Opinion: Why single sign on is ahead of the game


National Dental Plan's Andrew Morris explains how its single sign-on innovation is changing the dental market.

When National Dental Plan (NDP) launched its new single sign-on (SSO) service, we believed it set a precedent in the dental insurance industry and created a new benchmark for flexible benefits in the market.

Allowing members quick and simple access to their online accounts to make and manage their dental claims is central to NDP's desire of being easy to do business with, by putting the employee's needs at the heart of our service proposition - hence the delivery of our online claims portal. SSO via the flex portal takes that one step further.

NDP believes the flex system should be the central hub where employees go to manage and maintain their benefits, which is why we led the way in developing an SSO capability, to allow employees to make and manage their dental claims via our online claims portal, without the need for additional login credentials.

With SSO, it is much easier to submit and manage claims. The SSO process follows an industry accepted secure standard protocol so once built can be rolled out to each flex system.

Most flex system providers have experience of deploying SSO as it is not a new concept. But NDP was first to identify its use to help employees engage and make claims.

We have considerable knowledge of the flexible benefits market, but responding to our clients' need was the main catalyst in the evolution of SSO.

Ahead of the game

So what are the key advantages - for employers and employees - of being ahead of the game when it comes to flexible benefits and SSO to dental claims portals?

The recent economic downturn was accompanied by increased pressure on employers to extract maximum value from their employee benefit spend.

Salary sacrifice, coupled with the focus on online solutions to support auto enrolment, have helped boost the number of employers using worksite and flexible benefits systems to manage and communicate the benefit package.

However, having multiple login details to manage benefits or submit claims just frustrates what should be an easy process. SSO removes that objection, as at the point of login the employee can access the NDP claims portal.

Research shows two thirds of employers who don't have flex say the cost of flex schemes is a barrier to implementation . So it's clear SSO contributes to the business case for flex as it enhances the benefits proposition and employee interaction at no additional cost.

NDP's experience suggests that employees tend to treat the flex scheme as a transactional "shop window" where they go to select benefits once a year.

Anything that helps employers to increase those ‘touch points', and encourages people to access their benefits portals for more than just the usual 15 minute quick scan to decide their annual benefits, therefore has obvious benefits to employers and flex portals in justifying the technology spend.

We know that dental is one of the most claimed upon benefits. It covers everything from preventative treatment, including check-ups and hygiene appointments, to restorative work such as fillings, crowns, implants and extractions. Having claims accessed via the flex system increases the ‘touch points' thus increases employee interaction with that system.

For providers, helping flex systems move away from being purely transactional, and into a useful benefit management tool, is a sensible strategy.

Employees are ever more demanding of, and knowledgeable of, the technology that powers their daily lives, and use technology in a wide variety of ways to interact with different virtual communities.

As such, there is a need for providers to create streamlined and attractive solutions that make them easy to do business with. NDP is in the business of paying claims as quickly and efficiently as we can. SSO makes this easier for the ultimate buyer - the employee.

But what is the next step for flex platforms? Many employers are already turning to social media to help promote their benefits platforms among their workforce and encourage engagement.

Appealing, attractive portals are becoming ever more use-friendly and some companies are going even further, to actively try to replicate social media functionality in their flex platforms, with the options to ‘like' certain benefits and see what their colleagues have chosen.

One thing is certain and that is that the smartphone or tablet is central to the way employees engage. Making it easy for them to do this and to interact seems eminently sensible.

The jury is still out on how effective the social media focus may be. But what is already clear is that the dental insurance industry cannot ignore the importance of having a simple, accessible and attractive benefits portal to encourage employee interaction. SSO technology is one step in this direction, and it is one NDP is happy to be putting at the heart of its proposition.

Andrew Morris is business development director for National Dental Plan.

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