WellSteps Worksite Wellness Blog

All about improving employee wellness programs with evidence-based recommendations and best practices.




Latest Entries

Workplace Wellness Done Right: Biometric Screening

Posted by Laura
Laura
WellSteps Guide with B.S. in both Health Promotion and Psyhology; personal trainer; yoga instructor. Laura hel...
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on Friday, 15 May 2015
in Outcomes-based programs

If you collect biometric data as part of your wellness program, what are some ways you can integrate the data, how can you secure the data, and how often should you conduct a screening? Further, if you have a limited budget, which one screening should you use?


Dr. Adams answered these and other questions about biometric screening in the most recent WellSteps webinar.
Dr. Adams explained that the goal of many workplace wellness programs is to reduce employee-related expenses. These expenses are largely driven by chronic disease, which is caused by unhealthy lifestyle behavior.

The bulk of the webinar was about how to integrate biometric screening data. To get the best understanding of this topic, you may want to watch the recorded webinar HERE. As a sneak preview, for those with a limited budget, Dr. Adams recommended Blood Pressure as the one screening to use. You can find out why by watching the webinar.

If you would like more help setting up your employee biometric screening, click HERE.

In good health,
The WellSteps Team

Corporate Wellness Company Health Coaching: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Posted by Kelsey Hudson
Kelsey Hudson
Kelsey Hudson graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Exercise and Wellness and a minor in Bu...
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on Monday, 13 April 2015
in Health coaching

Health coaching is a wellness strategy offered by approximately 12% of companies. Health coaches typically counsel employees in order to help them improve their health. But is it an effective strategy? We answer that question and more in our coaching demographic.


We looked at 159 studies but only 32 met all the inclusion criteria. Of these, 14 showed improved health behaviors or risks whereas, 18 showed no effect. The positive effects included: improved physical activity, blood pressure, body weight and fruit and vegetable intake, along with decreased stress levels, smoking behavior, and fat and sugar intake.

One of the most important success factors in health coaching is to offer help to employees who are ready to change. For example, out of a sample of 100 employees, the total who both have a lifestyle risk and who would be ready change, would range from two to seven employees.

The evidence shows that the most cost-effective and efficient dose of health coaching includes six coaching sessions spread out over six weeks with a six-month follow-up.

To view this infographic, click here. To learn more about WellSteps coaching, click here.

Worksite Wellness Outcomes Improve With Support of Others

Posted by Laura
Laura
WellSteps Guide with B.S. in both Health Promotion and Psyhology; personal trainer; yoga instructor. Laura hel...
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on Friday, 27 March 2015
in Culture

support

The support of others can help employees adopt and maintain healthy behaviors. Does your wellness program include spouses and significant others? If not, here is why support is so crucial. Committing to a goal with someone else increases the chance of success by 30%! No way around it – that is huge!

Bet yet, if the support provider is an insured dependent, they will also improve their health. That is why we encourage a spouse, partner, or friend to participate in WellSteps for free.


Please let us know how we can help with workplace health strategies.


The WellSteps Team

Wellness Program Budgets: Top Priority for Employers in 2015

Posted by Kelsey Hudson
Kelsey Hudson
Kelsey Hudson graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Exercise and Wellness and a minor in Bu...
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on Friday, 27 February 2015
in Designing Programs

Corporate wellness programs are gaining momentum. In fact, building or enhancing the company wellness program has become an employer priority. In a new survey released by Virgin Pulse and Workforce magazine, employers indicated that they plan on placing a higher priority on wellness by increasing their employee wellness budgets for 2015.


The survey also showed that organizations are looking for ways to combat employee disengagement, increase employee empowerment and improve employee health and well-being. The overall goal of these programs is generally to improve quality of life for the employee while simultaneously creating a positive organizational culture for the employer.

It is no surprise that organizations are looking for wellness programs that can be tailored to their specific needs. It seems that the more a wellness program can be tailored, the better the participation and retention will be. And that is just what an employer would want in any year!

To view the entire study, click here.


WellSteps can help you develop or enhance your wellness program. Just contact us.

