Manulife has announced changes that it says will bring together “new technology and innovative thinking to truly transform the benefits experience for Canadians.”

Among these changes, Manulife will make its Vitality program available to group benefits plans beginning this July. The incentives-based wellness program, previously introduced to individual life insurance clients, helps customers track healthful activities and earn potential rewards and discounts.

“Chronic health conditions are on the rise in Canada and, in combination with an aging population, could soon reach economically unsustainable levels,” said Donna Carbell, Head of Group Benefits, Manulife (Canada), in a May 9 statement. “We are on a mission to help people and organizations become healthier, so employees can be their best at work, feel happier, and be more engaged.”

Two-step opioid management program

The insurer also announced that it is introducing a new, two-step opioid management program for its group benefits program clients which focuses on prevention and early intervention.

The first step ensures patients start opioid treatment with a short-term supply while step two encourages the use of short-acting opioids first. The aim is to ensure that side effects, risk tolerance, and dependence get monitored earlier, helping reduce the risk of chronic use, says the company.

“We believe in promoting the safe and smart use of opioids, especially for people who are using them for the first time, or who haven’t used opioids regularly,” said Carbell. “Through a much more holistic approach, we hope people will be better able to recover sooner, and with less chance of addiction or additional health issues caused by overuse. When fewer plan members need ongoing, long-term treatment, their plan’s drug costs and addiction management costs are lower.”

Personalized medicine

Manulife also revealed the findings of a recent pilot program that explored how a person’s genes can affect their body’s response to medications, specifically those used to treat depression, pain, or anxiety. “Preliminary results show 51 per cent of prescriptions were changed (either the dosage or medication), following genetic testing,” says the insurer.

The pilot program is continuing with the goal of seeing whether “considering a person’s genetics can support the treatment and recovery process — and help people return to health, regular life, and work sooner,” said the company.

Manulife also announced that it is working with Akira Health to make healthcare more accessible to group benefits customers through a new service called Healthcare Online. “This allows Manulife to increase Canadians’ access to virtual medical consults with knowledgeable, friendly clinicians, anytime and anywhere."