Monday, April 2, 2018

7 Tips for Kick-Starting a Wellness Program for Your Small/Medium Clients

Not surprisingly much of the wellness industry has been developed with larger employers in mind.

However, this often creates challenges for small to medium employers who have limited resources and often find that wellness platforms are over-engineered and over-priced. The typical offerings like biometrics and targeted coaching can quickly consume annual budgets without providing any population impact on healthy behaviors. So what can you, as the Broker, do to help guide these forgotten sectors?

Here are 7 things to recommend when developing a wellness plan for your small to medium clients:

1. Remember the “hidden risk”. 

Diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cancer, high cholesterol, heart disease. – all drive healthcare costs. Not only those who are currently diagnosed, but the hidden suspects. While there are numerous wellness initiatives available, pick one or two with the broadest impact, like physical activity improvement, to focus on in the first year of a new program. This allows the program to be all-inclusive, targeting those currently diagnosed, and the hidden risk.

2. Maximize incentives. 

Make sure that rewards target ongoing actions or behaviors – don’t use them all up on point-in-time HRAs or screenings. If funds won’t stretch to individual rewards, then pool resources and offer “drawings” for anyone who achieves a meaningful level of healthy actions. Winner take all prizes can actually discourage the majority of employees from participating.

3. Use community resources. 

Local organizations (health systems, non-profits) may offer low or no cost programs to employers. Carriers may also offer “wellness dollars” and/or services that are free. In addition, the employer themselves may be doing some things internally. These affordable elements can be integrated into an overall annual plan.

4. Automate when possible. 

Technology such as activity trackers, turn-key points-based incentives and mobile apps allow employees to easily access and participate in programs year-round. They also reduce administrative burden.

5. Collect Independent data. 

Clients should be encouraged to ”own” their wellness data. By being independent of carriers a history can be established without worrying about switching between plans. This independent data can help with both program enhancements and potentially be used to negotiate favorable plan rates.

6. Start a feedback loop. 

Survey participants and non-participants at the end of the program. Find out what they liked and how they would like to see the program improved. Having a multi-year focus will help employers continue to learn and improve.

7. Celebrate success. 

Make sure that leadership highlight individual and group success within the program. These stories will help the program stay relevant and motivate employees to continue to engage with the program.

While many wellness programs and vendors may be out of the reach of small to medium employers there are still ways for them to engage their employees in healthy behaviors. Using the principles highlighted above will allow you showcase your expertise and gain trust within the small to mid-size industry.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The ONE Initiative You Need for a Behavior Changing Wellness Program

There is often debate on whether or not wellness works. But the truth of the matter is, with no set definition of what wellness is – how can there be a blanket statement about its effectiveness?

We have seen the positive results of a wellness program. What has really worked for engaging employees in healthier choices and providing improved health outcomes?

It boils down to a comprehensive physical activity program.

How did we come to this conclusion? For us it is all about evidence.

First and foremost, scientific evidence. The literature from leading organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization, (1, 2) proves that physical activity is extremely effective for treating disease. One of the many supporting studies in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, who found data to support prescribing exercise for 26 different chronic conditions including metabolic diseases, neurological diseases, cardiovascular diseases and even psychiatric diseases and cancer. (3) With exercise as powerful as medicine in treating diseases, no wellness program can be effective in improving health outcomes without it.

Second, corporations put a lot of effort into their pharmacy benefits and compliance programs for disease treatment and prevention, but prescriptions only have an effect for the disease that they are indicated for. Exercise can be just as powerful and certainly a more cost-effective way to treat disease than medicines, while also providing a broader improvement in health beyond the diagnosis. In fact, Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, from the University in Ontario goes as far as saying: “If there were a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can, it would likely be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever developed.” (4)

Third, many wellness programs focus on identifying employees with disease and then managing those disease states, but what about preventing the disease in the first place? Improving the health of a population means more than just treating those with diseases. It also means keeping the healthy people in healthy ranges.

The evidence for the power of prevention with physical activity is no less than it is for exercise as medicine. A large meta-analysis published online in BMJ found that “a structured exercise program may be as good or better than frequently prescribed drugs for common cardiovascular ailments.” With a good physical activity program there is no need to segment your employees into risk categories with expensive biometric testing to know what to initiative to offer – get the population moving and it will help everyone despite risk category.

Beyond disease prevention and treatment, strong data exists for the impact that exercise has on energy levels (5), stress (6), fatigue (7), and can improve mood in as fast as 5 minutes. (8) Furthermore, a study in the British Journal of Health Psychology showed more active people have improved will-power and:

· Saved more money
· Procrastinated less
· Reduced smoking, alcohol, and caffeine intake
· Felt more in control of their emotions
· Ate less junk food
· Watched less tv
· Began eating a healthier diet
· Spent more time studying
· Splurged on impulse purchases less

All this data boils down to one thing: getting physically active can and will positively impact the health of your employees. So for wellness programs to really change behavior, it needs to include methods to improving physical activity.

