A.I. in Employee Health Benefits


All HR professionals are aware of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and its ever-growing influence on today’s modern organizations. Many organizations have used A.I. and its abilities in their recruiting programs, yet few have thought about A.I., and its predictive powers of data for designing and maintaining employee health benefits programs. Now, however, cutting-edge organizations are starting to do just that.

A.I. for health benefits is still very new; nevertheless, it is starting to become more pervasive in health benefits programs. We are all familiar with benefits chatbots that help employees with the more administrative aspects of navigating benefits, or how to submit a claim, but very soon A.I. and predictive data analytics are going to move way beyond that, and organizations have to prepare for the advantages and challenges that come along with great technological leaps.

Sam Barrett, in the article “How artificial intelligence is influencing the world of employee benefits,” discusses some of these new technological interventions, and the employee benefits considerations that go with them. For example, in the future, the predictive data power of A.I. may be used in benefits programs to help employees make healthier lifestyle choices for themselves, along with customizing recommendations for change to an employee’s benefits plan.

This could be very beneficial for the employee, because they’ll have a flexible health benefits plan designed just for them. What the results of this will be, is hard to know—it could increase the cost of the plan drastically, or, if employees’ lifestyles become healthier, there could be an overall cost reduction.

With every new technological advancement, there should always be consideration for possible problems as well. In this case, the biggest problem could come from breaches in security meant to protect private and sensitive employee data.

LifeLabs is a Canadian medical laboratory, which just suffered a cyber-attack, where 15 million patients’ health records were compromised. When an organization’s records are moved onto a digital platform, to be handled by A.I., how can an HR department guarantee that their employees’ private data will be kept confidential? This is a primary concern that must be addressed before any HR department plans to implement an A.I. system for benefits programs.

Additionally, there are even more difficult questions that need to be addressed before venturing down the path of A.I. for benefits:

  • Who owns the employee health benefits data? Is it the company, the employee, or the benefits provider?
  • What happens if the A.I. systems decide that an employee is not entitled to life insurance benefits, because their healthy lifestyle score is too low?

Depending on how organizations answer these questions, there may be a turning point to if and when A.I. and predictive data analysis are accepted in the workplace for usage in employee benefits programs.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Identify the advantages and disadvantages of the employee, the employer, and the benefits provider owning the employees’ health benefits data.
  2. Determine who you feel should own and control the employees’ health benefits data —the employee, the employer, or the benefits provider. Defend your position.