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Ways employers can improve wellness outcomes in 2019 and beyond

Corporate wellness trends include data-driven, whole-person programming. We explain how employers can stay ahead.

Corporate wellness programs are undergoing another major change, maturing from one-size-fits-all strategies to custom outreach plans driven by data. What’s inspiring employers to adopt new approaches to wellness and how can they stay ahead? We answer these questions with the help of lead health coach, Laney Hooper.


A shift towards data-driven, whole-person wellness

Beyond basic participation rates, companies should be thinking about new ways to expand wellness program impact. Employers are becoming more comfortable with the idea of using their own workforce data to create custom programming, which can increase engagement. For example, using ER utilization data to inspire a proactive outreach campaign, or high glucose readings as the basis for a diabetes management push.

On an individual level, employers are using data from across the health spectrum (like claims, biometric lab data and lifestyle factors) to tailor outreach to each employee. Instead of only focusing on the highest-risk employees already diagnosed with conditions, health coaches and clinicians can impact health and behavior at every stage.

This level of personalization gives health coaches real-time insight into health issues among those otherwise considered “healthy” or low-risk. Notably, our health coaches have uncovered a significant number of employees struggling with severe stress or a lack of sleep. While these indicators may not appear on biometric lab results, they can significantly affect chronic conditions and productivity at work. Outreach to all employees regardless of risk level allows health coaches to identify and adjust these lifestyle habits before they escalate.

A byproduct of this approach is better engagement among high-risk employees. When these employees don’t feel singled out and can instead focus on their health goals in a trusted environment, employees engage with health coaches more frequently.

Another emerging trend is using wellness as a continuation of care. When employees are recovering from major surgery or treatment, health coaches can help them adopt lifestyle changes that keep them well and reduce time away from work. Over time, this element of health coaching can reduce readmissions or complications following medical treatment.


Spousal inclusion drives savings, incentives and gaming fuel participation

Two elements are consistent in successful programs: spousal participation and offering incentives for participation. However, there’s new insight into why these drive success.

When spouses of employees are dependents on the health plan, the goal of health coaching is clear. Our book of business also suggests that including spouses in health coaching outreach is important regardless of eligibility on the plan. That’s because when an employee is newly diagnosed with a condition, needs help making major lifestyle changes or is recovering from long-term treatment, involving their family is critical. Health coaches can work with family members to develop a supportive environment so the employee can get, and stay, well.

Incentives continue to motivate engagement. Our team notes an increase in companies offering discounts on premiums, with this incentive being the most popular. Other best practices include rewarding participation with an incentive structure that will be meaningful to your population, whether that’s entering employees in a raffle for an object or giving paid time off.

Another trend worth noting is the ongoing popularity of wellness program challenges and gaming. Online tools that track progress, company-wide challenges and apps where employees can compete against themselves and others continue to gain traction. Integrating wearable devices with your programs is also a great way to meet employees where they are, but one that only 39% of employers currently take advantage of.


Smarter ways to evaluate program impact

The beginning of a new plan year is a good time to evaluate current program performance. An at-a-glance overview of what to look for when evaluating wellness program success:

  • The number of health coaching calls per member: Find out how often employees engage. Our team likes to see a higher than the average number of sessions for highest-risk subgroups.
  • Lab values and biometric improvements: While data points like BMI may stay static, readings for glucose and high blood pressure should improve over time.
  • Preventive screening compliance: Participation in age-based screenings can help catch disease in earlier stages. Also, seeing an increase in the number of participants with borderline results instead of advanced stage disease could indicate preventive care success.
  • Even participation among risk subsets: While targeting only high-risk employees is not advisable, a program that only engages healthy employees may not deliver the intended results. Look out for uneven participation among your risk subsets beyond your normal fluctuation.
  • Medication costs: Comparing year-over-year pharmacy costs should give a good indicator of how many members no longer require medication. It can also show that those who should be taking medication to control conditions are complying with recommendations.


See how Healthgram can help improve your wellness program. Contact us here.