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Make Sure you can Measure it

January 12, 2011 / Uncategorized

Sadly, I’ve had quite a lot of experience talking to employers about failed wellness programs.  Among the common reasons for failure – including low participation (a dismal 15% average); trust issues (employees don’t want to provide insurers personal data for fear it will be used against them); reliance on self-entered data (which can mean tedium and inaccuracy); and no compelling call-to-action, like, say “Take care of yourself and you could earn a lot of cash and big discounts on your health insurance!” – we hear over and over that most programs don’t allow an employer to point to quantifiable improvements in employees’ health. Without this measurement ability, there’s no way to justify the investment in the program, which means wellness will continue to hover at the bottom of priority lists.

So how do you ensure, when you’re evaluating programs, that you can measure its impact and tie it to your company’s bottom line? Consider the following:

  • Be sure the program is rooted in technology that facilitates the frequent capture and tracking of validated – not self-entered – employee participation data.   Only this way will you know that the shifts in the activity levels and health outcomes of your employees are actual, and moving in the right direction.  Technology will also help ease the burden on your over-taxed HR staff (if yours is like most), thereby reducing the need for additional resources.
  • Look for programs that allow you to align incentives with actual performance. Many programs promise an incentive for doing something, such as $100 for completing an HRA.  But then what? You’ve just given out a lot of money with no way to know if you’ve changed employee health behavior (not to mention, you most likely haven’t by only asking them to fill out a questionnaire.)  Aligning incentives with actual, ongoing healthy behavior (and to know this, see my first point above) applies a causal model to health care.  Good behavior = reward, unhealthy behavior = no reward.  It’s like the ‘good driver discount’ that is commonplace in the auto-insurance industry. Doesn’t it make sense in health care as well? And it provides you with the assurance that the money you’re spending to reward employees goes to those who are making a positive impact on the overall health of your workforce.  You’re giving money to those who are ultimately going to save you money.

With these key factors in place, you can implement a program which helps create a culture of prevention in your workplace that is critical to reducing health care costs. The illnesses which are responsible for the majority of our country’s outrageous health care costs are ones that we can prevent, and, as an employer, you have a huge opportunity to help your employees do just that. Programs which enable true measurement will not only help you point to quantifiable health improvements in your whole workforce, but they allow each and every employee to accurately measure their own progress, which has proven to be an enormous motivator in getting healthier.  And they’ll feel great knowing that the incentives they earn are for behaviors that will improve their health.  Sure, they probably appreciated that 100 bucks just for filling out a questionnaire, but after a few months of working toward a healthy goal, that hundred bucks is a whole lot sweeter.

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