In good health,


How to Design an Outcomes-Based Employee Wellness Program

Posted by Laura
Laura
WellSteps Guide with B.S. in both Health Promotion and Psyhology; personal trainer; yoga instructor. Laura hel...
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on Friday, 13 February 2015
in Designing Programs

If you are thinking about how to implement a “Health Contingent” or “Outcomes-based” wellness program, there are a few things you should consider.Most importantly, if there is a toxic culture where this program will be implemented, consider another approach. In an organization where there is a high-degree of distrust or antagonism, this type of approach will likely backfire.

However, if the culture is positive and supportive of wellness programs, this approach could work! We suggest working with a diverse wellness committee to educate employees about the program prior to launch. It can take 6 months or longer to properly lay the groundwork. Failure to do so can result in a nasty employee backlash, but gently easing employees into the program facilitates acceptance and participation.



If you decide that such a program makes sense for your organization, then you will need a few simple ingredients to make your program work. You will need a way to:

Track completion of employee activities and health status

Monitor and record employee data

Manage employee data securely and privately

Determine employee heath outcomes

Administer rewards

Manage appeals, and

Communicate and market

We have thought through this process from beginning to end and put every tool you will need into an inexpensive solution called “WellSteps Foundations.”Whether you use it or not doesn’t matter. We are happy to explain how it works. Feel free to borrow our ideas.

Contact us here HERE so
we can talk you through all the moving parts. For more information, click HERE.


We wish you the best of luck with your wellness goals!

In health,
The WellSteps Team




Worksite Wellness: It is GOING on!

Posted by Kelsey Hudson
Kelsey Hudson
Kelsey Hudson graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Exercise and Wellness and a minor in Bu...
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on Tuesday, 03 February 2015
in Designing Programs


Here are some updates about things you will want to know.

There was a webinar on January 29th that featured a distinguished panel of national experts, including Tom Parry of Integrated Benefits Institute, Ryan Picarella of WELCOA, Seth Serxner of Optum Care Solutions, Tre’ McCalister of Mercer, and Paul Terry of StayWell.

Here are some highlights:

Dr. Tom Parry

  • When employers start a new wellness program, the first question they should ask is, “what influence in my company is having the biggest impact on the health status of my workers?'
  • Then focus on that.


Ryan Picarella

  • Reframe wellness to look at it more broadly - look at environment and place and how it affects health.
  • Consider the higher purpose of why the wellness program is in place.


Seth Serxner

  • The wellness paradigm is shifting towards overall wellbeing instead of focusing solely on physical health.
  • To prepare for the future of wellness, contribute now by being actively involved including blogs, social media, creating case studies, etc.

Tre McCalister

  • Worksite wellness is on the way to becoming more consumer focused.

Paul E. Terry

  • Health and educational diagnosis are equally as important as culture, policy and regulatory influences on behavior.

Watch the whole presentation below!

Also, WellSteps has added new feature that has a lot of brokers and wellness coordinators excited. It's called MyTracker. This tool allows users to set and track personal goals in exercise, eating, among others. To find out more about MyTracker and how it works, click here!

In good health,







Worksite Wellness Programs: Study Shows Worksite Culture of Health Means More Profits

Posted by Kelsey Hudson
Kelsey Hudson
Kelsey Hudson graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Exercise and Wellness and a minor in Bu...
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on Friday, 21 November 2014
in Culture

A study published in the September 2014 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine suggests that publicly traded corporations that have managed to create a culture of health outperform the stock market. Apparently wellness and safety programs do more than improve and protect employee health.


Here is the background on this study. Each year, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine gives out a Corporate Health Achievement Award, which recognizes the healthiest and safest companies in North America. After tracking a theoretical investment of $10,000 in companies that won the CHAA and are publicly traded, researchers found that the award winning companies outperformed the S&P 500.


In this study, the presence of a wellness program actually predicted corporate profitability. These findings provide additional evidence supporting the impact of wellness programs on employee productivity.


The researchers concluded that their results “strongly support the view that… engaging in a comprehensive effort to promote wellness, reduce the health risks of a workforce, and mitigate the complications of chronic illness within these populations can produce remarkable impacts on health care costs, productivity and performance.” (Fabius, et al. 2014)


To view this study, click here. To learn more about corporate wellness programs, click here.


