Wellness has moved past the tipping point, from a nice-to-have extra, to a strategic lever that helps employers address health risks, lower costs and improve productivity. Met Life claims that 73% of companies with 500 or more employees now offer a wellness program.
And PwC reports that nearly 80% of large employers rated wellness services nearly as high in importance as the basic functions of accurate claims processing and provider discounts.
These data give health plans a wide berth from which to operate to partner with their customers and provide meaningful value-added services to deepen their relationships and help bend the cost curve.
Unfortunately though, according to Towers Watson, employers are generally disappointed in what their health plan partners can deliver- 67% rate their plans' effectiveness as unfavorable relative to improving member health behavior and lifestyle. Only 7% gave their health plan a favorable rating.
With so much market demand, health plans are working hard to crack the code on developing wellness approaches that sell well to customers and effectively engage member populations.
We see a few key principles that can help guide the way:
1. Programs that fit populations
Too many "plug and play" platforms from vendors are rigid and unable to meet the needs of diverse populations. Each employer group is different and there needs to be flexibility and a degree of customization to be effective across demographics.
Some components can be static, but others need to fit the culture and style of the organization and its strategic aims.
2. Resources and budget to deliver results
Employers need to be realistic about what they ask health plans to provide. Some want "turn-key" packages that don't require any of their own involvement. That approach is unfair and destined to fail.
Employers need to partner with their health plan. Each needs to be clear about their roles and responsibilities, and share the workload.
3. Strong execution and effective communications
Here's a case where the devil really is in the details. The overarching aim for programs is to change human behavior, disrupt bad habits, and alter unhealthy perceptions. With 75% of health costs being attributed to lifestyle-related risks, the opportunity is big, but so is the challenge.
Being appropriately aggressive and paying attention to minutiae - as well as the big picture - will help tremendously.
4. Accountability across the board
We're hearing a lot about ROI now. Only about 19% of companies measure it today, but this is bound to increase. There needs to be greater emphasis on ensuring that all players involved in delivering the program are accountable - as well as the employees to whom the initiatives are targeted.
Make sure actions are trackable and reportable, and that will go a long way to ensuring program longevity.
5. Reporting that tells the story
Unfortunately, reporting in this entire area is generally deplorable. It usually comes too late to act upon and is often inaccurate. There are plenty of ways to improve on this, and it will become increasingly important to do so.
Bigger budgets will be needed to accomplish the promise of wellness, and those that hold the purse strings will need to have proof of impact.
Wellness is a here and now opportunity. Employers are looking for solutions. Use these concepts to refine your approach and build a long-term strategy and plan.
We hope these views are beneficial to your efforts in the wellness arena. The bottom line key is to be able to achieve effective participant engagement. There's much to be done to get better at this.