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How to evaluate health questionnaire software

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Check out this column in Employee Benefits Adviser:

As self-insuring becomes a more viable option for small and midsized businesses, demand is growing for an online solution to address the hassle of health questionnaires.

Those forms are traditionally distributed, completed and submitted totally on paper. The questionnaire process has been so inefficient that it often has kept brokers and employers from genuinely pursuing alternate funding strategies.

Fortunately, from quoting to enrollment, brokers have more options for online benefits solutions than ever before. When it comes to health questionnaires, brokers should consider whether a paper-based strategy supports the goal of helping clients find the most cost-effective benefits plan.

By reducing the administrative hassle of the questionnaire process through software, this process can be a lot less painful. But if you’re considering a health questionnaire platform, what should you look for?

Here are three questions to ask when evaluating health questionnaire software.

How does it tie in with your benefits administration system?

Generally, there are two approaches. First, many health questionnaire solutions are standalone products that integrate with benefits administration platforms through a “single-sign on” experience.

This means that employees use the same login to fill out health information as they do to enroll in benefits, but the systems are distinct and separate.

Second, some benefits administration systems build health questionnaire functionality into the platform as a feature. However, some feel that this approach poses privacy and regulatory issues considering the sensitivity of the information provided in health forms.

In other words, most employers or HR administrators don’t want access to employees’ health questionnaires. This has traditionally made the process difficult to manage on paper, and it’s also the reason that a health form functionality in a benefits and HR software system isn’t ideal.

There are risks associated with having employees use the same software that they use to elect and review their benefits, among other HR functions, as they do to fill out their health history information.

Does it offer a modern web experience?

Don’t assume that it does. Many take for granted that software solutions currently in the market will have a relatively modern look and feel, but in the benefits space, that can’t be assumed. Due to how much the self-funding and health questionnaire landscape has changed over the last 15 years, health form technology often isn’t as modern as other kinds of software.

When I started as a broker in 2006, there was a pretty high demand for health questionnaire solutions. At that time, almost all fully insured small groups were underwritten, so these organizations were filling out health forms annually. This drove demand for a tech solution.

But by 2009, health reform was on the horizon, and in 2010, the Affordable Care Act officially prohibited underwriting fully insured plans. As a result, demand for health form solutions dropped, and investment in this space followed suit.

Over the last few years, it has become clear that self-funding is a more attractive option for small groups, which has rekindled the need for a modern solution for managing the questionnaire process.

But while other internet-based solution providers have had 15 years to invest in and evolve their products, this corner of the tech universe has not.

Ultimately, you can’t take for granted that questionnaire software is user-friendly or works well. Don’t base your assumptions off of sales or marketing materials either — be sure to see a demonstration of any software solution you are considering.

How does it work?

This brings us to the next question brokers should ask of health form software — how does it work? How do employees use the software, and is it clear that it’s not an enrollment solution?

This is important, because there is a potential for confusion. When employees are asked for health information about themselves and their dependents, they may feel that they are making a benefits election. When they have to make actual elections 45 days later, this confusion can slow down the enrollment process.

It may not seem like a big deal on the front end, but this can pose a lot of problems and headaches for brokers and HR. Employees might not make elections, because they think they already did, or they may have not provided a spouse’s information and later decide to enroll them.

How does the software handle those situations? Making sure you understand the process for these kinds of workflows will ensure you adopt a system that can handle the full scope of the questionnaire process.

There is a lot of opportunity for brokers to help employers bend the cost curve through alternate funding strategies, and making the process less of a hassle is one step toward getting there. Making sure that any solutions your agency adopts to eliminate the administrative burden of health forms is functional and user-friendly will ensure a smoother experience and return on investment.

This column was published on Employee Benefit Adviser.

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