In Good Health,


Employee Wellness Programs: the Truth about ROI

Posted by Laura
Laura
WellSteps Guide with B.S. in both Health Promotion and Psyhology; personal trainer; yoga instructor. Laura hel...
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on Tuesday, 04 November 2014
in ROI


Still not sure if a well-designed wellness program will deliver a return on investment? This video explains the cold, hard truth about the ROI of wellness programs.

video play


To quote Dr. Steve Aldana:
either wellness programs are a beneficial strategy for a business OR the leaders of every company with a wellness program, are idiots.

Learn more about the return your company could see if you implemented a well-designed wellness program by clicking HERE.

In health,
The WellSteps Team

Company Wellness Programs: A Brief History of the Health Risk Appraisal

Posted by Kelsey Hudson
Kelsey Hudson
Kelsey Hudson graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Exercise and Wellness and a minor in Bu...
User is currently offline
on Monday, 20 October 2014
in Designing Programs


Health Risk Appraisals (HRAs) have been all the rage for about 3 decades. But where did they come from and what is the science behind them?


In a nutshell, not long after World War II, it became evident that lifestyle behaviors impacted the rates of sickness and death. This lead to the initiation of the Framingham study, one of the longest and most comprehensive studies ever initiated. The Framingham researchers realized that they needed a tool to assess behaviors and the weighted impact of each behavior on several disease outcomes. This initial research tool was the mother of all HRAs.

Eventually, this tool was made publicly available in the early 1980s. The CDC developed a telephone survey based on the science behind the HRA and called it the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The BRFSS has been administered every other year by every state since 1994.


The early commercial versions of the HRA produced feedback that was difficult for consumers to understand. Dee Eddington at the University of Michigan led the charge to simplify a confusing composite score by replacing it with a rating of low, medium or high risk on each of several behaviors.

When WellSteps developed the Personal Health Assessment (PHA), we applied all of this science. We simplified the BRFSS questions to the 6th grade reading level so that it could be completed in 5-7 minutes. The WellSteps PHA still includes every important issue addressed in the HRA and BRFSS, but we shortened it by eliminating things that a person cannot change, such as family history.

To learn more about the WellSteps PHA, click
here.

In Good Health,

Worksite Wellness Programs Improve Blue-Collar Workers Health for at Least Two Years

Posted by Laura
Laura
WellSteps Guide with B.S. in both Health Promotion and Psyhology; personal trainer; yoga instructor. Laura hel...
User is currently offline
on Friday, 03 October 2014
in Evidence

You already know that worksite wellness programs can improve employee health but most of these studies have been conducted on white-collar employees. How effective are wellness programs on employee populations that have several different types of workers? Good news, a recent study showed that worksite wellness is effective in this type of workforce as well.


The study tracked the health of 267 various types of employees over two years. The employees who participated in the wellness program learned new health-related skills, increased exercise and fruit/vegetable consumption, and maintained those healthy habits for at least two years. Authors of the study predicted that the employees will continue to experience health improvements and increased productivity for years to come. These findings add to a growing body evidence that support the effectiveness of workplace wellness programs.

To read the full article, CLICK HERE!


In good health,
The WellSteps Team

Employer Wellness Programs: 5 Steps to Build an Effective One

Posted by Kelsey Hudson
Kelsey Hudson
Kelsey Hudson graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Exercise and Wellness and a minor in Bu...
User is currently offline
on Friday, 19 September 2014
in Designing Programs

5 Simple Steps to Building an Effective Wellness Program



Sometimes the hardest part of building a wellness program is just getting started. Here are a few steps to help you get started:

1. Know why you are doing wellness
The cost of health-related employee costs is increasing. The cost of healthcare alone is expected to increase over 50% by the year 2021. The purpose of a wellness program is to help employees adopt and maintain healthy behaviors.

2. Prepare
Organizations need visible support from senior leaders and wellness committees. The leaders can talk of wellness in employee meetings and participate themselves. Committees can motivate and keep employees informed.

