NexGen Cloud Conference Recap (Part 2)

Posted by on December 17, 2014 | Read the First Comment

In case you missed the first part of Brad’s conference recap from the NexGen Cloud Conference he attended, you can read it here.  As promised, here is the rest of the recap. (And yes, it is just as geeky as the first installment.)

What if, as humans, we could process information as IBM’s Watson does? It was proposed that within 15 years we’ll be able to link the human neocortex to the cloud to access thousands of documents and pages of data within seconds.

Google engineers have been busy; Rather than just a key word search, they are working towards understanding the meaning of documents and not just the words. Google will remember that you searched on a specific topic a week ago and will notify you that new information on that same topic was just released three seconds ago and provide you with the link.

nexgen 2

It has been suggested that Google glasses will be able to link to facial recognition technology: it will scan someone’s face as they are waking towards you and within seconds ping their Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., profiles and provide you with everything about them ─ including what they had for lunch, what they did over the weekend and the funny (?) video of their kid trying to sing Christmas carols ─ before they’re even close enough to say hello.

Google’s purchase of Nest was not because they want to be in the air conditioning business, but rather to track utilization and tendencies of heating or cooling your home, then sell it back to the utility companies. It was suggested GE would like to put microchips in washing machines to report how much laundry you do, how much soap you use, and if you fill the machine too full. What is you smart refrigerator reporting back to Samsung? Disney is redefining their process through the wristbands used to track purchases and movement throughout their theme parks. Phillips redesigned and digitalized the light bulb and are creating new revenue streams.  Every company is becoming an IT company.

nexgen 1By 2020, more than 50 percent of domestic smart objects will be able to communicate directly or indirectly with a smartphone. For instance, I can open my garage door with my smartphone. In a Japanese train station, there is a mural with images of food and grocery items. With a smart phone, people can scan the items they want, and the items will be waiting for them when they arrive at the grocery store at the next train stop. Sure it’s convenient and easy for the shoppers, but the store can now track what you purchase, how often, what day of the week, seasonal purchases, and ultimately, advertise to you accordingly. Some department stores in the U.S. have transmitters to alert shoppers of discounts as they approach that specific section of the store. Could the day come when the department store reminds me of my wife’s birthday (not like I need that…), the styles she is most interested in based upon past purchases, and of course, the right size. (Am I right, fellas?)

It appears Locutus of Borg was right. (Well, ok, so maybe my inner geek is showing.)

What do you think about the direction technology is headed? Cool or scary? Share your thoughts below!

NexGen Cloud Conference Recap (Part 1)

Posted by on December 16, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

A few weeks ago, one of my teammates Brad had the opportunity to go to the NexGen Cloud Conference in San Diego.  (I know what you might be thinking, just stay with me for a second; this isn’t going to get too geeky.) Here is his quick unpacking of some of the sessions he attended (okay, and a few of the geeky facts he picked up):

The sessions ranged from what you would expect at a cloud conference to hypothesis on technology in the year 2030. Jules Verne would be proud. One of the speakers, Ray Kurzweil, a Director of engineering at Google, spoke about the acceleration of technology in the 21st century and the impact on businesses, the economy, and society in general. A significant distance was traveled during the hour presentation; to start, he posed the question: can we reprogram biology to alter life? As an example he used our ancient ancestors. Twenty thousand years ago, humans didn’t know when or where their next meal would come from, so they would gorge on thousands of calories when available to be able to sustain periods of famine. But today, thanks to Trader Joe’s, I know for certain when my next meal will be. Studies have been successfully conducted on animals to allow them to eat ravenously and still not get fat. Scientists have been able to successfully “turn off” the genes that tell bodies to store fat. (Read: that’s a sell order on Sanofi-Aventis!)

nexgen 3

According to Tiffani Bova, Vice President and Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, there are a number of trends that will impact our future. For starters, we need to think of what technology can do for any business – the trend to digital books, window cleaners, cigarettes, bitcoins, and cars. (Some cars today have more computing power than horsepower!) There are hotels that have tags in the restroom that patrons can scan to inform the maintenance staff the restroom needs attention. Think of the time and money saved by having maintenance know exactly where to go when, rather than hitting every restroom in a 200,000 square foot convention center.

3D printing is not just reserved for the busts of presidents. Scientists have successfully used a 3D printer to create an esophagus and used it as a transplant when no donors or organs were available. They have yet to tackle more complex organs, but it is on the horizon. How mind-blowing is that?!

