Health Advocate has been selected as a Bronze winner in the Most Customer Friendly Company of the Year – Medium category in Best in Biz Awards, the only independent business awards program judged each year by prominent editors and reporters from top-tier publications in North America.

Health Advocate was recognized due to its continued commitment to excellent customer service. In the past year, Health Advocate introduced its new member website and app to provide more seamless service and an enhanced member experience.

Each year, Best in Biz Awards’ entrants span the spectrum, from some of the most innovative local start-ups to the most recognizable global brands. The seventh annual program was particularly hotly contested, with more than 650 entries from an impressive array of public and private companies of all sizes and from a variety of industries and geographic regions in the U.S. and Canada.

Since 2011, winners of Best in Biz Awards have been determined based on scoring from independent judging panels composed of prominent editors and reporters from some of the most respected newspapers, TV outlets, and business, consumer, technology and trade publications in North America. Best in Biz Awards’ uniqueness stems, in part, from this distinct composition of its judging panels, allowing it to best leverage the judges’ unparalleled expertise, experience and objectivity to determine award winners.

For more information, visit: http://www.bestinbizawards.com.

Episode 10: How Clinical Guidelines Impact Care

Clinical guidelines are utilized by healthcare providers, insurers, payers and more to help inform decisions about patient care and coverage. In this episode of Health Advocate’s Ask the Expert series, Health Advocate Medical Director Dr. Jocelyn Sivalingam discusses the value of clinical guidelines and how they impact healthcare.

By Martin Berman-Gorvine | Human Resources Report

Reproduced with permission from Human Resources Report, by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) <http://www.bna.com>

 When it comes to enticing employees to participate in wellness plans, cash is essential but intangible rewards can really make the program catch fire.

That’s the message from vendors who help administer such programs for employers. The catch is the vendors can’t supply the missing excitement; employers must do that themselves, according to Iris Tarou, director of wellness program services at West’s Health Advocate Solutions, a clinical health advocacy company based in Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

One way for employers to draw interest to the program is to designate an employee to increase “enthusiasm” among other workers, she told Bloomberg Law. The aim is to demonstrate that wellness isn’t just something the company is doing to save money; it’s a part of the corporate culture, she added.

Offering intangible incentives may also be more attractive for employers in an uncertain regulatory environment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is reviewing portions of its employer wellness rules covering employee-participation incentives. The EEOC’s current wellness rules allow employers to offer workers up to 30 percent of the cost of self-only health insurance for participation in wellness programs.

Low-Cost Motivators

Even if the EEOC’s restrictions on what kinds of incentives employers can offer remain as they are, employers may want to focus on the intangible incentives because cash isn’t necessarily the most important motivator.

Research has shown that monetary rewards can actually backfire, Joe Burton, founder and chief executive officer of Whil Concepts Inc., a San Francisco-based health and wellness company, told Bloomberg Law. Better, he said, are “the intrinsic motivators of setting a goal and accomplishing it.” For example, if participating in a wellness program helps an employee sleep better and feel less stressed, “that’s always more sustainable than monetary rewards,” he said.

“Intrinsic motivators” encourage participation in wellness programs, because they “get employees not only to think about their health, but as contributing to something bigger than themselves,” Merritt said. An example she offered is for the employer to make contributions to a charity designated by the employee.

For the company, creative rewards such as preferential parking “may not cost anything,” Alan Kohll, founder of wellness program provider TotalWellness, told Bloomberg Law.

“In addition to individual rewards,” he suggested, “have group rewards where teams can compete against each other. These are fun activities that build camaraderie.” But the corporate culture has to support them, he added.

Money Makes the Wellness Program Go Round

Generally, health insurance premium discounts remain the standard wellness motivator companies offer their employees, the vendors agreed, although they don’t build excitement like the more creative rewards do. Money deposited into health savings accounts is an option at organizations that offer this benefit, Merritt said.

Tangible rewards can also be creative. Burton suggested offering “marketplaces where you can convert your points into healthy products, such as sneakers, FitBits, or yoga mats.”