3. Assess
Before starting a wellness program, establish a baseline for health behaviors, health risks and workplace culture. Assess employee behaviors with a Personal Health Assessment.

4. Implement
Look at the aggregate risks from the personal health assessment and choose the high priority risks that can be the easiest to change. Do your best to make employees aware of what they need to change, motivate them, and provide them with the tools and skills needed for change.


5. Evaluate
Evaluate changes in behavior, risk, disease and cost, as well as employee participation and satisfaction.

To view the Worksite Wellness Implementation Guide click here.To learn more about WellSteps, click here.

In good health,

Company Wellness Programs: Six Ways to Show Leadership Support

Posted by Laura
Laura
WellSteps Guide with B.S. in both Health Promotion and Psyhology; personal trainer; yoga instructor. Laura hel...
User is currently offline
on Friday, 05 September 2014
in Designing Programs

Did you know that the impact of worksite wellness programs are dramatically higher when the programs have strong leadership support? It’s true! Evaluation of successful wellness programs has revealed six simple strategies leaders can use to support wellness.




1. Tell employees why wellness is important.

2. Create an employee wellness committee.

3. Communicate the wellness program.

4. Communicate a worksite culture of health.

5. Participate!

6. Integrate wellness incentives into benefits.



To learn how to implement these six suggestions, CLICK HERE!



In good health,

Worksite Wellness Vendor WellSteps Evaluated in The Journal of Environmental Medicine

Posted by Laura
Laura
WellSteps Guide with B.S. in both Health Promotion and Psyhology; personal trainer; yoga instructor. Laura hel...
User is currently offline
on Friday, 29 August 2014
in Evidence

Over 75% of America’s workforce has one or more chronic health condition. This is bad news for employers because chronic conditions are known to increase absenteeism, reduce productivity, and drive up healthcare costs. To address this, more and more companies are implementing worksite wellness programs.


One such employee health promotion program was implemented in a western states school district and has since been evaluated.
The results were recently published in The Journal of Environmental Medicine. The worksite health and wellness program, offered by WellSteps, improved the health status of over 2,000 employees.

Participants completed WellSteps’ Personal Health Assessment, biometric screenings, four campaigns, and more during the course of the intervention. At baseline, the employees had health conditions similar to the national average. By the end of the initiative more than half of participating employees experienced significant improvements in body mass index, blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol. Based on this data, the authors concluded that this type of worksite wellness program would be effective across many different workplace settings. Read the full article HERE.

In good health,
The WellSteps Team

Worksite Wellness Programs The Way The Rest of the World Does It: Presenteeism

Posted by Laura
Laura
WellSteps Guide with B.S. in both Health Promotion and Psyhology; personal trainer; yoga instructor. Laura hel...
User is currently offline
on Friday, 15 August 2014
in Culture



An interesting phenomenon is happening in wellness programs all over the world. 41% of all multi-national corporations have wellness programs and
none of them are responsible paying for health care because they rely on social medicine. So why do they even have a wellness program? Productivity!

Productivity is related to both days on the job and the amount of time fully engaged while working. The term “Presenteeism” has been used to describe being physically at work, but not really working. It turns out that effective wellness programs can decrease presenteesim and international companies know this. In fact, studies show that the cost of lost productive time due to health-related presenteeism is about two and a half times greater than the cost of employee health care! Why aren’t more people talking about this? The financial impact of reducing presenteeism and increasing productivity is huge!

Studies published by WellSteps CEO, Steven Aldana, have shown that poor health behaviors and elevated health risks such as hypertension and obesity, are related to poor productivity. Comprehensive wellness programs improve employee health behaviors, lower employee health risks, and reduce employee presenteeism.

The benefits of workplace wellness programs are larger, in fact MUCH larger than employee health care costs. It is time to begin improving employee productivity as well.

Listen to Dr. Aldana himself give more detail on this subject by playing the video above!

In good health,

The WellSteps Team

Successful Wellness Programs: Getting the Best Results with the ROI Calculator

Posted by Laura
Laura
WellSteps Guide with B.S. in both Health Promotion and Psyhology; personal trainer; yoga instructor. Laura hel...
User is currently offline
on Friday, 25 July 2014
in ROI

WellSteps is delighted that thousands of you have used the tools we have freely shared including all three WellSteps ROI calculators. We shared these and other tools because we knew they would help many of us accomplish our shared mission of improving employee health in an effective way.

