More than three-quarters (79 per cent) of plan sponsors said they’re interested in their benefits providers sending targeted communications to plan members, according to the 2020 Sanofi Canada health-care survey.

That’s up slightly from the amount who said the same in 2019 (74 per cent) and 2018 (64 per cent). However, slightly fewer (62 per cent) plan members said they’d consent to receive health-related information based on their personal use of benefits from the insurance company that manages their workplace benefits plan. In comparison, 65 per cent and 66 per cent said so in 2019 and 2018, respectively. But this number increases to 74 per cent among plan members who said they’re confident their personal information will be kept confidential.

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“Our role as insurers is evolving in terms of how we support the way plan members use their benefits,” said Julie Gaudry, senior director of group insurance at RBC Insurance and a member of the Sanofi Canada advisory board. “It could be through targeted communications or providing access to additional services to support their well-being. But we also need to evolve how plan members view us, so that they come to accept and expect insurers to be a part of the health conversation.”

Those who said they would consent to these communications are most interested in recommendations from local health-care professionals or experts (45 per cent), information about their medications (44 per cent), help managing their health conditions (44 per cent) and learning how to stay healthy (43 per cent). This represents something of a slump since 2017, when 65 per cent of plan members said they were interested in information to help manage their health conditions and 57 per cent said they were interested in general health information.

More (41 per cent) younger members, aged 18 to 34, said they’re interested in receiving reminders for activities related to their health, such as eye testing or dental checkups, than members aged 55 and older (30 per cent).

A lack of interest in targeted health information could be due to plan members’ experiences as consumers, noted the survey. Not quite two-thirds (59 per cent) agreed they’re fine with organizations like Facebook Inc. and Inc. suggesting items based on past browsing activities. More (62 per cent) younger members said they were fine with it, while fewer (48 per cent) older members said so.

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Two-thirds (66 per cent) of plan members said they’re confident their insurance company will protect their privacy when sending targeted health information, about the same (65 per cent) that said so in 2019. Plan sponsors showed more confidence in this area, with 79 per cent expressing confidence in their insurer’s ability to protect plan members’ privacy.

In terms of the most important improvements they’d like to make to their health benefits plans, employers were most likely to cite improved coverage options for higher-cost specialty drugs (43 per cent), more benefits or services to manage chronic diseases (43 per cent) and more benefits and services to prevent illness (40 per cent). The percentage that cited chronic disease management represents a rise from 34 per cent that said the same in 2019.

Other high priorities included improved disability management (30 per cent), improved prevention and detection of fraud (23 per cent) and reduced coverage options for specialty drugs in order to free funding for other benefits (22 per cent). Overall, large employers felt more strongly about improvements than small employers.