Your Health Benefits Would be Fantastic if Anyone Used Them

Two decades ago, I started my career in tech right around the dot com boom. Somehow, amid friends taking jobs at startups with Hooli-level benefits (3 catered meals a day, concierge doctors, parties with rock stars), my early jobs were a bit more… austere.

Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from the people responsible for building these benefits packages. I was surprised to find out that even the fanciest, shiniest, seemingly most helpful benefits are woefully underutilized. Even telemedicine, touted as a win-win for all (cheaper than in-person doctor visits for employers, more convenient for employees), generally gets enrollment levels of a quarter of one percent of employees. It turns out that finding and constructing the right benefits is not the challenge – awareness is.

Back in the dot com boom, there were 20 or so companies offering benefits solutions. Today, more than 400 such companies exist. The solutions have never been more creative, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Employers do everything they can to educate their employees about benefits at open enrollment and throughout the year via portals, intranets and more. But to an employee, these communications fall into the “check the box” category of HR, and are skimmed and forgotten within days.

Even if the benefits stick for a while, you know when they never pop into the mind of a potential employee? When that person has been up all night with a sick child and is exhausted, anxious about the illness, and stressed about missing work. Simply put, nobody remembers benefits when in “in the trenches” with a sick loved one. I understood this in theory before, but as a new dad I now personally understand that when my baby girl isn’t feeling well, my clear thinking, problem-solving demeanor goes out the window.

You know what a parent DOES remember in that moment? To use a thermometer. Almost every time.

Imagine a thermometer that automatically “knows” when a child is spiking a midnight fever. Even better, this thermometer can communicate a message to that exhausted and anxious, not-so-clear-thinking parent, right in the exact moment of need. What if this simple tool all parents already use could both gather and communicate key information while someone is still in the trenches?

We built Kinsa Smart Thermometers to help people in those moments, connecting them to the information and resources that could best help them get better and make their lives easier. For many people, those resources are available directly from their employer – but in that critical time of need, it slips their mind.

Today, large employers are using Kinsa to make sure that key benefits are top of mind, right on time. In the past year, employers have partnered with Kinsa to:

1) Drive use of underutilized benefits.

The benefit of telemedicine or backup childcare sounds impressive in theory, but engagement has been far from successful. By reminding employees of these options right as they are trying to decide whether to go to the doctor or are scrambling to determine who will stay home from work, employers achieve two big wins – the appreciation of their employees and the fact that they’ll be able to clock in instead of taking off for a doctor’s appointment or to stay home with their child.

2) Steer employees to lower cost, more convenient care.

By providing basic guidance on when to seek care and the level of urgency, employers can help navigate employees away from costly treatment options when they are unnecessary, while directing them toward care that will be more convenient for their situation. If urgent care is in order, employers can highlight the best nearby options, warning against standalone ERs that often cost much more and take far longer.

3) Connect with families through maternity and new parent programs

Most parents – my wife and I included – say they’ve never been more exhausted than when they brought home their newborn babies. Employers can help by reminding parents about enrolling their newborns into the appropriate benefits, comforting them during the normal stresses (“is my baby on track?”), and connecting them to counseling services when more serious anxieties arise.

This is simply the tip of the iceberg. Awareness will always be a battle that companies face when it comes to getting employees to engage with their benefits. But armed with a thermometer that knows when those “in the trenches” moments are happening, employers can reach out and reinforce benefits during critical times of need, dramatically increasing benefit engagement while building trust and loyalty with treasured employees over time.