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January 21, 2019
A new year represents a fresh start and a time to rethink how our benefit plans help keep employee’s healthy, happy and at work. In 2019, more than ever, technology will help us do those things. Big trends now include apps, wearable technology and a holistic approach to health. We summarize the top 5 Benefits Trends below.
Employees today want holistic support for their health and wellbeing – beyond the traditional insurance plans of the past. Building in options that add value to all aspects of an employee’s health will continue to be key to creating an engaged workforce in 2019. Virtual care is a fee-based service, offering people and businesses on-demand mobile access to a team of Canadian licensed nurses, psychologists, doctors and other health & wellness professionals. Virtual care provides this access through a secure digital healthcare platform on their phone, tablet or computer.
Lumeca Health is an example of a leader in this industry and is set to launch its mobile app in 2019. They are poised to grow in market share as employers are excited to add this type of coverage to employee benefit plans. If statistics from the US are any indication, usage there doubled in just one year, with 75% of large US firms offering virtual health services to their staff, according to research by Dialogue.
Employees steps logged by your insurance carrier? Yup – that’s coming too! This spring, offering wearables as part of an employee benefit program in Canada will be here. With Manulife leading the charge, they are adding reward incentives, including a free Apple Watch to members who stay active while insured on group health plans. Having found success with this program with Individual Life, they are expecting a strong uptake. Employers we’ve spoken to have mixed reviews, but this is definitely a trend to keep an eye on.
The number of mobile apps in the insurance market has hit new heights. Many are offering solutions to help employees find new ways to improve their lifestyle, health and wellness. One new segment expected to grow in 2019 are apps such as Manage My Pain and Curable, which help Canadians with chronic pain form new neural pathways in the brain with a goal of reducing pain symptoms and reliance on prescription medications. Another big one is digital cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) sites focused on the development of personal coping strategies and skills that target solutions to current mental-health problems by changing unhelpful patterns of thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours.
Holistic healthcare is a form of healing that considers the whole person – body, mind, and spirit, in the quest for optimal health and wellness. In 2019, you can expect to see therapeutic nutritional intervention becoming more mainstream with the support of physicians and pharmacists. Recent clinical trials have shown positive results, including deprescribing insulin in type 2 diabetics in when patients adhered to a low-carbohydrate diet. With close monitoring by pharmacists and physicians, reduction or elimination of medication can be possible, when you let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
In one case, presented at Benefits Canada‘s 2018 Calgary Drug Trends Summit, an overweight, 59-year-old diabetic male was on 10 different prescriptions costing nearly $8,000 annually. After losing 45 pounds he was able to discontinue all medications after less than six months. This is a strong example of how shifting the focus to holistically helping an individual rather than treating a symptom with medication can save money and improve the quality of life.
It’s surprising to hear that Canada is the only country in the world with a universal health-care system but no universal drug coverage plan. The idea of a national pharmacare program has been discussed several times in our past, but recently it has started to take shape in a more serious way. All political parties appear to have at least some support for the concept, although what the final program will look like remains to be decided. Core Benefits cares about your happiness, contact us if you need any help on your health plans.
The National Pharmacare Initiative (NPI) has set out across the country to gather research, analysis and create a deliberative dialogue with the goal of providing recommendations on a national Pharmacare strategy. While we wait to hear how this all unfolds, our hope is that any national drug program complements the current framework of private and public plans that exist today. Our hope is that these plans will offer to bridge the gap for Canadians who are unable to afford their prescriptions and improve the overall price competitiveness of drugs in Canada. While it is unlikely the program will begin in 2019 – this hits the top trending list due to the significance of the conversations and planning that will be done this year.