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September 9, 2020

What Data Analytics Options Do Brokers and Consultants Have?

Artemis Health

Benefit consultants and brokers have pretty busy calendars. Between client presentations, internal meetings, strategy sessions, and billable hours, they are left with little time for healthcare and benefits data analytics. They recognize that benefits data is essential for self-insured employer clients, but just it’s one of the many items to tackle on their agenda. And the choices are endless. Do you choose Vendor A or B? Does your client have an in-house analyst, or do they rely on your team? Which topics should you tackle first? 

Here are a few options benefits advisors should consider when using benefits data with their clients. 

Do Nothing.

Is this really an option anymore?  In a research study conducted by Artemis Health late last year, we learned that employers have high expectations for their benefits advisors.

Chart indicates that 29% of employees expect their benefits advisor will help them get better insights from their organization's benefits data.
Chart showing expectations for benefits advisors.

Along with strong communication, employers demand these services from their consultant and broker partners: 

  • Objective benefits data insights 
  • Data-driven advice on industry trends 
  • Access to data tools used by consultants
  • Insights from their own organization’s benefits data 

You’ll notice a trend. “Data” is mentioned in all of these answers. It’s gone from a “nice to have” service provided by brokers and consultants to a competitive advantage for those who do it well.

DIY Data Analytics.

You might be tempted to gather, organize and analyze benefits data the old-fashioned way: in-house using carrier reports, spreadsheets, and visualization tools that were built for other types of data. It used to be pretty common for both self-insured employers and benefits brokers to cobble together insights from each program and draw some conclusions. But that can cost you time and energy that your team doesn’t have. 

Doing it yourself means you need to gather data feeds from multiple vendors, comb through hundreds or thousands of rows in a spreadsheet, and crunch numbers. And without expertise or an active data analytic partner, you risk not having the ability to look across data feeds and find reliable answers. If all your client is interested in is projecting future benefits costs or reporting on population health, this might work. But if you need to tackle wasted spending or justify new programs, DIY benefits analytics might not be the best option for you or your clients.

Traditional Data Warehouse.

Traditional data warehouses gather data from all your client’s sources (medical claims, prescription claims, eligibility, wellness programs, etc.) and store it in one place. Most also offer analytics tools that help brokers, consultants, and employers find trends, costs, and insights. Data warehouses are the go-to for most benefits consultants who offer analytic services. They do have some drawbacks though: 

  • Outdated tools and technology
  • Slow queries 
  • Expertise needed to use the software 
  • Difficulty “cross-walking,” or looking across data feeds
  • Lack of support for users 
  • “Nickel and dime” approach to custom analytical needs

Probably the biggest drawback is the ease of use problem. Big HR and Benefits consulting firms will have teams of data analysts to help them answer client questions, and these folks “live” in the data warehouse tool all day. But smaller or boutique consulting and brokerages won’t have that luxury, and neither will many enterprise employers. 

Data warehouses are often built with power users in mind, those with a mathematics, actuarial, or analytics background. This approach leaves some brokers and consultants without the ability to answer tough client questions.  

A Modern Benefits Data Solution.

Consultants and brokers looking for a competitive advantage may consider a next-generation benefits data solution. While similar to a data warehouse, these tools should solve ease-of-use issues, offer a holistic view, and provide fast answers to clients’ benefits questions. A modern data warehouse gathers all of your client data into one location and allows you to  “cross-walk” your information across various vendor feeds, making it easier to tell stories, share insights, store resources, and quickly make great decisions.

Screenshot of the Artemis Platform showing some of the available insights or "stories"
Standard Stories platform.

There are a few other features to look for when evaluating a benefits data solution: 

  • Pre-built reports on hot topics that are important to employers 
  • The ability to create custom analyses and deeper dives 
  • An easy way to share dashboards and charts with clients 
  • Unlimited users so both you and the client can log in 
  • Visualization tools built in (and built for benefits data) 

This is just a short list, but click here to see what else to consider when evaluating data analytics solutions. 

Brokers and consultants can no longer rely on carrier reports, spreadsheets, and tools built for other applications to offer data insights for clients. If you’d like to learn more about Artemis Health’s modern data solution, get in touch. 

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