Now more than ever, employers are realizing that work-place health promotion makes good business sense. The Wellness Councils of America (WELCOA) advocates worksite health promotion--keeping employees well in the first place--as the long-term answer for controlling health care costs.
Recent health awareness and wellness research has demonstrated that employer health promotion programs can be directly linked to:
-- Enhanced productivity
-- Reduced absenteeism
-- Better health knowledge
-- Improved health behaviors, and
-- Reduced number of chronic health conditions
Some research has indicated that medical cost savings of $3.48 and absenteeism cost savings as much as $5.82 can be achieved by employers for every dollar invested in worksite health promotion.
Designing a health promotion program
By helping employees become aware of the health risks they can modify, and by engaging them in their personal well being, organizations can affect change that will put their employees on the road to healthier lifestyles.
At UnitedHealthcare health performance analysts work with wellness directors and employers to demonstrate the value of these programs and find ways to engage individuals. According to Dr. David Ellis, UnitedHealthcare Medical Director, "The value of employer wellness programs extends well beyond reducing employee health risks. It impacts broad health care decision-making that drives better outcomes, higher quality care and more affordable health care costs."
There are a few broad best practices to apply when implementing a health promotion program. UnitedHealthcare has adopted the WELCOA principles to achieve "Gold" level workplace status for our own employees. Here are best practices to consider:
-- Assess your population--leverage data to assess health risks
The first step is to understand your population's health risks, health status, and readiness to change. This enables organizations to design effective plans and choose interventions that are most likely to engage and benefit members. It also helps avoid costly speculations about the top health risks and needs of the population because risks and issues can vary by location and demographics.
Accurate data is essential to developing wellness plans that are meaningful for your specific population. This information is critical to identifying employee health risks and translating the results into a strategic workplace wellness plan. We recommend an incentive approach to encourage individuals to complete the free online health assessment at the UnitedHealthcare consumer website, myuhc.com.
There are three primary sources of data that should be used together to help get the best picture of the population, establish a baseline of the population's health, and gauge the program's success:
Claims: Data obtained from laboratory, pharmacy and medical claims provides a comprehensive and accurate medical view of existing conditions, medications, health care utilization patterns, current medical status and risks.
Self-reported data and employee surveys: Health assessments and other tools such as health culture audits and employee surveys provide self-reported information on medical history, culture and ethnicity, current health status, lifestyle habits, attitudes, preferences and the readiness to change.
Onsite screenings: Screenings are a key source of information. Metrics such as blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose screenings, tobacco use, identify specific opportunities for health improvement initiatives within an overall population.
-- Secure and engage senior level support
To make any wellness initiative successful, the organization's executive leadership must vigorously and visibly support, participate in, and communicate the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. To be successful, wellness should be part of the organization's strategy and endorsed by a CEO who values healthy lifestyles.
-- Identify wellness champions
Many successful programs are owned by human resources departments and additional members of a wellness team from across the organization. However, firms of any size can look for individuals who have a strong belief in the value of their personal health and wellness to assist in your workplace health promotion initiatives.
-- Create a health promotion strategy
Developing a wellness plan based on aggregate risk reports and internal wellness survey outcomes will assist in developing a plan that will be most effective for your population. Any size firm can use strategies like these:
Review your employee medical benefit plan design. What changes could help influence individual health behaviors and activate employees to embrace accountability in their health care decision making?
Take full advantage of the UnitedHealth Wellness resources, including online programs, educational campaigns, and limited on-site programs to address common health risks.
Track year-over-year changes to your health risk data. This lets you add new interventions or alter your current strategies to make the biggest impact on actual health behaviors among your employee population. Year over year changes also help you measure the economic benefit of your wellness strategy.
-- Develop compelling communications and incentives
Persuasive communications are necessary for every successful wellness program; they create awareness, pique interest, motivate and increase engagement.
When used appropriately, incentives also can be a great way to induce participation and commitment. One UnitedHealthcare study showed that a $100 cash incentive to complete a health assessment resulted in an 85 percent response rate. In contrast, there was only a 10 percent response rate when the same group was asked to complete a health assessment without an incentive.
Of course, choosing the right incentive is important. Whether it's gift cards, reimbursements to health savings accounts, or a point system that can be redeemed for merchandise, organizations offering incentives should select those that are most meaningful to their population.
-- Design a personalized program
Wellness programs must address more than just what can help behavior change. They need to address all factors that influence behavior. To be successful, programs must acknowledge 'the whole person' and address key obstacles preventing them from living a healthier lifestyle.
-- Create a culture of health
Health needs to be an integral part of workplace culture, not just a top-of-mind issue. Organizations should take advantage of the Internet by creating health portals, which can create a sense of community; support on-site programs and coaching that will promote behavior change; and help bring wellness initiatives together in one place to keep members engaged, motivated and informed.
-- Track and evaluate results
People are motivated when they see progress. Organizations should implement tools and on-site biometric trackers and give people access to this information to keep track of their progress. By tracking and evaluating their employees' progress, organizations can get information to improve their existing programs and demonstrate the value of the program to the organization in general and senior management in particular. This data also is necessary to show progress over time, justify budgets and compare the effectiveness of various parts of the program.
Making wellness work
We understand that many costly chronic diseases could be prevented by modest changes in individual lifestyles. As such, UnitedHealth Wellness programs are completely integrated with our clinical programs--including disease management, treatment decision support, and Healthy Pregnancy.
For more information about wellness solutions from UnitedHealthcare, contact MJ Frascino, Vice President, UnitedHealthcare Marketing at email@example.com or contact your UnitedHealthcare representative.
Did You Know
77 percent of employers offer health and wellness programs, and more than half of those currently without programs plan to add them, many within 6 to 12 months.
50 percent of an individual's health status is a result of behavior.
75 percent of health care costs can be prevented, delayed, or curtailed through lifestyle modifications.
Nearly two out of three individuals are interested in participating in wellness programs, and 20 percent of individuals are even willing to pay extra for a wellness program.
46 percent of individuals who have participated in a wellness program felt that it positively impacted their behavior choices.
ARC Method of Measuring Success
A. Activation improvement (better decision making)--6 to 12 months
R. Risk mitigation (improve quality measures)--12 to 24 months
C. Cost risk mitigation (decrease cost for emergency and in-patient services)--24 + months
April 1, 2010
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