Fintech is changing the face of workplace health and wellbeing, helping to improve employeeengagement, build resilience and increase productivity. And, while the latest applications deliver significant benefits to employees and employers, the future holds even greater potential.
Technology has the ability to transform the provision of health and wellbeing benefits. Simply by shifting support from a brochure or helpline, to an employee’s smartphone, usage increases.
This is something Health Shield head of marketing Jennie Doyle has seen since her company launched its mental health app, Thrive, as part of its cash plan. “Some groups were always difficult to reach through helplines,” she explains. “We’ve found that men are much more likely to use an app to access mental health support than to talk to someone and we’ve also seen an uptick in usage in male-dominated sectors such as construction. The more channels you offer, the more employees you can reach.”
Fun and sticky
As well as improving the chances of connecting with employees in the first instance, fintech is also nurturing longer-term relationships by making the interaction more fun. Many of the health improvement apps use gamification to engage employees. For instance, mirroring many of the games available on smartphones, Yulife encourages users to complete healthy challenges through a series of quests in different zones of its ‘yuniverse’. Completing five-day streaks delivers additional rewards, and further incentive to make behavioural change.
Employees can also use the Yulife app to compete against one another, with leader boards showing who’s walked the furthest or gained the most ‘yucoin’. Yulife chief executive Sammy Rubin says he was initially sceptical about leader boards but admits they’ve been incredibly popular. “It is an opt-in but this competitive element is very powerful when it comes to incentivising people to lead healthier lives,” he adds.
Reward is another lever that drives engagement, with several of the providers making it part of their proposition. These include coffees, cinema tickets and heavily discounted Apple Watches from Vitality; Airmiles, Amazon and ASOS vouchers from Yulife; and discounted health, fitness and nutrition products from Earthmiles.
Developers are also focusing on how fintech can turbocharge an employer’s health and wellbeing strategy. Earthmiles chief commercial officer Tobin Murphy- Coles says businesses often bemoan the fact that employee take-up of health and wellbeing products and services is low.
“Employees are overwhelmed by the broad range of health and wellbeing benefits on offer so they do nothing,” he says. “Our app can be integrated with an employer’s other benefits to ensure that employees are directed to the right level of wellbeing activity and education and to products and services that are relevant to them.”
Even where integration isn’t an option, fintech apps also serve as a valuable data generator. Through the provision of anonymised management information, employers can get a snapshot of employee health and wellbeing, enabling them to target specific issues and finetune their overall strategy.
Other providers have focused on delivering a one-stop-shop approach. This can be seen in Unum’s recent launch of its Help@ hand app, which combines a remote GP, a second opinion service, mental health support and physiotherapy. “Providing employees with a clear and simple access point enhances the scope, convenience and flexibility of services we provide,” adds Unum customers solutions director Glenn Thompson.
This single entry point app-based approach has also been embraced by AIG, which has just launched its Smart Health virtual GP and health service to all of its individual and group protection insurance offerings. The service is provided by Teladoc Health and allows customers to manage general non-critical physical and mental health needs as well as chronic complex care through a single provider.
As technology advances, providers are already looking at how it can shape future applications. For example, Medical Solutions has been offering remote primary care services by phone, and more recently video, since 1998, but its next step is to develop a proposition to support individuals with chronic health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure. With around 25 per cent of the working population living with a chronic condition, and this set to rise as the workforce ages, Medical Solutions commercial director Paul Nattrass says technology provides an ideal platform to support them. “We’re developing a proposition that will advise on lifestyle issues such as diet, exercise and sleep to help people manage these conditions and to drive behavioural change,” he explains.
“It will also help people with medication compliance. A huge proportion don’t take their medicine in the optimum way but feel they can’t trouble their GP with these questions.”
Future applications are also likely to deliver greater levels of personalisation. Mercer head of corporate consulting Chris Bailey says that technology is being developed to gain a real understanding of an individual’s personality. “Very few apps have any sustained impact,” he explains. “By factoring in an individual’s personality, and really understanding what motivates them, apps will be able to do more to drive behavioural change.”
This attitudinal approach is something Aon Employee Benefits principal Jeff Fox is also interested in. He’s exploring the use of neurotech within apps to drive a more personalised user experience. “Behavioural science tells us that what we think, feel and do aren’t always consistent, so neurotech seeks to gain a deeper understanding of someone by looking at how they react to something,” he explains.
As an example, he points to financial wellbeing. “An employee struggling with debt is unlikely to be completely truthful about their situation on an app provided by their employer,” he says. “But, by looking at their reaction times to a series of questions such as whether they trust the company and does it support them financially, we can judge their attitude and tailor the service accordingly.”
This tailoring would influence the content they receive but might also determine whether they receive nudges, as well as when they receive them and their content. For instance, while one person might be deterred from splurging on a frothy coffee if they received a nudge telling them how much it would be worth in 30 years if they put it in their pension, another might ignore this altogether.
Another important shift that’s likely to take place in employee fintech over the next few years is i ts expansion beyond the workplace. “Employees identify with people outside of work so it makes sense to open up apps to a broader universe,” says Bailey. “It’s very exciting. The technology is becoming available to really drive change in this space.”
BOX: Risk and reward
Offering its customers an Apple Watch in exchange for a modest initial payment plus monthly activity points has proved a powerful way for Vitality to incentivise people to lead healthier lives.
In a 2018 study conducted across more than 422,000 members in the UK, US and South Africa, Vitality saw a 34 per cent increase in activity among those with an Apple Watch. This equates to 4.8 extra days of activity a month, which is sufficient to boost life expectancy by an average of two years.
Vitality chief digital officer Dave Priestley says the offer capitalises on the appeal of the product. Although deals vary, a VitalityHealth member can get an Apple Watch Series 4 worth £399 for an initial payment of £99 plus 24 monthly payments of up to £12.50. If they clock up at least 160 Vitality points every month – 12,500 steps in a day equals eight points – the balance is funded by Vitality.
“It’s an aspirational product,” adds Priestley. “The offer trades on the concept of loss aversion, where people prefer to avoid a loss rather than receive a cash equivalent, to deliver real behavioural change.”