Healthcare and technology are rapidly becoming more connected — and not a moment too soon for corporate wellness programs. We need technology to help employees stay healthy and help employers manage and reduce insurance costs.
The financial stakes are high. For example, lost productivity associated with workers suffering from chronic disease far exceeds the cost of treating chronic disease, by as much as 400 percent, according to the World Economic Forum — a sobering reality since a projected 160 million Americans will be monitored and treated remotely for at least one chronic condition by 2020. Moreover, according to the American Journal of Health Promotion, employers save an average of $5.81 for every dollar invested in wellness programs, thanks to improved employee health. (And as a company CEO myself, I can attest to the high cost of benefits.)
Corporate wellness practitioners today can leverage technology-based solutions like never before to empower employees to collaboratively participate in their own care and achieve better outcomes. For example, Get Real Health’s InstantPHR™— an electronic toolbox with nearly 200 widgets for creating and customizing personal health applications — enables the creation of online portals that provide users with a valuable collection of data visualization and care management tools that have been carefully developed to give individuals more control over their health.
The advantages give employees the ability to access their medical plans and records, compare tests results (this year’s cholesterol levels versus last year’s); track the frequency of doctor visits for a chronic condition over time; receive personalized health alerts (like appointment and medication reminders); journal their symptoms; read education materials; participate in surveys; share secure messages with family members and healthcare providers; and more — all from a laptop, tablet, desktop computer or mobile device.
Resources of this kind offer corporate wellness providers the tools they need to be innovative and develop solutions that suit their particular business and workforce needs. This technology also helps workers better understand and participate in the entirety of their healthcare experience.
Companies have experimented for many years with a variety of ways to promote a culture of wellness, replete with incentives like gift cards or iPad drawings for employees who participate in wellness programs. The trend we are seeing is toward a laser-like focus on offering high-value incentives (or penalties) that are directly tied to specific health goals, like reducing their Body Mass Index, or improving their diet and exercise to reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Offering low-cost perks to employees who make positive strides toward improved health might be nice on a micro level, but it doesn’t add up to meaningful change on a macro level. We are starting to see smart companies use technology to achieve thousands of dollars a year per employee in insurance premium reductions. Cost savings to employees who participate in their employer’s wellness program can be huge and thus far more powerful in securing real behavior change for better health.
According to a 2013 survey by the human resource consulting arm of Aon, 83% of companies offer some type of incentive to employees to join their wellness program and among those, more than half require active participation like medication compliance and health coaching. Twenty-four percent (24%) tie incentives to progress against specific biometric measure goals like blood pressure, body mass index, blood sugar and cholesterol; and more than two-thirds say they are considering this approach.
Human nature loves instant satisfaction. Thanks to technology that enables single-source access to secure, customized online personal health applications, today’s corporate wellness professionals can quickly equip employees to attain their health goals, through better health tracking, chronic disease management, and home self-care tools.