Hundreds of digital health startups are hoping to land their products on the menu of work-sponsored employee benefits.
Another startup is hoping to make it easier.
New York-based brokerage firm Nava Benefits has unveiled a search engine designed to help small and midsized employers shop for digital health and wellness benefits. Officially unveiled on Tuesday, the Nava Benefits Search Engine also could help digital health startups find a market for their products, according to Brandon Weber, co-founder and CEO of Nava.
“If you talk to many of the innovative digital health vendors, they will say they do not even get a shot at working with small and medium-sized employers,” Weber said in a Zoom interview.
It was the challenges faced by employers, however, that initially fueled development of the search engine. Nava, a health insurance brokerage founded in 2019, was hearing from human resources professionals that it was hard to sift through the range of ancillary benefits available to employees, Weber said.
Professionals relied on Google searches, advice from peers and recommendations from brokers, a hit-or-miss process, Weber said. “There is no single place to go to get unbiased, peer-review information.”
Nava set out to build a place.
After more than a year of development and beta testing, the Nava search engine is kicking off with about 600 benefits providers in areas such as telehealth, fertility, addiction and mental health. Vendors on the platform include supplemental health insurer Brella Insurance, telehealth provider OneMedical and care-navigation company Rightway.
“We are thrilled to see this transparent marketplace launch, and we look forward to seeing the impact it will have on HR leaders and the employees they serve,” Kara Kubarych, Rightway’s vice president of partnerships, said in a statement.
The marketplace gives HR professionals access to detailed product information, as well as pricing and peer reviews. Professionals also can run customized searches for products available in their area for companies like theirs.
“They’ll be able to do that in a matter of minutes versus what today takes literally days or weeks or months,” said Weber.
Nava plans to continue adding vendors and has developed a relatively easy onboarding process, he said, adding that the search engine aims to be “the largest catalog of benefits vendors on the internet.” The marketplace could eventually include thousands of vendors.
But the company is not measuring success by size alone. Nava wants to ensure the information is unbiased, as well. As such, the search engine does not follow a pay-to-play model where vendors can influence rankings, Weber said. The company also has no plans to sell the data of professionals shopping on the marketplace.
“That’s exactly the antithesis to what we’re trying to do here.” Weber said. “We’re trying to build a deeply trusted community.”
For vendors, Nava works to ensure reviews are based in fact and address the latest versions of their products, similar to the Apple app store, Weber said. “We’ve taken cues from some of the best marketplaces around e-commerce and some of the more complex software marketplaces.”
Another benefit of the search engine, Weber said, is greater price transparency, which could work to lower costs over time. The site is not expected to generate any revenue in the near term, Weber said. For now, the benefit lies in raising awareness for Nava, whose core business involves bringing the efficiency and cost-savings of big-employer health plans to smaller businesses.
“We want to be at the center of the modernization of this marketplace,” Weber said.