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Big Three Talk Innovations in Self Funding and Employer Plans

Today at the Employer Healthcare & Benefits Congress, (EHBC) to a standing room only crowd, representatives from the brokerage firms Lockton, Willis Towers Watson and Mercer sat down with Jonathan Edelheit, JD, Principal & Founder of Global Healthcare Resources; and CEO of the EHBC, to discuss the emerging innovations in employee benefit plans.

Representing the “big three” were:

  • Dr. Ron Leopold, Chief Medical Officer – Lockton Benefits Group
  • Steve Blumenfield, Senior Consultant and Director of Strategic Opportunities & Alliances – Willis Towers Watson
  • Chris Chan, Lead Innovation Imagineer – Mercer LABS

To provide some background on these gentlemen, Dr. Leopold, in his role as CMO, is heavily involved in data analytics and medical cost solutions. Mr. Blumenfield works to solve client problems in innovative ways and “there has never been a better time to find new solutions.” Finally, Mr. Chan leads the Mercer Labs Group in San Francisco where he focuses on new and potentially game-changing start-ups.

Mr. Edelheit, serving as moderator for the event, began the session by talking about the need for innovation.

“People are dying for innovation. I think this is a more difficult industry than it used to be. There are more regulations, more vendors, and more politics.”

The first question to the panel was what they see as being innovative in the industry now. Mr. Blumenfield told the audience about SickWeather. This service is like Waze for the flu and other illnesses. It uses self-reported data as well as monitors social media feeds, to see where people are getting sick and places it on a map.

” They now replace the CDC on the weather channel for flu maps,” said Mr. Blumenfield.

One thing all panelists agreed on was that just because something is new and shiny, does not make it innovation. They then provided their knowledge about how to separate the novel from the useful.

“You need to think of end user. If I put it in the hand of my employees, will it work for them and will they use it? What works for Silicon Valley might not work for others.If you and population that is older and might not be as tech-savvy, so an app based solution might be the best idea. You need to examine the process and how they will use it.”

Mr. Chan added, “Patients and users are demanding more today. What you offer has to have legs beyond the cool factor. If you can create moments of delight, that creates moments for virality and social selling. If the person sitting next to me in the office is talking about the product, that more powerful than traditional advertising.”

All of the panelists also noted the growing talk among employers about the growth of specialty medicine and pharmacogenomics. They further noted that employers should be on the lookout for emerging technologies like artificial intelligence.

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