Digital Solutions Can Help Employers Solve Health Equity Issues for Their Diverse Employee Base
Now more than ever before, diversity and inclusion initiatives are considered to be invaluable assets to corporate cultures all around the United States. According to Harvard Business Review, it is helpful to think of diversity as a two-dimensional concept. On one plane, there is inherent diversity (age, gender, etc.) while on the other there is acquired diversity (living abroad, getting a degree, etc.). Companies that are 2-D diverse, claims HBR, are 45% more likely to report that their market share grew over the previous year and are also 70% more likely to capture new markets in general. With such powerful metrics, it only makes sense for employers to be particularly attentive to not only acquiring a diverse talent base but also to supporting and maintaining it.
According to Mercer News, over two thirds of US employers are planning to enhance health and benefit offerings in 2023 to improve talent attraction and retention. But in order for those strategies to be effective and cost-advantageous, companies must consider how diversity plays into health equity within those benefit packages.
According to the CDC, health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to attain his or her full potential. With that said, ensuring health equity through benefit offerings is no easy task considering how certain social and clinical determinants of health impact some demographics more than they do others. For example CDC reports that prevalence of diabetes is notably higher in American Indian, Hispanic, and Black adult populations and Diabetes.co.uk finds that Type 2 Diabetes is six times more likely in people of South Asian descent. We also know that rural populations are disproportionately affected by limited provider availability and higher costs associated with traveling to a provider, while women are disproportionately affected by the burden of childcare and caregiving. This is exactly why traditional health solution benefits alone are no longer sufficient. There are too many elements of diversity, both inherent and acquired, for a traditional one-size-fits-all approach to ever be effective enough.
This is where digital care solutions can help narrow the health disparity gap. These digital solutions range from something formal like helping an employee navigate medical systems, to something very personal like guiding that member through various lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation or hypertension management. As McKinsey notes, digital tools can also improve equity by increasing healthcare access, addressing unmet needs and personalizing care for patients, all while considering the cultural context within the communities they serve.
Yet, the beauty of digital solutions does not stop there. Digital also delivers value in its ability to mitigate many hidden costs. Those costs might manifest themselves in things that are not easily quantifiable or measured, such as an employee’s productivity level or their loyalty to the current employer. Furthermore, digital and A.I solutions can help alleviate embarrassment that some folks might feel when talking about their treatment and/or condition. This is a potential hidden cost within itself, because distrust or dishonesty in a treatment situation can prolong and increase its cost. For example, a person in a weight loss program might be more comfortable honestly logging a piece of cake as they’re communicating with their personal A.I. coach rather than disclosing that to a live person. Or, a smoker might be more honest about logging a cigarette break into a digital smoking-cessation program rather than confessing a “cheat” to a human, in-person coach.
From a financial standpoint, both employers and HR departments are fortunate that remedying hidden costs is not the only advantage of incorporating digital solutions; they can also benefit from capitalizing on their low-cost and high scalability. Because A.I. solutions continuously learn from the data they receive, companies like Lark effectively leverage that to achieve quality and financial differentiation. For example, Lark’s 355 million coaching text messages equate to about 14,000 live nurses at just a fraction of the cost. And with how uncertain the economic climate is, being protective of the bottom line while ensuring that health equity is being met, is a great success strategy.
Ultimately, taking into account the diversity of employee needs, hidden costs, and the high price associated with traditional health benefits, there is no better way to support organizational health equity than by incorporating digital solutions. MarshMcLennan reports that to make benefits inclusive, employers must first get the policies right through a formal approach, but also create and sustain a set of habits and behaviors that happen daily, almost without thinking, across the enterprise. If you want to make a difference in this space, you need to start now and remember that digital is an excellent step forward.
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