It is estimated by the year 2030, we will have the ability to augment immune systems with 3D printed biological T cells. Current studies cannot identify cancer cells yet, but successful studies have been conducted with T cells for Parkinson’s patients. Imagine if, as a doctor, you could just download and print new immune system T cells for your patient’s with identified diseases.

3D printer

Healthcare providers will be able to 3D print casts for broken bones configured specifically for the patient. In the past, you got to pick the color, now you can pick the design. There are medical advantages too; Points can be selected to apply pressure at specific spots to heal breaks and potentially avoid “compartment syndrome” (the swelling that requires additional surgery to fix).

The internet has drastically changed the way we watch TV or listen to music, but can it change the fashion industry too? What if you could buy a program to 3D print clothes?  According to Tiffani, by 2017, nearly 20 percent of durable goods e-tailors will use 3D printing to create personalized product offerings. Although the internet didn’t kill the music industry, it has changed the landscape. Could the fashion industry follow a similar path?

Stay tuned for the rest of the conference highlights tomorrow!

Extra Payroll Deduction for 2015

Posted by on December 11, 2014 | Read the First Comment

Raise of hands: Who knew that 2015 has a possible 53 payroll deductions (if an employer pays weekly)?  Since January 1, 2016 falls on a Friday, the pay cycle is pushed back to December 31, 2015, resulting in the possibility of  53 weekly deductions.

payroll 2

This rare event happens every eight to ten years. That’s not as often as a leap year, but you still need to have a plan in place so HR/Payroll and Benefits Administrators can execute on this anomaly.  In general you have two decisions to make and relay to your HRIS vendors:

On the compensation side:

  1. The employer can pony up the extra compensation (at 3.7 percent more) OR
  2. The employer can divide an employee’s current salary by 27 periods and key it into the payroll system.  Yes, employees will see less per paycheck. OR
  3. The employer could not pay employees for the last pay period. Yes, employees will probably notice this too!

Most companies choose option 1, as option 2 causes some morale issues and option 3 causes even bigger morale issues.  (As a reminder, this happens every eight to ten years with a 3.7 percent average increase to payroll.)  Employers need to weigh the pros and cons of their decision and relay that decision to their HR/Payroll vendor right away.

On the benefits side:

  1. You can keep deductions as is.  If the employer has shared deductions being $X amount with employees, and then you take out one extra week, you have overdrawn the pay system and the employees have paid too much in benefits. OR
  2. Typically there are two months in the year with three pay periods. In 2015, there will be three months with three pay periods.  Employers generally tell their payroll vendor to suspend benefit deductions for one pay period (except 401k, garnishments).  We recommend you tell your vendor now what you have decided to do with regards to suspending third pay period deductions.  We suggest to wait until 2015 year end to actually have the pay period deduction suspended (rather than earlier, in say, May) in case an employee leaves mid-year.

It’s also important to note that annual benefits under flexible spending accounts (FSA) and health savings accounts(HSA) – medical reimbursement programs - are capped by Federal Law. For employees contributing the maximum amount, this payroll period issue might impact payroll deductions into those programs as well.

Will you be affected by the extra week? What steps have you taken to prepare for this extra deduction? Have you notified your Payroll or HRIS vendor of your plan? If you have any questions about this 53rd week payroll deduction issue, please comment below or shoot me an email at HRTech@lockton.com.

OSHA Implementing New Rules for Reporting Workplace Death

Posted by on December 8, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

I am a part of a group within Lockton that is currently studying for the SPHR/PHR certifications. Last week in our study session, we talked about OSHA, and as luck would have it, I also came across the following update to some of their workplace rules.

First of all, deaths in the workplace happen more than you might be aware of. There were 4,405 reported work-related fatalities in 2013, according to OSHA.

OSHA

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) maintains a list of the “fatalities and catastrophes,” on which workplace deaths are tallied. OSHA has announced that two changes with the current Recordkeeeping Rule will go into effect January 1, 2015. Broader reporting requirements will go into effect which will require employers to report all severe work-related injuries. Employers with 10 or more employees will be required to comply by reporting the incidents of any work-related hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye within 24 hours. Previously, employers only had to report the accident if three or more employees were hospitalized from a workplace accident or illness.

The other change in rules includes the industries exempt from the reporting requirements. Based on their “relatively low occupational injury and illness rates,” certain industries can be exempt from routine injury and illness reporting requirements by OSHA. The exempt industries will be based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and injury data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The previous list was based on the old Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system and injury data from the BLS.

You can read more about the new OSHA rules on OSHA.gov or this article from the Kansas City Star.

I understand that not all of us work in the industries that will be affected by these rules, but is there anyone out there that will be? If so, what will you do differently?

