iA Financial Group: a partner that’s always on the hunt for solutions

Focus on total wellbeing and innovation a differentiator in disability management

iA Financial Group: a partner that’s always on the hunt for solutions

This article was produced in partnership with iA Financial Group.

When it comes to disability management, the need for employers to have in place comprehensive action plans to expedite recovery has never been more critical.

But with 40% of sick leaves post-pandemic attributed to a mental health disorder and a strain on resources across Canada — Ontario’s CMHA reports a 50% increase in requests for support, for example — employers are looking for ways to support the mental health component.

And iA Financial Group, where treating clients as partners is one of the foundational pillars of business, is listening.

“We stand for a total wellbeing focus: we offer mental, physical and financial support in innovative and proactive ways,” says Cheryl Nicholson, Director, Claims Strategy, Group Benefits at iA Financial. “We take a client-centric approach and if our clients express a need, we’re on the hunt for a solution. We’re not afraid to try new things, get creative, and think outside the box — we’re open for business.”

iA’s Health Care Continuum

The Health Care Continuum that iA operates from looks at total wellbeing, a cornerstone of employee satisfaction, through prevention, early intervention, effective treatment, sustainable recovery, and rehabilitation support. iA seeks to strengthen that continuum through wellness and preventative options on the product side, and disability services and solutions.

Having an employee go on disability strains colleagues, impacts productivity, and poses a significant concern for employers. At the same time, employers need their workforce to be happy and healthy to deliver best results. Employers want to preserve employees at work, but need to ensure they have access to the tools they need to be healthy and productive, and that calls for an integrated approach.

To that end, iA offers a variety of a la carte solutions to support employees while they’re still in the workplace. Someone suffering from a sub-threshold condition might utilize tools such as the Employee Family Assistance Program or virtual Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or the health navigation platform to get more information about prescription drugs, for example.  

And although the disability incident rate has dropped recently, “we’re seeing those who do go off work suffering with more complex types of medical conditions,” Nicholson says, adding this underscores the need for a proactive insurer who is ready to step up and optimize recovery.

“We saw a discontinuity of care, particularly post-pandemic with the medical backlog, where treatment stalled and prolonged disability leaves. With our case management style, we utilize early assessments and fill any gaps we come across to support recovery, we make sure there are no cracks our disabled members fall in — and that’s a big variable in mitigating duration.”

iA has personalized disability practices

If an employee’s condition deteriorates and they need to file a disability claim, iA is simplifying the process. Doing away with many paper forms, which is unique in the industry, iA instead leverages the personalized approach of a phone call with the plan member.

This provides an opportunity to offer more support through the application process, answer any questions they may have, and better understand what’s led up to the disability, as well as assess their treatment protocol, what worked and what hasn’t, and any other complicating factors.

“They’re not at their best at this time — they could be really unwell or just diagnosed with a more serious condition — and we want to make filing that claim easier,” Nicholson says.

Strong mental health resources

Supporting early intervention to avoid a condition from worsening or becoming chronic is critical, particularly when it comes to mental health related illnesses. Through its partnership with Medaca, iA conducts mental health screening assessments in the short-term disability (STD) phase, and can move to expediate access to a medical specialist, where needed.

“Recent data tells us in Ontario, people are waiting up to two years to see a psychiatrist — Medaca helps us connect them within days,” Nicholson notes, adding that this has generated great outcomes in preventing conditions from becoming chronic.

Mitigating duration is critical to disability management, as sliding into long-term disability (LTD) can have a substantial impact on the individual’s wellbeing. Support at this stage becomes even more paramount, and on top of creative rehabilitation services, iA recently partnered with Wysa, a mental wellbeing app that provides services such as coping skills, mindfulness or good sleep hygiene strategies on an as-needed basis.

The first insurer in Canada to offer Wysa with disability, iA wanted something easily accessible to plan members waiting for in-person resources. And it was a success: iA saw an uptake five times greater than the US companies using it and the average utilization timeframe was over a month, with 72.5% of individuals using five or more modules.

“Through a personalized approach, innovative resources, and comprehensive case management, we aim for an early recovery and return to work as soon as safely possible,” she sums up.

Innovation a pillar of client service

iA isn’t afraid to try a new approach: if it will support a claimant’s recovery, they’re interested, Nicholson notes, adding that flexibility is key to iA’s commitment to supporting the diverse needs of an organization’s workforce. With the attention mental health is getting, “we’re quite invested in innovation and we really want to modernize what we’re providing in that particular area which is why we piloted Wysa.”

Wysa joined a suite of intuitive and easy-to-manage solutions including Mentalhealth+, which provides coaching for more complex mental health conditions, and Opifiny, a digital medical request platform. All these initiatives are about care, protection, optimizing treatment, and managing both employer and employee claims experience, Nicholson says.

“We are innovative because our clients need us to be,” she says.

The bottom line?

“Employer needs are growing, their employees’ needs are also evolving, and to fully support our clients in their total wellbeing, we work to find innovative solutions to strengthen their group benefit plans and experience.”

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