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  • Health CAN Increase Wealth!

    In order to maintain comprehensive employee health benefits while controlling rising health care costs, employers are now increasing their reliance  on an array of wellness programs aimed at creating a healthier workforce.

    As wellness incentives are now part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, this is a trend that should continue to gain attention.  According to a survey from the National Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investments, many employers have implemented these programs without first developing an integrated strategy that clearly outlines targets and goals.

    The survey revealed three key findings:

    1. Employers are investing in numerous health improvement programs.

    2. Few employers set measurable goals or are able to calculate the return on their investment in these programs.

    3. Employers underestimate the investments they make in health improvement programs.

    The survey shows that employers have invested in an average of 21 different health improvement programs, administered by several different vendors.  Programs include disease prevention, lifestyle change, condition management and educational campaigns.

    Employers are spending roughly the same on programs that help maintain and improve health, such as prevention and lifestyle efforts, as on programs that help manage health after onset of an illness or disease.

    The challenge for employers is determining what the right mix of spending is. For example, a strategy focusing on condition management is logical if an employer has a large population that has particular chronic diseases or illnesses.  However, if the employer’s workforce is relatively healthy, then focusing more heavily on lifestyle modifications might be a wiser investment, considering the impact that likely lifestyle changes could have on the health of the workforce as it ages.

    Measure The Program Goals

    In the study 35% of employers indicated they have measurable goals and/or targets. As a result, few employers know the return on their investment across all their health programs, and many (42%) rely on a collection of vendor assessments to measure success.  As a result, it is difficult for employers to assess the success of their program.  Employers should consider determining the outcomes that they want before they decide on the programs. Knowing your intended focus should help to determine which types of programs you should implement.

    Employers should include common sense metrics, such as number of health screenings, adherence to medications for chronic conditions or percentage of the population that is tobacco-free.  If you have a population with a high prevalence of a particular disease such as asthma, focusing on decreased emergency room visits among a constant population in the program is a logical program choice.

    Track Your Investment

    Accurately tracking the investment in health improvement is perhaps an employers greatest challenge, since many programs are often bundled with other services. The study quantifies the employer investment in health improvement, based on employer responses about which programs they offered and market data on the cost of these programs.

    It is estimated that employers spend an average of 1.8% of medical claims on health improvement programs. These investments were consistent across companies of different sizes.

    The 1.8% estimate represents the average level of investment that employers are currently making. However, the level and focus of investment that is right for one employer may not be appropriate for another employer, and individual company characteristics should be considered when deciding how to invest.

    Investing in employee health has the potential to reap substantial benefits for employers, but there are numerous challenges – including coordination of multiple programs, communication to engage people in the program, and development of measurable outcomes and accurate financial calculations – that must be addressed before the best outcomes can be realized.

    Employers who are able to identify desired outcomes, and implement strategies and programs to achieve these outcomes, will ultimately be the ones that see improvement in their workforce’s health profiles.

    For additional information about implementation of Wellness Programs, please contact Gary Whiddon at (888) 474-6627 or at gary@hpo.biz.   Mr. Whiddon has received his well workplace certification from WELCOA (Wellness Council of America), and can assist you with any questions you may have.

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