5 Take Aways From This Year’s OE

Posted by on December 2, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

5 things to take away from this year’s Open Enrollment

Open Enrollment for most employers has wrapped up, or is close to being over for the year. We compiled a list of a few things that we came across and hope you can remember to make next year’s OE even smoother than this year’s!

1. Remember to review benefit elections every year, even if you aren’t changing anything.

Consumer Driven Health Plans (CDHP) are subject to IRS limits, thus are subject to changes in deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums on an annual basis. Health Savings Accounts (HSA) are also subject to IRS limits, which affect the maximum amount you can save in your account. Double check that your elected amounts comply with any changes to the IRS limits.

2. Pay attention to communications.

There is no doubt that your HR team works hard to provide communications to make enrolling clear and easy. Go ahead and take a look at them. They are used to seeing a lot of the possible questions you may have, and probably have already addressed them in the communications pieces.

3. Think about the level of coverage you may need.

Just because certain benefits are offered, doesn’t mean you should elect them, for instance ancillary coverage, critical illness/disability coverage, etc. In addition, as your salary increases, you may need to increase coverage to reflect your new financial reality.

4. Review your options and evaluate what is best for you and your family.

Healthcare is a subject that should be discussed with your family. Have discussions with your spouse to go over your options in detail and make decisions based on what’s best for everyone. At times, a spouse may have alternative benefits available to them through his/her employer. While family coverage may have been the best option in the past, nowadays some employers are only offering subsidies for employee only coverage. That means you could have two married people covered by two different carriers or plans through their respective employers!

5. Don’t forget about wellness!

A lot of companies are starting to integrate wellness programs into their benefits. These programs offer opportunities for wellness credits (which can offset a majority of costs associated with benefits), discounts/lower premium rates, and additional incentives, bonuses, awards. If your company is offering one, look into it what it takes to qualify for the discounted premiums. You could save a significant amount of money just by tracking your workouts and attending informational sessions!

What did you learn as you enrolled for your benefits this year? Feel free to share any lessons learned, real life stories, or tips with the rest of us by commenting below.

HR Technology Success Secret: Good Testing

Posted by on November 25, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

HR Technology Success Secret: Good Testing. Here’s three keys:

Pat, one of our project managers, recently sent in this “War Room” photo to our team to celebrate the crucial state of parallel testing. This is a stage where the implementation has been theoretically completed, but to ensure a great go-live, open enrollment, or new company launch, the system must be banged, stretched, twisted, and overloaded (those are all technical terms!)

Testing War Room

Here’s three quick keys that our team believes predict success:

1)      Involve users from all levels of the application

  • If managers will be doing performance appraisals, have a couple test out that functionality. If new hires will go through onboarding, set them up to go through!
  • Getting field buy-in on an application can help smooth the disruptive change resistance that will naturally come.
  • Try to identify and involve “influencers”-  loud voices or prominent cultural and thought leaders inside your organization, no matter what their title.

2)      Focus on technical and  functional testing

  • Make sure your IT and security departments (who should have been a part of the selection and implementation process from the beginning) are testing from their perspectives as well. Confidence has to be utmost on day one of the new system.

3)      Don’t just test at today’s volumes – dream bigger

  • If your company’s three-year plan has you doubling in size, make sure you’re testing data loads at three times your current size to ensure your HR Tech infrastructure doesn’t end up constraining the growth of the business. (which cannot be a very pleasant conversation!)
  • Practice a re-org, a merger, or a divestiture of a business line while you can still blow out the system and refresh with clean data. Break it open and look at where the seams are. After all, you’d rather know now than when you’re trying to run year-end report and get home to the kiddlets.

By the way, we practice what we preach too. As you could imagine, we have built massive spreadsheets to rule the world. (Ok, they really just calculate Total Cost of Ownership and determine solution fit based upon an employer’s Critical Factors, but at least I think they could launch the space shuttle if not rule the world!) When we roll out new releases to our team, we huddle up during one of our bi-annual confabs to have a Hack-a-thon on the new toolset to expose any errors or weaknesses. There’s always pizza and beer to be had just to make a fun time more exciting!

testing

If you’re interested in joining us in our next Hack-a-thon, or have any other tips for quality assurance, user acceptance testing or parallel testing – please post a comment or send me a note @HRTechKaiser.