Has the data have you convinced? Ready to know HOW to implement a successful activity-focused program? 

You can learn more about how to use wearables to achieve population health by watching our on-demand webinar co-hosted with industry leader, Garmin.



Friday, March 9, 2018

Benefit Insights: 4 Reasons You Need to Focus On Healthier Populations in 2018

Benefit Insights blogs are written to help the modern Employee Benefits Adviser navigate the world of benefits and wellness. #healthinsurance #employeebenefitsadviser

As the benefits landscape continues to evolve with narrower networks, higher deductibles and increasing pharma-costs there is one constant that will put companies in a stronger position to slow their potential pace of change – healthier populations. Whether it is avoiding medical visits altogether, negotiating with carriers or reducing the need for drugs, a healthier employee base will put your clients in a more proactive position when it comes to managing future benefit programs. Here are four reasons why working towards a healthier population truly matters in 2018.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

6 Ways to Get Employees to Care About Health in 2018

Getting employees engaged in healthier habits through a wellness program is a great goal for any organization.

The problem is, a wellness program is only as good as the amount of employees using it. And it can often feel like they only capture the attention of the already health focused - leaving the less healthy counterparts disengaged.

So, what can we do differently?

It starts with a few key tactics. You can use the list below to start inspiring your employees to truly care about their health today.

1. Leadership support: walk the talk

This is one of the most important ways to get employees to care more. If you, or others in leadership roles, aren’t interested in putting health first, how do you expect employees to?

Luckily, showing your support is as easy as participating in the wellness initiatives offered and encouraging employees to come along for the ride. If leadership cares, you can bet employees will follow suit.

2. Use incentives: put some skin the game

By providing an incentive, it shows you truly care about employees’ health. It also highlights that you are willing to reward those who take the time to focus on healthier behaviors. HSA dollars or premium discounts are a best practice to engage a population, but other options can work just as well. The key is knowing what motivates your group.

3. Follow the K.I.S.S. method

Keep It Simple Stupid. This principle can apply to most things in life - it’s better to be straight-forward then flashy and confusing.

Keep your program in check by only focusing on key initiatives proven to deliver results.

Another way to follow the K.I.S.S. method is by giving your employees a clear roadmap to success. In other words, don’t make them jump through a bunch of hoops with confusing online portals or loads of manual tracking.

An added bonus to keeping the program simple? You’ll spend less time on excel sheet managing and more time engaging members by reaching out and communicating the program benefits.

4. Have some fun

How many employees get excited to take their biometric screenings? We'd guess not many. Adding fun initiatives help show employees that improving their health doesn’t have to be a required task, burden, or struggle.

Our clients focus on fun initiatives like physical activity challenges to create more social support and help tap into employees' competitive spirit. Other ideas include: joining a sports league, hosting a cooking class, paying for employees to register for a 5k.

5. Use the power of physical activity

Remember when we talked about K.I.S.S and focusing on key initiatives? This should include improving physical activity levels. Why? Because inactivity is one of the top drivers of health problems in America. Helping improve levels in your organization can boost employees' energy levels, keeping them more engaged and in turn increasing productivity. Another benefit of a more active workforce? Less sick days and lower healthcare utilization.

Physical activity also touches on almost every other tactic in this blog. It’s a simple, all-inclusive activity, that most anyone can do. It’s also fun and provides a visual way for leadership to get involved and show support.

6. Open the lines of communication

Regardless of what’s included in your program, a sure fire way to get employees to care about it starts with helping them understand it. Communicate clearly, concisely and often!

Don’t send out one lengthy email at the beginning of the year and one at the end and expect employees to care. SHOW them why they should care with effective communication that not only lays out the details of the program and the roadmap to success, but helps them understand the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

Think of it this way: has anyone ever said no, I don’t want more energy, more drive, or to live longer? Sometimes all employees need is that small reminder of WHY leading a healthier lifestyle is so worth it.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Power of Wearable Fitness Trackers

At Motion Connected, we frequently find ourselves in awe of the overwhelmingly positive impact wearables can have in workplace wellness.

For us, it really starts with the power that physical activity has, not only on living longer, but living better

This means nights where you sleep better (up to 65% better according to the National Sleep Foundation), to days where you have more energy, a better mood, and even more willpower - simply because of exercise.

It also means lower risks for the top health threats like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and more. (You can check out for a review of the scientific evidence, it’s staggering).

Not only that, but increased physical activity levels can mean less sick days and lower healthcare costs for your organization.

That’s a lot, right? Just think about what those types of improvements could do for your employee population.

That’s where wearables come in. These wrist-worn reminders are the tangible tool needed to encourage, inspire and prompt employees to take control of their health. Allowing your business to gain the countless benefits of a healthier employee base.

However, it’s not enough to simply hand out devices and hope for the best. You need the right strategy and the right devices.

Join us, in partnership with Garmin, to learn more about successfully implementing wearables with our on-demand webinar: Energizing Your Wellness Plan with Wearables. 

