Connecting the dots of an employee's health journey

Health by Design by Manulife uses the latest in science, technology and predictive analytics to deliver the right care at the right time

Connecting the dots of an employee's health journey

Too often, health benefit models are passive and out of date. They respond to a person’s needs after the employee goes on leave, instead of beforehand.

To that end, Manulife has developed Health by Design, which focuses on all aspects of an employee’s health journey, offering personalized care and a proactive approach. It uses the latest in science, technology and predictive analytics to deliver the right care, at the right time, to each employee.

“Health by Design is really an amalgamation. It's evolved over the last decade in finding innovative ways to improve health for members as they go through their specific journeys,” says Donna Carbell, head of group benefits at Manulife Canada.

“Our whole approach here is focused on helping Canadians achieve and maintain their best health possible… our whole premise is really to engage members, engage plan sponsors, and [it’s about] creating healthy employees, creating healthy workplaces and, ultimately, supporting people on that particular journey.”

Over the last number of years, Manulife has launched several innovative programs, with solid, evidence-based information, she says.

“But once we started to put it together… it was time for us to put a wrapper around all of that and connect the dots.”

Prevention, intervention, recovery

The Health by Design model includes solutions focused on prevention, intervention and recovery.


For prevention, it's about inspiring healthy living. As an example, Manulife’s Vitality program is being incorporated into all Manulife extended healthcare plans, eliminating the barrier of cost of wellness programs to employers, says Carbell.

“It's an app-based program so it’s very technology-based. And it's driven to inspire healthy habits and reduce the risk of chronic conditions that often do lead to disability,” she says.

“There's data that's emerged that really illustrates that the combination of the app, the personal goals, the use of behavioural science, the reward structure — all of those will drive positive health outcomes.”

Eighty per cent of any employers’ benefits costs are related to chronic conditions, says Carbell.

“If we can leverage that same energy around preventing illness, preventing injuries, I think there would be fabulous outcomes in terms of the overall health of Canadians.”

Customers who engage with Manulife Vitality Group Benefits have seen an 11-per-cent lower risk of hospitalization, while admissions risk decreased by six per cent, compared to non-Vitality members, she says.

“That evidence-based approach is absolutely the cornerstone of all our programs.”


The second component of Health by Design involves intervention, and that's about disrupting an illness or injury, says Carbell.

“That's actually evolved more recently, in particular around our early intervention programs, in leveraging predictive analytics to identify employees who might be at risk and ensuring that they get individual care. And sometimes, it’s just pointing them in the right direction.”

Predictive analytics are the technical side of being proactive and they’re really about leveraging data, she says.

“With almost 60 million claims coming through Group Benefits on an annual basis, we have lots of information available to us from which we can glean insights. But that's not enough — we wanted to take it a step further and really leverage analytics on a personalized basis and ensure that we can provide support to help influence a healthy outcome.”

For example, on the pharmacy side, medication reviews have led to some very promising results, says Carbell. Often, members who are managing multiple conditions are prescribed multiple therapies that are in conflict, and those may be exacerbating their symptoms.

“We're using those analytics to identify the member and the combinations of medications that can benefit from a detailed medication review with a clinical pharmacist,” she says.

Another example is Manulife’s personalized medicine program, which is about leveraging pharmacogenetics.

“We've done a pilot this year and found that 44 per cent of our members who were engaged, actually changed their medication or dosage. Working with their physician, they were able to leverage the information and then that, of course, leads to a much stronger outcome for them getting back to wellness,” says Carbell.


Health by Design’s third solution revolves around recovery, which is about supporting employees who have been off work and helping them to return to work.

“That's where we've been working the most in the last number of years through our disability program, and leveraging our partnerships with different healthcare providers, our partnerships with employers, and really bringing people back to work as effectively and safely as we can,” she says.

Manulife’s short-term absence program, for example, is used as end-to-end case management.

“Sometimes, the best technology is the telephone, quite frankly, in this particular case, and ensuring you're connecting with people and supporting them on their journey,” says Carbell.

A study that Manulife did on this particular product, with a very large client, showed the program decreased employee time away from work as a result of mental illness by 19 per cent.

“That's a big number, and that is a really great example of connecting people to the right treatment, the right programs,” she says.

With the pandemic, Manulife has had to pivot somewhat in helping people with virtual return to work.

“It's been quite interesting, actually, to have employers who are open to having people return to work at home,” she says. “Even on the physical side, [it involves] doing a virtual ergonomic assessment, so doing face-to-face Skype meetings or Zoom calls to ensure that the member has set up their home office appropriately.”

Overall, Health by Design’s proactive care model is based on the belief that healthy members make healthy employees – and healthy employees create healthy organizations.

“Each claim is an opportunity for us to engage with a member at the right time, and ensure they're getting guidance and connecting with the right programs to help them manage their health,” says Carbell.

For more information, visit Health by Design.

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