Tech Effects on Healthcare (Part 2)

Posted by on November 20, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

The Future of Interconnected Healthcare in the U.S. Will be Enabled and Constrained by Technology

When I posted the first part of this discussion earlier this week, we chatted about how advances in technology were arriving at an opportune time to dramatically impact Healthcare in these glorious (but rather cold) United States. (As an aside, it’s not too early to start fearing the winter wind that is blowing – and my Facebook friends can always find ways to squeeze humor out of anything!)

cold weather

For this posting, we’re going to focus on the darker side of the subject: Why so often technology fails to deliver on its potential to improve Healthcare and its delivery. Robert Pearl who is not only a doctor, but also the CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, the largest medical group in the nation, was speaking on this a couple weeks ago and I thought you might be interested in his five reasons.

1)      Technology doesn’t understand the business of Healthcare

“This really isn’t the tech company’s fault,” Dr. Pearl explains, “the business model of Healthcare is so fundamentally broken. Technology is essential, but it’s the business model that works.” The reforms – such as outcomes based compensation – currently going on in the business offer hope that healthcare will move to a more sustainable model in the near future. But the common American fee for service model will constrain this change. “It is easier to raise your volume of services, than it is to lower your costs” says Dr. Pearl.

2)      Disruptive innovations start with the problem

“Too often we create technology that’s cool,” says Dr. Pearl “but it doesn’t solve a problem!” He sees technology for technology’s sake as consuming precious resources and distracting attention away from the problems society needs most to address. In his view, the Fitbit and other wearable devices are little more than solutions to the “what to get someone for Christmas” problem, not game changers on the health of the US.

3)      No one is willing to pay

Often the technology that’s needed can’t get funded or becomes unaffordable (which brings us back to one of the three societal trends we covered previously on this blog.)

4)      Technology companies don’t understand doctors

Dr. Pearl explains that their resistance to adopting new technology is very simple if one considers that doctors are basically hourly employees since under the common “fee for service” models of reimbursement, doctors receive more compensation for increasing the number of services they deliver. “Anything that slows them down (such as new technology) causes them to make less.”

5)      Hype often outpaces reality

While there are many examples to pull from, he thought IBM’s use of Watson on Jeopardy was a great example of how the flames of hype are fanned. Alternatively, the functional use of another quasi-artificial intelligence, Apple’s Siri, was much more impactful in Dr. Pearl’s view. Here technology was changing how users interact with their devices, not turning over their thinking to the technology.

If our country’s healthcare system is going to fundamentally change to address the rising costs of service delivery and the demographic trends that are going to increase demand, it’s certain that technology must play a role. But as we can see from Dr. Pearl’s comments, it’s up to providers, payers and employers to advocate for the wise and intentional use of technology.

Since a huge number of US citizens receive their healthcare through their employer, your trusty HR Technology and Outsourcing team from Lockton will make sure we stay in this important conversation as the data and the dollars swirl all around us to ensure the needs and voice of America’s employers are heard and considered.

What do you think about Dr. Pearl’s assertions? Share below or tweet your thoughts to @HRTechKaiser.

Tech Effects on Healthcare (Part 1)

Posted by on November 18, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

The Future of Interconnected Healthcare in the US will be Enabled and Constrained by Technology

If you know anything about my aversion to winter, it will probably not surprise you that I found myself out in Los Angeles recently for a conference. But what made this event important wasn’t the 70+ degree weather I found, but instead the unique mixture of healthcare providers, payers, and consultants all debating technology’s role in the costly and complex world of healthcare. (Providers are the hospitals, doctors and clinics, while the Payers are the insurance plans like Blue Cross/Blue Shield and United Healthcare.) If there was an industry ripe for change and simplification, Healthcare is as much a poster child perhaps second only to our governmental bureaucracies.

While there were tons of fascinating discussions, I was particularly captivated by a speech by Robert Pearl, who is not only a doctor, but also the CEO of The Permanente Medical Group─ the largest medical group in the nation.  He sees a unique opportunity for change being created by the intersection of three overwhelming forces: Consumerism, Unaffordability and Technology.

Consumerism is increasing the public’s focus on the quality of healthcare, as well as the convenience of its delivery. Telemedicine has already started to deliver on some of these expectations as Dr. Pearl shared over 70% of rashes are being diagnosed remotely in their health system. The 5 Star ratings of Medicare offer a great example of how quality measures can be communicated in a way that steers reimbursement and uptake.

As to Unaffordability, we’ve all heard the dire warnings in the media and with the rollout of the ACA. He sees this becoming a problem on both the micro and macroeconomic levels. On Main Street, families are struggling to make ends meet with 25% of their income directed to healthcare. And on a national level, he predicts our nation could be seeing 36% of our GDP consumed by Healthcare by 2036! We have seen medical costs increasing between 6-12% over the last decade or so while wages have not grown much more than 2-3%. No matter what paycheck someone is starting from, those trend lines don’t come together as cost increases quickly outstrip income.

health insurance premiums

The bright spot in this dire story of limited resources and rising expectations is that technology is arriving at a key moment to help.

