It’s taken close to 15 years to fully develop, but Manulife believes it has now completed its goal of moving from a reactive to a proactive insurer and help its Canadian group members stay as healthy as possible.

The insurance company recently rolled out is new Health By Design model based on providing a personalized approach to health during three key periods in their lives, said Donna Carbell, head of Group Benefits at Manulife Canada.

Carbell said Manulife Group Benefits interacts with customers about 64 million times a year, giving it the opportunity to connect with these members when they need the most help.

Illness prevention

The first bucket, which oversees “prevention” of illness, stems from Manulife’s Vitality program. Introduced a few years ago, the Vitality app encourages people to reduce their risk of chronic conditions by focusing on activity and healthy habits. Those who track their health and make improvements get rewards from companies like Tim Hortons, Cineplex and Indigo.

First open to Manulife individual insurance members, Vitality is now being rolled out to all Manulife’s extended health plan members, free of charge to the plan sponsor.

Helping employees recuperate

The second bucket has been labelled “intervention” and this represents the insurer’s opportunity to help ill employees recuperate, including those who may have been off on disability, said Carbell.

One of the programs it uses in this stage is pharmacogenetics and how genes influence people’s response to different medications. “A pilot we did earlier this year found that 44 per cent of participants changed their medication or their dosage” as a result of their pharmacogenetics testing with Manulife. Once tested, employees take the information and work with their physician to determine the medication dosage that best works for them.

Through this stage, Manulife can also provide programs such as health coaching, individually tailored to the particular needs of the employee.

The last bucket is “recovery,” giving guidance to those recuperating from an illness the time and programs required to help them return to work.

COVID-19 pandemic

Carbell said Manulife has been taking this approach for those wanting to return to work for a number of years – and it has proven helpful now during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s interesting that during COVID we’ve had to pivot and work with employers to help people return to work at home, using virtual ergonomic assessments as an example.” A recent study evaluated Manulife’s mental health program, which showed a decrease of about 19 per cent in employee time away.

Health by Design has been in the making for about a year and a half and has pulled those three buckets together to form a holistic guided choice for members, said Carbell.

Approach to be rolled out this fall

“It articulates the focus we have in group benefits on health and improving the health of plan members and organizational health.”

The approach will be rolled out to advisors this fall in virtual sessions, although Carbell said most advisors have already been involved in the individual pieces of the model.

“It’s really creating a formula for us to be able to package up and ensure people understand the end-to-end journey.”