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March 8, 2022

Research Findings: How Are Employee Benefits Leaders Using Their Data?

Artemis Health

Benefits data is like exercise; we know we need it and we feel great when we use it, but there are a million reasons we don’t do it as often as we should. Each year, Artemis Health teams up with Arizent/Employee Benefit News to conduct original research into how benefits leaders are feeling, thinking, and engaging with their populations. As in previous years, we asked respondents to share what’s stopping them from using their benefits data successfully. 

In today’s blog post, we’ll explore an excerpt from our full research paper, which you can explore here. 

To kick it off, we asked benefits leaders to rate their own benefits performance against peers and competitors. They tell us if they feel they are: 

  • Ahead of the curve 
  • Keeping up 
  • Falling behind 

Here’s what they told us in 2019, 2020 and 2021. 

Three charts showing year-over-year results of survey question around being ahead of the curve.

From 2020 to 2021, we see the same percentage of respondents feel they are ahead of the curve (30%), a growing number feel they are keeping up (57% compared to 63%), and fewer believe they are falling behind (12% dropped to 7%). 

When compared to the sources of information used for decision making, we found an interesting trend: 

Bar charts showing that employers who are ahead of the curve are more likely to use objective data sources.

Employers who self-identified as “falling behind” are far more likely to utilize industry trends/best practices to help them make decisions. On the other hand, those who feel they are “ahead of the curve” are more likely to utilize a benefits analytics solution (a.k.a a data warehouse) to assist with benefits decision making. As noted above, regardless of whether they’re keeping up or falling behind, all employers chose employee feedback as their primary source of decision-making intel. 

The survey also asked benefits leaders to identify which data sources they have access to (aside from medical and prescription claims data). Here’s what they told us: 

  • 401k/retirement data (88% are currently using) 
  • Salary/payroll data (88%) 
  • Workers’ compensation (83%) 
  • Dental/vision (83%) 
  • Employee feedback and surveys (79%) 
  • Absentee and leave data (71%) 
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion data (69%)
  • EAP (employee assistance programs (65%) 
  • Health risk assessments (64%) 
  • Disability (63%) 
  • Point solution data (i.e. diabetes care programs, MSK health, behavioral health, etc.. 42%) 
  • Social determinants of health (35%)

Financial data is the most commonly used, with voluntary benefits like dental and vision close behind. Benefits leaders also tap absentee and leave data, diversity, equity, and inclusion stats, and numbers from their employee assistance programs. Employers are interested in data on point solutions like care management programs, wellness initiatives, and specialized programs by condition, but most aren’t currently able to use it. 

This surprised us at Artemis, where our platform integrates and analyzes data sets from point solution vendors that help with diabetes care, mental health, musculoskeletal conditions, fitness/weight loss, hypertension, and any other concern that vendors are addressing. A benefits analytics solution should help employers easily access these non-traditional data sources, evaluate their point solutions, and objectively look at their value and success. Clearly for many benefits leaders, getting access to the right data sources remains a challenge, and there are wide gaps in what they can see and learn about their population. 

We also noticed a “confidence gap” in what sources of data employers say they’re using compared to how they feel they’re doing. When asked if leaders felt successful using non-traditional benefits data sources for decision-making, we found a general lack of confidence. 

Bar charts showing that employers feel less confident using non-traditional data sources.

Just 53% of benefits leaders feel they are “very successful” in using non-traditional sources of data. This drops off significantly when you look at the less common data sources like disability and point solutions. 

Perhaps this is why employee feedback is such a popular source of input on benefits planning and strategy. While we understand that it’s easy to gather, employee feedback should be just one small part of a sound benefits analytics strategy. Objective data sources, like claims, HRAs, point solutions, financial data, and others provide a much more holistic view of what’s really happening with employee health and well-being.

If your team needs to gain confidence in using more diverse data sources, watch our 2-minute demo video to see how Artemis can help. 

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