1)      Mobile

Dr. Pearl points out that change can be easier to implement these days as consumers have already purchased Healthcare’s service delivery vehicle in the form of a smartphone that enables mobile access to data, video streaming, and constant connectivity.

2)      Self-Sufficiency

Consumers are interested in taking control of their health and its delivery. Self-scheduling tools are meeting the patient’s where they are in the midst of their busy lives.

3)      Fixed Cost Equipment leads to Discount Deals

Since most providers have machinery such as CT scanners sitting unused more often than not, there’s an opportunity for hospitals and physicians to open their tech up to consumers. St. Luke’s Hospital is advertising on the radio for their $50-125 Heart Scan service which uses a 64-slice CT scan for technologists to create a clear, two-dimensional view of the heart and arteries. This is effectively monetizing a fixed investment with a service that’s typically not covered by insurance, so folks are paying at time of service.

4)      Using Big Data to Predict Events

This is a huge area of hope for the nexus of technology and healthcare. If certain medicines combine with lifestyle or genetic characteristics to create potential conditions, we should have the identifying precursors and post-event claims in our data we’ve collected. Like other industries, data analytics offers a huge hope for removing the guesswork from events and causation.

As you can see from Dr. Pearl’s comments, there is a lot to hope for in the future of American healthcare; however, it will be a difficult technological road forward for several reasons we’ll cover in a future blog post.

For employers, we play a meaningful part in this discussion as the U.S. healthcare system sees employers as often the plan sponsor and funding source. If our providers and our payers are going to work together well, it’s going to require our voice as part of the conversation. Things are only going to get more technical, regulated and complex unless we demand our needs and those of our employees are taken into consideration.

Do you have a story to share on where you see the future of Healthcare in America headed? Please comment below or tweet your thoughts to me at @HRTechKaiser. I’d love to hear from you! Also, please click the subscribe button above to receive notifications of new blog postings.

 

Virus on the Rise

Posted by on November 6, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

Computer CryptoWall Virus on the Rise

When you hear someone talking about a virus on the rise, you probably instantly assume they are talking about the Ebola virus that has caused an outbreak in West Africa. But there is another virus on the rise that you should be aware of. One that is more likely to affect you: the CryptoWall virus. The CryptoWall virus has held over 600,000 computers hostage! How terrible would it be if you lost all of your pictures- the ones of your baby girl taking her first steps or of Rover fetching in the backyard or your entire selfie collection? It would be devastating.

cryptowall

What will the CryptoWall virus do?

The CryptoWall virus will secretly encrypt all of the files on your computer, including your pictures. After the encryption, you will receive a message with instructions on how to access a decryption service where you will have to pay a ransom to purchase a decryption program. Ransoms have been reported at $500 and higher!

If you choose not to pay the ransom, there is no way to unencrypt the files. All versions of Microsoft Windows operating systems are at risk.

How you can protect yourself?

  • Backup all of the files currently on your computer to a separate device or CLOUD service. Continue to regularly backup.
  • Do not open email attachments from unknown sources.
  • The latest strain of the virus has been reported to have come from web advertisements, so do not click on web advertisements unless you are positive you know the source.
  • Make sure you have the latest version of antivirus software running. Also apply the latest security patches for your operating system.
  • Disconnect any external drives (flash/USB drives, etc.) from your computer after use. The virus targets all drives, including any attached USB or external drives.

This virus is just one of the many security and data breaches we have seen recently. You might recall our post earlier this year about Target. Home Depot, Staples, Michaels, Dairy Queen, Jimmy Johns, and Kmart among other have all fallen victims too. As you can see from the CryptoWall virus, businesses aren’t the only ones being targeted.

Please take some time to protect your computer from this virus!

ICYMI: Aetna acquired bswift for $400M

Posted by on November 4, 2014 | Be the First to Comment

Breaking HR Technology News

In case you haven’t heard yet, yesterday, insurance provider Aetna announced its acquisition of benefits administration and private health insurance exchange technology provider bswift. You can read our initial release for more information. I also wanted to share with you the Employee Benefit Advisor article released today that features  Mike Smith’s (Director of Exchange Solutions at Lockton) and my thoughts on this transaction and what it means for both companies and setting the stage for more mergers and acquisitions in this space. Check out what we had to say! Do you agree? Will we see more insurance companies buying up technology?

EBA shot