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The Uber of Employee Benefits?

Posted by Jeff Cox

Apr 10th, 2019

The Uber of Employee Benefits?

Uber launched less than 10 years ago and in less than a decade has become so synonymous with personal transportation it has:

  • Devastated the taxi industry
  • Created an entirely new workforce (Uber drivers)
  • Created an expectation of on-demand service
  • Created a completely cash-less transaction
  • For many living in large enough cities - has made automobile ownership unnecessary

But Uber didn’t really change the service (taking you from point A to point B). It’s the interface that changed, enabled by the pervasiveness of smartphone technology. The Uber app is actually really, really simple, yet incredibly powerful, which I assume is part of the magic.

There are numerous other examples of this model in action – a technology driven interface transforming the way we participate in a traditional activity. AirBnB is another great example, which expands the options for “I need a place to sleep tonight” beyond just hotels, but the magic is really in the interface and the ease at which I can “find a place to sleep tonight”. I recently used AirBnB when staying overnight in Toronto for business. I was able to book a small condo in downtown Toronto in 5 minutes on the AirBnB app for a fraction of the cost of a hotel. The app allowed the seller (condo owner) and buyer (me) to also completely vet each other through ratings provided by past sellers and buyers. Once the transaction was complete I was sent detailed check-in instructions and was able to communicate with the condo owner via text or the app. It all went tremendously smooth and without any of the normal hotel check-in rituals. It was perfect.

So, with my focus this year being on Data, AI and Personalized Health (check out my last blog post here) it got me thinking – Is there an Uber for Employee Benefits? Is there some technology interface that can make the transaction so much better that it seems like an entirely different service? An interface that eliminates some of the normal rituals of the traditional service while making the overall experience better, simpler, faster.

Then my mind started to explode to consider the possibilities (seriously).

At first I was thinking of opportunities to streamline the flow of data, administration of plan information, changes, claims etc. I was doing this selfishly as these are some of the things we are working on right now. But as I dove deeper into the thought process the opportunities seemed endless and with serious impact.

Right now we are tinkering with interfaces that make the Employee Benefits experience/transaction streamlined, electronic and simple. The problem is that most of these interfaces are designed by the seller (i.e. insurer). While somewhat effective (i.e. easier to submit claims as an example) a lot of the benefit sits with the seller, does not expand the options for the buyer and doesn’t really leave the buyer so overwhelmed that they can’t imagine going back to the old way of doing things. It’s nice. It’s the equivalent of a hotel having a website (or app) that is supposed to compete with AirBnB.


Here’s where I think a technology interface can make a big impact on Employee Benefits right now:

1. It can further streamline claims payments. Surely if I can rent a condo for one night in a cashless transaction I can do the same with my dentist, or chiropractor or whatever. I should be able to pull out my app, scan it and move on – with the provider knowing exactly what coverage I have (paid to them electronically via the insurer) and what I have to pay out of pocket (paid electronically to them via my credit card or similar).

2. It can streamline the flow of data from employee to employer to insurer (and back) through one common interface. Today these interfaces are disconnected and many are still paper-based.

3. It can connect other inputs like payroll, accounting, time-tracking, compliance and more.

4. It can amalgamate multiple data points into dashboards – allowing employee and employer to get what they need at a glance, only having to go searching for more detail if they need it.

5. It can allow employers to “plug in” multiple providers mixing and matching the best combinations of services like health, dental, life, disability, EAP’s, wellness and more without the need to manage them all separately and for sure without any additional administrative cost.

6. It can allow employers to easily “unplug” from one provider, replacing them with a better option when required.


Here’s a couple of examples where I think a technology interface can make a MASSIVE impact in the future:

1. It can allow the EMPLOYEE the opportunity to amalgamate multiple data points and inputs, some of which are not directly related to the employer.

2. It can allow the employer a consolidated picture of their benefits plan (while still respecting employee privacy obviously) – better understanding how it’s being used, if it’s being used, if it’s being used effectively to promote employee health and wellness and more. For example – if an employer knew a large portion of their employee population was struggling with adherence (i.e. not taking medications when they should based on the prescribing requirements of that medication) they could reasonable take steps to educate and then monitor the impact.

3. Through AI it could guide employee decision making towards healthier behaviour. Here’s an example using the scenario above. If an employee is due for a medication refill but has passed the refill date, what if they got a notification prompting them take action while offering an incentive to do so (i.e. the drug gets reimbursed at a higher level if they take action in the next 2 days).

The opportunities are endless.

While I’ve been the first to lament our glacial pace of change in the Employee Benefits industry I do think we are on the verge of a big transition. The Uber of Employee Benefits is a coming!

At Selectpath we are experimenting with these solutions right now. We understand the need to find better ways to serve our clients rather than just settling into old patterns. Early adopters may feel some of the pain but will reap most of the gains. Happy to chat with customers, prospective customers, competitors and all comers on what we are doing and why.

Let me know your thoughts!

How do you think tech can transform the industry? Specifically at the interface level – how can we create a better, faster, simpler service delivery? What impacts would it have?

As always, positive dialogue expands the possible and encourages change. Go!

Questions? Contact me at chad@selectpath.ca.

About Me

I am a bringer of solutions. Small and medium businesses are the cornerstone of our economy. Awesome employees are the cornerstone of those businesses. I help small and medium businesses build integrated talent management strategies and then bring solutions to the table to execute on those strategies. If it relates to attracting and retaining the best possible employee talent - I can help. I also wear a very technical hat - I'm an Employee Benefits Specialist. I work with small and medium business to make sure their Employee Benefits plans matter to their employees, are cost-effective and sustainable and are much more than an after-thought. I take Employee Benefits seriously and blog about topics that are relevant to small and medium businesses, a woefully under-serviced segment that deserves better.

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