data sources, including non-health related data, with the power of machine learning technologies and advance analytics you can proactively predict what programs and resources people want and need to optimize your investments. Plus, identify how to best communicate with them to get those resources utilized.

So, the next time you see someone talking about personalization in healthcare – ask what that means and how they do it. And, if you don’t know exactly what questions to ask – ask us here at Welltok!

Original article appeared in BenefitsPro on April 16, 2019.