As health care costs continue to rise, employers are looking for new ways to promote and maintain a healthy workforce. Demand for wellness tools among employees is also increasing.

Hundreds of wellness apps are available directly to consumers through iTunes and the Android Market. From apps that track calories and exercise, to programs that support smoking cessation or provide answers to simple health questions, consumers are being empowered to take a more active role in their own health with innovative new tools.

Agents now have the opportunity to provide HR teams and employees with access to new tools to support their wellness goals. Employers that focus on helping their employees manage their health and promote a healthy lifestyle will reduce their overall health care costs.

Many have already incorporated wellness initiatives into their current benefits offerings, available to employees through their benefits management platforms. Some innovative examples include:

  • Genetic Analysis: Navigenics, a leading provider of genetic analysis, helps employees understand their unique genetic information and develop strategies to better reduce their risks and manage their health. After a simple DNA test, Navigenics shares confidential, personalized genetic information with employees to motivate behavior changes. The confidential online portal provides genetic predispositions for important health conditions and medication sensitivities, with a focus on conditions that employees can take action to prevent. Employees are also assigned a board-certified genetic expert who provides one-one-one counseling to help employees and their doctor make the most of these genetic insights 

 

  • Personalized Health Alerts: Customized health-related alerts give employees real-time knowledge to take control of their health and ultimately reduce their own out-of-pocket expenses. One such tool is Just InTime Wellness, available from healthcare solutions provider SCIOinspire. Just InTime Wellness sends personalized, proactive alerts by email, phone or mail to notify users when preventive services are recommended or a “gap-in-care” is identified by analyzing the individual’s healthcare data. Upon logging into their secure benefits management platform, members see alerts displayed prominently on the home page and are encouraged to take action. For instance, an employee who has identified a chronic condition may be sent a reminder to refill a prescription. Additional educational information is available to employees, including related health care videos, articles, calculators and symptom checkers. 

 

  • Personal Health Assessments: Employees can complete a Personal Health Assessment (PHA), an online health survey that delivers a confidential health analysis and encourages them to adopt healthier lifestyles. Biometric screenings, physical exams and online questionnaires can all be incorporated into the PHA. Each employee receives a personalized, confidential report called the “Personal Health Profile” based on their PHA answers, Biometric screening results, or a combination of both. The profile provides a detailed analysis of the individual’s health complete with videos and personalized recommendations for better health and lowered health risks.

 

Employee Engagement

Employers often struggle with developing wellness programs that effectively engage employees, which is a necessity for establishing long-term behavioral changes. Sonic Boom, a high-tech wellness company, offers innovative programs that drive exceptionally high participation.

Focused on improving employee health habits, Sonic Boom offers daily challenges that are fun and active. Their unique program includes state-of-the-art accelerometers, social networking, games, competition and proprietary tools to influence behavior change. 

As is the case with employee-sponsored wellness programs, wellness apps are most effective when employees are engaged and using apps on a regularly basis. Some employers offer reduced health premiums or more robust benefits plans to employees that participate in wellness programs. 

All the wellness applications mentioned above can be easily incorporated into an employer’s existing benefit management platforms, so employees can quickly access them form the same portal they use to enroll in benefits and communicate with their HR team.

By giving employers access to a variety of wellness tools, they can begin to drive behavior change, improving employee wellness and reducing overall healthcare expenses. Agents that are educated on the type of applications available have an opportunity to boost revenue and strengthen relationships with their customers by suggesting the addition of added services with minimal cost to the employer.

Nancy Sansom is senior vice president of marketing and communications for Benefitfocus.