Forrester: Benefits portals don't deliver on their potential

By Healthcare IT News
12:00 AM

HR and benefits managers have latched onto employee benefits portals to reinforce employees' accountability for their health choices — and ultimately control costs, but only 60 percent of employees offered a portal have ever used it, writes analyst Bradford Holmes in a report released Tuesday by Forrester Research.

Companies that rolled out extensive benefits portals without regard for the goals that drive employees to self-service are now facing the same site adoption disappointments as many health plans. Employers need to understand the Technographics characteristics of the employees who will use portals and enhance their portal experience before they can expect to see portal use take off.

Portal design best practices will help spur employee adoption.

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Best practices for portal implementation include setting clear goals, using Scenario Design, and providing for ongoing usability support. Forrester's advice for portal designers:

- Create employee personas to understand the most important users. Firms that can't foot the bill for skilled outside help can interview target users and then write narrative descriptions of their needs, goals, preferences, and pet peeves.

- Prioritize good design over personalization so that all employees can accomplish their goals. Less than 10% of users customize their home page, so firms must prioritize the content and functions required for the most important tasks.

- Plan to design portal user interfaces (UIs) for employees' specific needs even when using portal software. Call on outside help for a major initiative like an HR self-service portal or hire interaction designers and usability engineers to do this in-house.

Five common pitfalls of enterprise portal design and implementation can derail implementations, causing missed deadlines, exceeded budgets, and low user adoption, Hilmes cautions. Use personas, avoid over-personalization, and thoughtfully design user interfaces, but don't:

- Expect technology to change culture.- Start without a metrics plan.- Let programmers design the user interface.- Let a single group set priorities.- Stick IT with the bill.

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