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5 important wellness findings

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Wellness plans in general appear to be gaining traction among American workers, with many showing more interest in their company’s program. At the same time, engagement remains uneven, and the programs may be raising heightened expectations among employees — expectations that often aren’t being fulfilled.

A survey of nearly 2,000 U.S. workers puts some of these issues into greater perspective. The HealthMine Consumer Wellness Report shows “that while most consumers enrolled in wellness programs like them and feel they help them manage their health, a majority report that they do not stay engaged in their programs throughout the year. In addition, many are unsure if their wellness programs are helping lower their health care costs.”

Key findings from the survey, when viewed by response categories, include:

   

Consumer engagement: About three-fourths of employers include wellness plan incentives. However, says HealthMine, “wellness plan initiatives do not sustain consumer engagement; less than half of consumers report that they stay engaged in their wellness program throughout the entire year.”

Other recent research suggests that may in part be due to incentives that don’t resonate with large segments of the workforce.

Health knowledge: This survey added more support to the theory that most consumers are still fairly clueless about key health metrics. “Less than one third know at least one of their key health metrics, which can be indicators of risk for chronic illness,” the report said. “For example, only 32 percent of people know their blood pressure. A majority of consumers report difficulty interpreting their health information, or understanding what steps they need to take to maintain or improve their health.”

HealthMine recommends that plan designers take the initiative to include basic health education in their programs.

Health information preferences: They may not know much about their own health, but they definitely want to know more, according to this survey, which found “85 percent want better information about their risk of chronic disease. Plus, the majority wants to know which cancer screenings they need, and the actions they need to maintain or improve their health.”

Perhaps educating employees about their own health by creating discussions around chronic diseases and cancer would increase their overall health knowledge, since these are areas of interest.

 

 

Employer guidelines and incentives: Even though many incentives don’t lead to greater engagement, employees still want them. Eight of 10 in this survey said they expect their plan to offer incentives in return for participation and achievement. “More than half want help from their plan sponsors in setting personal health goals. Even though 30 percent of respondents say they have been diagnosed with a chronic condition in the last year, most are not currently receiving help with disease management or medication adherence through their wellness programs,” the report said.

The key to enriching a plan with incentives that lead to engagement is to “optimize wellness programs with greater personalization and health guidance coupled with meaningful incentives,” said HealthMine CEO Bryce Williams. “The most successful employers will help consumers more easily get and find personal relevance in their health data through personal clinical engagement.”

Health care costs/spendingConsumers either don’t see that a connection exists between a wellness plan and health cost savings, or they understand that their plan is not saving them money. In either case, the report says, “Consumers are struggling not only to make meaning of health data, but also to find savings in all of the new information generated by wellness programs.”

Seven in 10 respondents agree that their wellness plan helps them manage their health, but only 38 percent said it helps them manage health care costs. “What’s more, even though most consumers agree it’s a good idea to shop for the best deal on medical services before taking action on their health, most never do,” HealthMine said.

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