Wellness is fast becoming an important part of the total health benefits package. But how can an employer or benefits advisor tell whether a wellness program will produce good results?

Here are some points to consider:

Timely feedback. Within a few weeks after a new wellness provider has completed initial assessments, it should give you a thorough statistical report on the employee population, so that you can understand your clients health risks and the potential effect of a wellness program on productivity.

Baseline projections. The initial wellness population report should include baseline projections, with estimated costs and medical savings if preventive action is taken.

Portable information. Because employers often change health providers every few years, employers need wellness programs that can work with data from many different health carriers and continue to give an employer access to tracking information even after a change in health carriers. Working with independent vendors may be the easiest way to ensure information portability.

Comprehensive health risk assessments. A good wellness vendor should encourage employees to describe their lifestyles and their personal and family medical histories, but it also should conduct comprehensive diagnostic tests to get the full picture of employees health.

Personnel. A good wellness vendor should employ counselors with masters degrees or doctorates, registered dietitians and experienced nutritionists. Moreover, the vendor should offer employees access to specialists or coaches who can assess employees readiness for change, develop personal health improvement goals, track actual progress, and provide ongoing support and feedback.

Experience at changing behavior. Most employees know what they need to do to get healthy. But they may lack motivation or have underlying problems, such as depression or relationship issues, that contribute to the choice to continue with unhealthy behavior. A good wellness provider should be able to show that it has succeeded at helping employees to improve their lifestyles.

Ann-Marie Hejna is business development manager of ComPsych Corp., Chicago, a provider of employee assistance programs, wellness programs and work-life services. She can be reached at info@compsych.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, April 15, 2005. Copyright 2005 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.