American Airlines sees engagement soar with new benefits tech

Like many employers, American Airlines had a problem with its benefits engagement. Though the airline, with 130,000 employees, has a number of services and employee benefit offerings, workers had a hard time navigating them or knowing which way to turn for specific needs.

“Our team members were struggling a lot when they needed help and struggling with the complexities of healthcare,” said Adrienne Schneider, director of benefits for American. “They weren’t always getting to the right healthcare provider–[one that was] high quality but low cost. They also are generally on the go.”

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Those challenges were compounded by the fact that in the last five years, the airline ramped up hiring, increasing the number of employees who needed help with their benefits.

“We [as benefits managers] think if we give people a lot of programs, they’ll know what to do. But [employees are] looking for ‘just in time’ health,” Schneider said this week, speaking at the National Business Group on Health’s Workforce Strategy conference in San Diego.

“We knew they wanted a point of contact to get the care but also help them understand the offerings that were available to them,” he said. “It was really important that our employees know we care about them on their life journey and on their health journey.”

American Airlines is using Accolade, a personalized health and benefits solution that combines different technologies to help employees navigate their health benefits.

Enter Accolade, a personalized health and benefits solution that combines different technologies to help employees navigate their health benefits. Its other employer clients include Comcast, Lowe’s and AmeriGas.

“Data shows 24% of employees understand their benefits, but I think that’s a generous number. Benefits teams are left doing a lot of cleanup,” said Matt Eurey, senior vice president of customer and health plan partnerships at Accolade. “I think there’s an expectation. Individuals want a simplistic experience. Healthcare has not lived up to a very seamless, simple experience.”

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American Airlines turned to Accolade last year and launched the service to employees in January. The result? Big engagement, satisfaction and utilization.

So far, nearly 58,000 unique members have been assisted and 46% of families at American Airlines engage with Accolade. That number is even higher for high-cost families–defined as those who have a $50,000 spend in medical and prescription combined in a given plan year. Of those, American is seeing 91% engagement.

“That speaks volumes,” Schneider said. “We are super-excited about the high engagement. If they are increasing by June to these levels, you can only imagine what they will be the end of this year.”

Eurey said he expects engagement levels to climb to about 60% after a full year.

Meanwhile, American Airlines’ employee satisfaction with Accolade is at 94%. The partnership has also increased American’s wellness program utilization: The number of employees using the company’s telehealth services, for example, has increased 22% since Accolade launched, and second-opinion services have increased by 58%.

Perhaps the biggest success has been Accolade’s personal health assistants, which support members with questions related to benefits, eligibility, claims or billing. The interactions are intended to gain insight about a member’s needs and barriers to care–a critical part of reducing claims costs.

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“People love their health assistants,” Schneider said. “They do a great job helping people with what they need at the time they need it and will spend as much time as [employees] need.”

Though Schneider admitted Accolade is “not cheap” and is a big investment for the company–employers are charged a subscription fee based on the total number of employees–she says it’s been well worth it.

“We are seeing, at this point, our targeted savings,” she said, noting American is seeing fewer in-patient days and visits to the emergency room. “Our C-suite raves about Accolade; they think it’s the best slam dunk that we’ve had with our employees in terms of helping them and engaging with them.”

It’s also helping the benefits team, Schneider said.

“We are able to spend much more time thinking about long-term strategy than running around solving member-to-member issues.”


Learn more about health and benefits at our Health & Benefits Leadership Conference next year in Las Vegas.

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver.