Several years ago one of our hospital customers came to us with a problem which I am surprised is not brought up by more of our customers. The Human Resources department would be inundated with calls for help with the open benefit enrollment and at the same time be tasked with dealing with processing the annual open benefit enrollment for each employee. Their current system was inadequate in several ways. The system was completely paper based so large amounts of paper were being submitted by employees; the paperwork would then be processed and stored in file cabinets. The tracking of who did and who did not submit their elections was a manual process which not only was tedious but also was error prone. Employees would fill out the form on paper which meant that there were no protections that would prevent the employee from making mistakes which HR would have to then return to the employee for re-submission. Employees were provided with a packet that explained as best as possible what the different options were and what the difference in benefits and cost were. This was not proactive with regards to handling any questions or concerns the employees might have which meant numerous phone calls to the Human Resources department. Many of these calls would occur right at the end of the submission deadline further stressing out the already limited resources of the HR department.
We took a close look at what could be done to help or even eliminate as many of these challenges as possible. We advised the customer that using the existing functionality of the intranet at minimum the hospital intranet should feature a page or series of pages to help employees with enrollment submissions and answer common questions. A frequently asked questions section was recommended and would greatly reduce unnecessary phone calls to the HR department. We also suggested that instead of printing the enrollment packet which was almost 30 pages in length, the packet should be published as a link on the intranet. In addition, links to all key relevant insurance and other benefit sites should be listed on the intranet so that employees can do their own research, reducing Human Resources involvement. Finally to aid in processing employee questions an electronic help form should be published on the intranet so that employees could submit questions and HR could respond in a timely manner but when convenient for HR.
The customer felt that these were excellent suggestions that they would implement, but they wanted more. So the customer engaged HospitalPortal.net to develop a custom solution that was published within the existing hospital intranet. The customer wanted an online fillable form that employees could complete that would have several key benefits. The form would have all of the different rules built directly into the form which would prevent the employee from making a submission that was erroneous or invalid. The forms would be routed and processed electronically and stored in the electronic employee file which would permanently eliminate a substantial amount of paper. Since the submissions would be submitted electronically, it would be possible to track who if any employees have not submitted their elections by the due date so that HR would have a last chance to contact the employee to get the submissions processed. Finally, when the cycle repeats next year the form can use the elections an employee made from this year to pre-populate the elections, saving the employee time and possible errors in the future since many employees retain elections from year to year.
With the requirements of the upcoming enactment of the Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act known as “Obamacare” it will be even more important to streamline the process of open enrollment and address the undoubted increase in confusion employees will face when evaluating the new options that will be available. It is a shame not to use your intranet to communicate with employees during the benefit enrollment process. If your Human Resources department is facing these challenges you may want to consider implementing a custom benefit enrollment process directly within the intranet to further streamline the process.
We would love to hear how your hospital deals with the annual enrollment process. Please share successes and challenges alike. Click here to get more ideas for how a healthcare-specific intranet can help you streamline and improve internal communications.