Workforce wellness at turning point in healthy business
Employers around the world are beginning to recognize the link between employee’s health and healthy businesses. The issue of workforce wellness has been discussed and debated in Asia Pacific for some time now. The journey of wellness is an evolutionary process and involves several key components ― collection of data, assessment of data and needs, identification of the right resource/vendor partnerships, development of appropriate communication strategies, employee engagement and participation and post implementation assessment.
Collection of data in the region is an arduous task since data is scarce, inconsistent, originates from disparate sources and can sometimes even be inaccurate. To kick-start the process, collect and assess the data that is readily available then be selective in deciding the new data to invest in. Information that is currently available includes demographic data, claims data (inpatient and outpatient), health screening data, sickness absences, short-term disabilities and long-term disabilities and employee feedback.
Demographic data is useful for understanding the audience profile; it will help structure communication campaigns, intervention programs, incentives and loyalty programs.
Claims data will need to be evaluated from a cost and risk standpoint. To do that, a methodology of avoidable claims analysis is recommended. Avoidable claims analysis is a proprietary tool developed and used by Towers Watson to identify the top modifiable and preventable health conditions. It also provides recommended areas of focus for health improvement interventions that can be implemented to enhance or supplement an organization’s health care strategy and programs.
Avoidable claims analysis identifies the top preventable conditions of employees and dependents, costs associated with preventable conditions and potential direct medical and work-loss savings that could be achieved.
For the collection and analysis of new data, it is recommended to use a health risk assessment (HRA).
(HRA), also known as health risk appraisal is a procedure that uses the incidence and prevalence of disease in large populations including the detection of the source and cause of epidemics of infectious diseases, (also known as epidemiologic studies) coupled with vital statistics data to provide individuals with projections of their personalized mortality risk and recommendations for reducing that risk, for the purpose of promoting desirable changes in health behavior.
The data gathered from the HRA will assist in mapping the entire health care continuum. Understanding your organization’s own health care continuum and its cost and risk stratification will give you a clear direction regarding appropriate programs to make your strategy relevant and effective. Once you have gathered general public data and employee responses a clear picture of employee needs will emerge. The next critical step is in finding the right partner. Vendor selection can be a challenge in Asia since no regional players exist. The success of an organization’s programs will depend on the selection of the right vendor. It is crucial to create a clear understanding of your objectives, needs and criteria in a vendor selection process. Organizations also need to understand that the right partner for them may not be the one their peer company has selected. It is essential to lay down the selection criteria clearly before the start of the request for proposal process.
Improving member engagement is the key to the participation and ongoing success of wellness programs. One doesn’t embark on building a website without a site map. By the same token, organizations shouldn’t launch a multi-year wellness initiative without a formal communication and engagement and change management strategy; one that lays the groundwork, provides a roadmap and identifies how success will be measured.
An important step is to understand the needs and objectives of the various audience segments. Employees are a diverse lot ― they work hard and they play hard ― all over the world. Careful and creative thought should be given to engaging employees in health management programs, including social networking, mobile technology, and behavioral economics. Identifying the right media mix and tailoring it to the specific employee groups will ensure a greater chance of success in employee engagement and participation.
A substantial amount of valuable work will have been done up to the implementation stage but post-implementation assessment is equally important and should not be forgotten. The collection and measurement of health and wellness metrics will provide the basis for continual adjustment and improvement for their health management and wellness programs.
Evaluation need not be a complicated process. Measuring program impact needs to be viewed from a medium and long term perspective.
Early leading indicators can be participation, participant satisfaction behavioral changes and biometric measures. Lagging indicators are a reduction in health care utilization for services related to targeted behaviors and conditions, improvement in workforce performance, reduced sickness absence, reduction in benefit costs and reduced employee turnover.
Reaping health dividend
We hope that the key components presented in this article will help organizations understand and get started on their wellness journey. Employers with well thought-out strategies on health care delivery will greatly increase the chance of successfully advancing the cause of health and well-being throughout the organization, thereby reaping the ultimate health dividend.
Dr Rajeshree Parekh is a director of Health and Corporate Wellness for Towers Watson Asia-Pacific