Wellness programs are only effective if the employer can entice employees to participate. The Virginia Daily Press states that about 86 percent of U.S. employers provide wellness programs, but participation is usually lacking.
This obviously has employers concerned, since the benefits of an effective and comprehensive program can save on corporate healthcare costs. The question is: How do business owners generate significant employee participation?
Sentara Healthcare, building on an existing wellness program from its insurance company, designed Mission: Health. This program offers monetary incentives for specific participants who meet desired goals and has proven to be effective.
The plan’s structure consists of employees who are healthy or with low risk factors to be rewarded with a reduction in annual premiums. Program participants with two or more risk factors are eligible for the reward if they work to reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, or other. The strategies involved might be working with a health coach. Finally, those with particular chronic illnesses, such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, or being pregnant, could rack up extra rewards by working with disease managers. Those participants would need to be monitored for medication and medical check-ups. Employees actively participating in the latter group earned an extra $460 for the year.
The company realized that approximately one-fifth of its “employees accounted for 80 percent of the company's health-care costs.” With the program in place, an Optima Health report noted that Sentara saved $6 on healthcare costs for every $1 spent toward the health initiative. Thus far, this has ultimately saved the company $3.4 million as a direct result of the program.
"It was consistent with our organizational mission to improve health every day," explained Mike Taylor, senior vice president of human resources for Sentara. "We as an organization have to lead the way of how do you create a healthier workforce."