During this 30-minute, thought-provoking webinar recording we dig deeper into why wearables are a must in wellness, the best-practice strategies for implementation, and the features to look for in a corporate wellness device.


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The 3 Keys to Population Engagement in Your Wellness Program

The trend of chronic conditions creating ever increasing levels of hidden risk in our population appears to be here to stay.

Currently, two out of three US adults are overweight or obese, and a recent study by the CDC shows that roughly one third of the US adult population is prediabetic, and 90% of them don’t even know it yet!

Unhealthy behaviors like poor eating habits and physical inactivity are a root cause of much of the problem. So wellness programs that create healthy action NEED to be a key piece of the solution.

However, in order to impact the scale of the problem these programs must also actively engage a majority of their target population. Not 10% or 20% - we need 50%, 60% or more engaged in healthy behaviors.

So, what do programs that achieve this successful population engagement have in common? We took a close look at our current client base and surveyed over 1,000 members to find the three key factors:

1. Simple design

These days wellness programs or initiatives come in all shapes and sizes. Many organizations try to include “everything” in their programs from day one, believing that choice is critical to population engagement.

We actually found the exact opposite. If your focus is population engagement, then the program design must be simple. The majority of any population are not pre-wired to engage, so choice actually dilutes and confuses – creating the proverbial deer in headlights.

Instead, by focusing a program on a small set of healthy behaviors you will promote culture and camaraderie. Once you have successfully engaged a population in an initial set of actions, then you can introduce others over time.

2. Ease of use

We all lead busy lives, so hand in hand with simple design comes ease of use. If it isn’t easy to participate in a wellness program, then the majority of a population won’t do it. The good news is that technology, when packaged the right way, can help address this.

For instance, wearable activity trackers enable self-management and automated data collection. No longer do participants have to manually log their data, or attend gyms/classes to receive credit. Being physically active becomes (literally) anytime, anyplace, anywhere. Each participant can choose what they do, where, when and with who – and it’s this type of choice that drives engagement.

You have to be physically active as part of the program, but you have the freedom to pick how you accomplish that. The real time upload of data also enhances the personal and social experiences by giving immediate feedback on progress and updates to challenges. Other examples of technology driving ease of use are simple online dashboards that include access to all resources and mobile applications that enable full program functional “on the go”.

Following these principles is what has allowed one of our clients, Cleveland Clinic Employee Health Plan, to achieve not only high levels of participants, but outcomes as well – as of 2017, 50% of their 60,000 employees/spouses achieve program goals for either being physically active and/or completing a coordinated care program.

3. Motivation

The reality is that most people need some external motivation to help them on their journey to healthier behaviors. If they didn’t then we wouldn’t need wellness programs.

Effective motivation comes in two flavors – leadership and incentives. We have found that programs can be successful with either, but both is best.

Visible leaders that “walk the walk” and management that promotes a caring attitude toward the wellbeing of their population will inspire employee engagement.

Offering an incentive will also provide the initial focus or nudge that folks need to engage in a program. A key to maximizing incentives is to avoid the mistake of making them “transactional” – points based structures that can be modified over time are the way to go (read more about this concept HERE)

At the end of the day, getting people to engage in healthier behaviors is not easy. However, our partners and ongoing research have helped identify three key ingredients to the population engagement recipe.

If you liked this article, then sign up for our newsletter to receive more! You’ll get the latest blog posts delivered to your inbox each month. One of our future topics include the top, high-impact behaviors to focus on to get the biggest bang for your buck.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Future of Wearables: A CES Recap

From beds that rock like a cradle, to using augmented reality to beat stress, the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas always delights. It brings the best, newest, and sometimes strangest innovations- all aimed at improving our quality of life.

But our particular interest is always wearables, and they continue to impress.

The last couple years have shown a shrinking number of serious players in the market. For instance,Under Armour, who had a big presence at last year's show is no longer in the wearables space. Where did Jawbone go? Nike Fuelband? Withings, who also had a big presence at last year's CES is now Nokia.

It seems that a select few companies are rising above the rest by offering true longevity and innovation. This makes it difficult for start-ups to come in and compete with products like the Apple Watch, Garmin's Vivo and Fenix series, and the Fitbit Ionic. The bar has been set high for fitness tracking.

While these top 3 industry giants continue to dominate the smart watch space, a new evolution of wearable device features could be found deep in the less glitzy 10x10 booths on the lower level of the Sands Expo and Convention Hall.

This is where wrist devices that can take your blood pressure, or check your glucose and oxygen levels were on exhibition. Also, among these health enhancing devices were safety companies like Biowatch, which features the ability to authenticate login passwords for your computer and websites.

It’s easy to see wearables have become a must-have for tracking your physical activity, but soon they might be that thing that helps keep you alive, while also providing more day-to-day convenience and safety.

We welcome these new innovations that bring the wellness and clinical spaces closer together. This will allow organizations to deliver healthier outcomes for their populations - keeping employees safe, motivated and healthy.