Benefits Web Technology Use Growing but Could Improve

August 7, 2007 ( - Most employers believe the Internet is an essential benefits administration service channel, but also say the tools are not fully delivering on their corporate objectives for cost savings, improved quality, and efficiency, a new report from Prudential Financial, Inc.'s Group Insurance business suggests.

According to a Prudential press release, Trends in Benefits Web Technology: 2006 Research Among Benefits Plan Sponsors reports that many plan administrators use Web tools on a daily or weekly basis in managing their benefits programs, including group life and disability. The most common functionalities available on the Web currently are “brochureware,” claims, statement of health status inquiry and reporting.

Prudential found that, for many plan sponsors, Web technology is a critical component of their larger business and employee benefits strategies. However, they expect it to help them manage benefits plans more efficiently and effectively almost immediately upon implementation and it falls short of this expectation, the news release said.

According to the report, making benefits Web tools as intuitive and easy to navigate as possible can help to ease the transition and reluctance of benefits administrators and plan participants to use new Web technology, the press release said. Additionally, offering functionality that performs at least as well as, or even better than, offline alternatives is key to driving utilization and user satisfaction.

The studies used for the new report found that benefits administrators who are the most frequent users and who use the broadest range of online functionality are also the most satisfied with the performance of Web tools. Administrators have integrated the online systems into their daily routine and, therefore, navigation and ease of use are non-issues, the research said.

Ongoing, the studies found the use of Web tools to support benefits plan administrators and for employee self-service is expected to further expand through 2010, primarily in the areas of billing, enrollment, and claims submission. Companies of all size categories indicated this is true, but growth in use is particularly expected in smaller and mid-size firms where adoption of Web technology has lagged behind that of larger firms in the past decade.

The Trends in Benefits Web Technology: 2006 Research Among Benefits Plan Sponsors report includes data about 10 different insurance carriers from two Prudential studies – Study of Employee Benefits: 2006 & Beyond and 2006 Plan Sponsor Web Benchmarking Study. Copies of these studies are available at .