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Predictive HR analytics prescribes employee healthcare remedies

Castlight Health's predictive analytics sheds light on segments of an employee population prone to certain ailments and privately suggests cost-effective healthcare options.

The enterprise healthcare management platform from San Francisco-based Castlight Health Inc. allows companies to set up one-stop healthcare portals where employees can research issues, find providers, make appointments and track insurance claims. The platform also goes a lot further with predictive HR analytics.

A new Castlight Action module applies predictive HR analytics to employee Web searches, insurance claims and demographic data to identify segments of an employer's population that are prone to certain ailments. According to Castlight, the module then sends individuals in these segments personalized email messages suggesting cost-effective healthcare options.

Messages also can be sent to an employee's mobile phone or appear on an individual's personal Castlight dashboard. All the while, the employee's identity is kept private from the employer.

"You fundamentally change the way that your employees engage in the healthcare system," said Gary Alpert, Castlight's vice president of customer success, speaking at the 2015 HR Technology Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas. "Not only do they start making better choices, they also start generating a new type of predictive data that you can use to manage your business." Castlight calls it mindshare data.

Gary AlpertGary Alpert

As an example of how the predictive HR analytics system works, Alpert cited a common ailment -- back pain -- which can be costly to treat and result in lost worker productivity. Traditionally, Alpert said, most employers don't learn about an employee's back pain until at least six months after expensive testing and possibly surgery have been performed.

"It's totally different with mindshare data," he explained. "Now you can see data, real time, when your employee starts searching for back pain MRIs or surgery. You can actually get upstream before a [healthcare] decision is made. If someone is searching for back pain, you can connect them to a high-quality digital therapist or educate them that most back MRIs are unnecessary."

Mental health issues can be another target for cost savings. They affect a significant percentage of employees but tend to go undiagnosed, noted Alpert, adding that companies often end up paying for employee assistance programs that are underutilized. He said the Castlight module, for example, can detect employee searches for depression, anxiety and stress and possibly suggest appropriate therapies to an employee.

The module also can provide benefits administrators with daily statistics on employee page views, provider interactions and other measures of a particular healthcare campaign's effectiveness.

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Does your company apply predictive analytics to employee healthcare?
Predicting a tendency toward an ailment is important information - it should be forwarded to the employee's doctors immediately. Privately suggesting cost-effective healthcare options is a huge invasion of privacy that smacks of medical mismanagement.

Like most companies, we expect our employees to consult with their doctors who supervise their medical care. Certainly not the dispensing wisdom of predictive analytics engine.

If you or your employees have ever been denied coverage by an insurance company or been forced to use a far less effective - but company approved - medication, you'll understand the problem and demand oversight on this potentially dangerous intrusion into private medical care. 
I must be missing something here... How would Castlight have access to employee's web searches? How would Castlight have access to employee's insurance claims? I don't understand why a person would want to take recommendations of an HR analytics company over their own doctor. I don't see any benefit here for the employee. All I see is a lot of personal information that I would not want a company using HR analytics to have.

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