The three ROI calculators can be found here:
ROI Calculator: health care costs
ROI Calculator: absenteeism
ROI Calculator: presenteeism

It has come to our attention that an outspoken critic has entered false data into these calculators in order to make a point. We certainly support free speech; however, we wonder how valid the point can be when it is based on false data?

May we suggest the following three steps to help you get accurate results when you use these ROI calculators?


1. Use real values for the total cost of health care per employee. Recent data from reputable organizations such as SHRM and Aon Hewitt estimate the total cost of employee health care at just over $10,000 per employee. We can think of no employer in the past 5 years with health care costs of $1,000 per employee.


2. Use valid estimates for the percent of the current obese and smokers in an employee population. We provide the estimated default numbers based on national data of 33% and 20% respectively in all three calculators. In our combined 50 years of academic and consulting work, we cannot think of one employer with a 0% obesity AND 0% smoking rate. Again, valid estimates work best.

3. Use valid estimates for the impact of a well-designed wellness program on obesity and smoking rates. Comprehensive reviews and national data indicate that rates of both obesity and smoking typically decrease after a wellness initiative is delivered. We acknowledge the probability that rates could get worse after a poorly designed wellness program is delivered. However, we cannot imagine a scenario where obesity or smoking rates would go from 0% at baseline to 99% AFTER the provision of a wellness program no matter how poorly designed!

We profoundly thank the many, many colleagues who pointed out the incorrect use of these calculators.

We invite you to read an excellent article by AJHP Editor in Chief Michael O'Donnell on these and related issues.

http://www.ajhpcontents.com/doi/full/10.4278/ajhp.28.6.iv

In good health,


The WellSteps Team


Company Wellness Programs: How to Overcome 5 Leadership Objections to Wellness

Posted by Laura
Laura
WellSteps Guide with B.S. in both Health Promotion and Psyhology; personal trainer; yoga instructor. Laura hel...
User is currently offline
on Friday, 18 July 2014
in Designing Programs


leader

Wellness programs with better leadership support are more effective. Good leaders understand the importance of employing healthy workers but well-meaning middle managers and others can make it difficult for leaders to support wellness as a business strategy. Here are responses to five common objections.


Objection 1: Wellness is not our job. Employers cannot ignore maintenance on any asset especially employees!



Objection 2: We don’t have the training, space or time. Many vendors are well-trained. Employee behavior can be improved without dedicated space and in very little time.



Objection 3: We value employee privacy. Many are confused about privacy laws, so doing nothing is the easiest choice. Wellness laws are easy to understand with the right tools such as the WellSteps Wellness Compliance Checker.



Objection 4: Wellness doesn’t work. There is a dose relationship with wellness. Failures can occur if a program doesn’t reach all employees or if it is not intense enough to make an impact.



Objection 5: We have high turnover, so wellness programs are not for us. Programs that focus on pre-natal care, stress reduction and tobacco cessation have proven effective, even when workers turn over at a higher rate.



Helping employees adopt and maintain healthy behaviors can be accomplished by reaching the entire population with a well-designed program. There is strong evidence that wellness programs positively impact employee behaviors, risks, and chronic diseases, and that they have a positive return on investment.

In good health,
The WellSteps Team


Successful Wellness Programs Controlling Healthcare Cost: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Posted by Laura
Laura
WellSteps Guide with B.S. in both Health Promotion and Psyhology; personal trainer; yoga instructor. Laura hel...
User is currently offline
on Friday, 20 June 2014
in Evidence


See Healthcare Cost Infographic

We can’t ignore the fact that health care costs are rising and employers are looking for ways to save money. There are many ways to address this issue but which is best for your company? In this blog we discuss ways to save on healthcare costs. We are not advocating any approach, just listing the options, some of which have obvious drawbacks.




Option 1: Stop offering a health benefit to some employees. Employers are increasingly cutting health benefits for part-time employees. There are drawbacks to this approach such as a drop in employee morale. And remember, healthcare costs will still rise for the employees who are insured.

