Employee Benefit News informed businesses that healthcare and wellness costs are continuing to move upward. To combat this ongoing trend, businesses will need to aim at prevention, which is less expensive than treatment.
One practical workplace strategy to implement in efforts to lower healthcare related expenses is to initiate wellness-based incentive programs. These programs are created to enhance a company’s workforce health. This in turn will help lower worker health insurance premiums.
Wellness programs, especially during these trying economic times, are viewed as increasingly valuable, in that they help lower healthcare related costs. A recent study conducted in 2010 by Fidelity Investments/National Business Group on Health found that business leaders are budgeting increased funding toward wellness incentives. On average, in 2010, businesses spent $430 toward wellness strategies per worker; this reflects an almost 66 percent increase from 2009.
While employers see the necessity and benefits of corporate wellness programs, they also find initiating, promoting, and handling multiple programs challenging. The breath of these programs can be problematic and include: motivating employee participation, health-risk assessment management, participation in one-time events or sponsored events, to altering unhealthy lifestyles.
Unfortunately, implementing wellness initiative is far from enough. Research conducted by Forrester Research notes that up to nine out of 10 workers are oblivious to a number of programs offered by their companies. And, workers who are fully aware of all wellness program incentives offered become overwhelmed with them. This can easily happen if there are too many programs available, too many communications, and too many incentives offered by the company. Workers find it difficult to ascertain what needs to be done, how to participate in each intiative, when to participate, and what the ‘real’ benefits are and if it’s worth their efforts.
These challenges make it problematic for businesses to measure the effectiveness of programs and their incentives. This in turn makes it difficult for businesses to make accurate decisions on allocating incentive funds, shelving one program or adding another, and offering workers clear-cut communications.
Vice president of client and member services for Virgin HealthMiles Ed Dougherty noted that initiating an integrated approach to health and wellness programs can often help alleviate these challenges. "In this day of information overload, bringing programs together and making things simple for employees can lead to much greater understanding, higher engagement and better results when it comes to the multiple health programs organizations offer."
Dougherty went on to explain that utilizing an integrated approach allowes employers to offer “one central place to communicate with and motivate employees.” This strategy also enables cohesive promotion and management of offered programs.