Kohll, however, said it’s important not to slavishly “copy” what some other company is doing to motivate its employees.

“General best practice is to meet the population where they are,” Merritt said.

By Valerie Bolden-Barrett | HRDive

Employers can give workers anniversary lunches, recognition ceremonies, holiday parties and employee picnics. But, increasingly, workers stick around longest with an employer that cares about their physical and emotional well-being and offers tools that give them 24-hour access to healthcare providers and medical information.

The array of medical services is virtually at employees’ finger tips and expanding with nearly every technological advancement. Employees can access healthcare services by phone, mobile apps, websites and other virtual “hubs,” says Marcia Otto, vice president of Product Strategy at West’s Health Advocate Solutions.

Otto says these programs can include, but are not limited to:

  • Telemedicine
  • Second opinions
  • Nurses’ support
  • Advocacy
  • Medical-decision support
  • Wellness
  • Disease management
  • Employee assistance and behavioral health
  • Prenatal/maternal support
  • Sleep programs and more

Otto notes that employees may prefer different communications channels for accessing these services depending on the circumstances. One employee might want to call a nurse for help managing a chronic condition, but prefer an app for wellness-program tracking.

Access to these services doesn’t end here. Otto says there’s a trend brewing toward developing an all-in-one benefits hub, or one-stop shop, where employees can access all benefits services using one phone number or app.

Advantages of 24/7 access

Thanks to automation, self-service is no longer the oddity it once was. Home improvement stores and big supermarket chains offer self-service aisles to give customers the option – and the control – of checking out their own merchandise. Employees with 24/7 access to their healthcare benefits have the same kind of control and power.

Michael Hough, EVP general manager and founder of Advanced Medical, an HR service for Fortune 100 and 500 companies, says his company gives its customers’ employees access to physician case managers and other professionals in real time. If workers ask for a medical doctor, he says they can get one within two hours.

Hough makes a distinction between phone access, which connects employees with a live healthcare provider who can prescribe an antibiotic or conduct a short in-take process, versus an app, which he says provides largely automated information. Apps are for finding a health plan or providers, he adds, whereas a phone call connects people with a telemedicine service.

“We help people who struggle with complicated health issues,” says Hough. “People are overwhelmed in a complicated health system. They might understand a broken bone, but a pancreatic disorder is more complex.”

Employees also are taking more responsibility for their healthcare.

“They want to better manage healthcare costs, gain a better understanding of their benefits and how to use them, and get and stay healthy,” says Otto. By being able to access their health and benefits services wherever they are and by the way they prefer, whether by phone or app, employees can easily connect with helpful resources to meet these goals, she adds.

Less burden and lower costs for HR

According to Otto, high-tech touch services allow employers to cross-promote benefits to improve employee engagement and reduce workers’ frustration with accessing information.

A high-tech benefits hub requires far fewer administrative tasks and vendors than traditional benefits administration, says Otto. A Health Advocate study found that streamlining benefits can unburden the HR department and cut three to five vendors from its network.

Besides lifting HR’s overload, Otto says that high-tech touch benefits boost employee engagement and cut medical costs in the process. Employers’ ROI hinges on the quality of healthcare and cost-savings that these services provide.

Getting employee buy-in to high-tech touch benefits, or to any new program, can be challenging. Hough says that buy-in is based on the trust employees have with their employers, and that long-term workers are more likely to support and use these benefits.

Otto says incentives can encourage employee buy-in.

“Sometimes the biggest hurdle is the initial engagement in a new program or model,” she says. “There is evidence that both the carrot and stick approaches work to engage employees in these programs.”

When asked about the cost and implementation concerns of offering high-tech touch benefits, Hough says Advanced Medical’s clients are large companies that want to save money, and part of the savings is getting employees the best quality care.

On implementing these services, Otto says many vendors have experience in streamlining the process and know how to work with others in setting up the service to make it as smooth for employers as possible.

Otto and Hough recognize that without technology, benefits would remain a costly, burdensome function for HR. But they agree that the human element is critical in high-tech touch services. Balancing emerging technology with personalized, human support is critical.