Option 2: Cost shift by requiring employees to pay more of their own costs or charge more for dependent coverage. While this may save money in the short-term, this option will also damage employee morale. A better way to cost shift would be to charge lower premiums to the employees who participate in the wellness program.

Option 3: Self-insure. This is a popular option with large organizations that have more money to create and maintain a fund intended to cover future medical costs instead of purchasing an insurance policy. In fact, 94% of companies with 5,000+ employees use this option to some degree. The evidence indicates savings of 4-7% per year.

Option 4: Consumer-directed (High deductable) health plans. These plans are becoming more popular because they encourage employees to be careful their healthcare spending. Related to this, onsite clinics and disease management have been popular options but the evidence shows that neither reduces healthcare costs.

Option 5: A well-designed worksite wellness program. Such programs have been documented to reduce healthcare cost trend, improve employee health, prevent expensive chronic diseases, reduce absenteeism, and improve employee morale.

WellSteps CEO Dr. Steven Aldana spoke about all of this in more depth in our latest webinar. You can watch the playback of the webinar HERE.

In health,

The WellSteps Team

Company Wellness Programs: The 5 Keys of Effective Health Coaching

Posted by Laura
Laura
WellSteps Guide with B.S. in both Health Promotion and Psyhology; personal trainer; yoga instructor. Laura hel...
User is currently offline
on Friday, 30 May 2014
in Health coaching

Recently there have been many studies on the effect of health coaching in the workplace. Surprisingly, 18 of 32 of these studies showed that health coaching is ineffective. The remaining 14 of 32 studies showed that health coaching leads to several improvements in behaviors and clinical outcomes. Taken together, the results of these 14 studies suggest five keys to effective health coaching.

The Five Keys of Effective Health Coaching

1.Coach the ready

Of all employees who are at medium or high risk for chronic disease (20-75% depending on the risk), only 1 in 5 are ready to change at any given time. Of those, only half opt to share data with a health coaching. Net result? About 2-7% are highly ready for health coaching. The first key to only coach this small group. It will be far more effective and cost-effective!

2.Make the healthy choice, the easiest choice

If you leave candy in a break room, would you be surprised if it all got eaten? What if you left a bowl of apples? Most likely, they would be eaten too. Making the healthy choice the easiest just means that you can help 100% of an employee population make healthier choices by changing the work environment or enacting policies that support good health practices.This key reinforces health coaching.



3.
Aim upstream


Chronic disease doesn’t happen overnight; it requires years of unhealthy behavior. Preventative activities like increasing physical activity, improving nutrition, sleep quality, and stress can keep chronic disease from ever starting. Focusing on these preventable behaviors is far more upstream than disease management.

4.Support, support, support

Those who participate in group-based programs or those who get support from a professional coaches or even a peer have better outcomes and long-term maintenance of healthy habits than those who go it alone. The evidence indicates that support may even trump health coach training in terms of effect. Training is still important but the adage is true, “they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

5. Dose matters

The number and frequency of coaching sessions makes a huge difference in outcomes. Six coaching sessions over six months seems to yield good results. Coaching over a longer duration does provide better results but may not ultimately be cost-effective.

For more information watch Dr. Adams’ recorded webinar HERE.

In good health,


The WellSteps Team


Outcomes- Based Wellness Programs: Everything You Need to Know, Part 2

Posted by Laura
Laura
WellSteps Guide with B.S. in both Health Promotion and Psyhology; personal trainer; yoga instructor. Laura hel...
User is currently offline
on Friday, 09 May 2014
in Outcomes-based programs

In Part 1, we discussed how to bend the employee medical cost trend, the effectiveness of outcomes-based wellness programs, and the importance of impact and reach within a wellness program.

Outcomes- Based Strategy is Only Part of a Wellness Program

Too many outcomes-based strategies simply raise standards that must be met by employees to qualify for preferred rates without providing behavioral tools and skills to help employees adopt and maintain healthy behaviors. This is a little like requiring an employee to produce a business report without providing a desk or computer.

Also, experts suggest that lower-income employees likely have access to fewer resources and environmental support to achieve outcomes-based standards. As a result, they may wind up paying higher premiums. This underscores the importance of creating a supportive workforce culture so that all employees have the support they need to meet outcomes-based standards.

Point #3: Create a healthy culture by providing tools and skills to help employees change.

Using Outcomes-based Incentives To Drive Behavior Change

According to scientists, people place more weight on present versus future rewards or penalties. So more motivation will be generated if employees get something good or avoid something bad NOW versus LATER.

By contrast, according to managers of HR, payroll and benefits, the best way to provide incentives to employees is the way that does not complicate their job! What is the best way to apply this information? There are essentially two ways to provide incentives and both have one primary advantage and disadvantage.

Strategy number one is to reduce the employee portion of the premium every month, which is a good thing NOW but it creates management complexity for HR, payroll, and/or benefits. Strategy number two is to reduce employee portions of co-pays and deductibles along the way (good thing LATER). This strategy comes with the advantage of administrative simplicity that HR, payroll and benefits managers will love. So what should you do? Choose strategy number two but add immediate, positive incentives along the way to keep employees moving in the right direction!

Point #4: Choose administrative simplicity but remember to reward employees for being healthy

Summary

If the goal is to bend the medical cost trend, employee behaviors must change. The outcomes-based strategy is promising because it drives reach, but those using an outcomes-­based strategy should also provide tools and skills to help create a culture of health and support employees as they adopt new behaviors.

Employers who use incentives should remember that the combination of immediate, positive rewards and simple administration will probably work best.

1. Redesigning Employee Health Incentives - Lessons from Behavioral Economics. Volpp, Asch, Galvin, Loewenstein. N Engl J Med 2011; 365:388—39.

In good health,

The WellSteps Team

Outcomes- Based Wellness Programs: Everything You Need to Know, Part 1

Posted by Laura
Laura
WellSteps Guide with B.S. in both Health Promotion and Psyhology; personal trainer; yoga instructor. Laura hel...
User is currently offline
on Friday, 02 May 2014
in Outcomes-based programs

Introduction

Effective 2014, employers may use up to 30%* of the total amount of employees' health insurance premiums for outcome-based wellness incentives. The obvious goal of the outcome-based wellness incentive approach is to control medical costs. But does it work? To answer that question, one must first ask, “What is driving rising medical costs?”

According to the CDC, up to 75% of medical costs are due to chronic disease. So what causes chronic disease? In several studies, lifestyle behaviors were responsible for up to 90% of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancers, stroke and diabetes.

Point#1:To bend the cost trend, employee health behaviors must change.

Thus, rising medical costs are primarily caused by chronic disease, which is mainly caused by lifestyle behaviors. Back to the original question, “Can an outcome-based wellness incentive effectively reduce medical costs?”

Is an Outcomes- Based Approach Effective?

The primary notion of an outcomes- based incentive strategy is to offer rewards for healthy behaviors and penalties for unhealthy behaviors. But from a scientific perspective, is this approach effective?

The Safeway case study is commonly cited to support the outcomes- based approach because Safeway had a flat medical cost trend from 2005 to 2009 purportedly by tying employee health insurance premiums to outcome-based wellness incentives. However, Safeway's program began in 2008, making it an unlikely cause of the flat cost-trend between 2005 and 2009.

The truth is, the evidence is fairly limited at this point but we are optimistic in the promise of this strategy. Here is why. For a wellness program to be effective, it must have reach(i.e. participation or engagement) AND impact.

(i.e. theprogram is robust enough to change employee health behavior). An outcome-based approach creates a very strong incentive for employees to engage. In other words, this approach drives reach. When an outcomes-based strategy is paired with a well-designed wellness program that creates impact - you have a winning combination!

Point#2: The outcomes-based approach is promising because it drives REACH

In Part 2, we will discuss the danger of relying solely on an outcomes-based strategy; and using incentives to drive behavior change.

* A discount or rebate of a premium or contribution; a waiver of all or part of a deductible, co-pay, or coinsurance; the absence of a surcharge; or the value of a benefit that would otherwise not be provided.

In good health,

The WellSteps Team