Personalizing health plans with technology
By Cort Olsen | Employee Benefit Adviser
February 4, 2018
Many advisers are using digital monitoring to evaluate the status of wellbeing within a given employer’s employee population.
Craig Schmidt, senior wellness consultant for EPIC, says one of the ways he is able to identify the companies that are offering strong digital wellness plans is through their ability to integrate such programs with claims data. He utilizes a push style notification to a mobile device to inform individual employees about specific plans that can coordinate well with their conditions as a further enhancement.
Samantha Gardiner, director of product management at Health Advocate, says her company has combined wellness, chronic condition management and client outreach all into one program to improve the health of employees and reduce claims and pharmaceutical costs for employer-provided health plans.
“We take the data and provide alerts via our website, email or mobile push notifications to keep employees informed about their personal health conditions,” Gardiner says. “If we have the data, we can really target and personalize the program toward company goals and members’ personal goals.”
In order to identify the best in class among the programs offered by wellness providers, Schmidt says he looks at the number and quality of interfaces and outcomes from the program as well as success stories that employees can share that can flesh out an employer’s return on investment.
“We can look at results six months or even a year after an employee has participated in the program to see if behavior changes have taken place,” Schmidt says. “If the plan integrates and reacts to the systems the employer has in place for his or her employees, then we will know if the program is a right match.”
Monica Majors, vice president of marketing and communications of health plan products at Sutter Health, says a digital wellness program needs to integrate with a multitude of personal devices.
“The site must be responsive to all technology, such as a mobile device, a tablet, or for those who are deskbound, from their computer,” Majors says. “The flexibility of offering individual trackers as well as key based activity challenges through a wide range of activities will keep retention.”
The program can then offer a health assessment that can be aggregated into an overall employer report, which can then serve as a basis for customization for that specific workforce.
Marcia Otto, vice president of product strategy at Health Advocate, says her company offers biometric screenings that can be done onsite, which can then factor into an employee’s health risk assessment to further customize the personal health program.
“If we get biometric data from our biometric data collection or if the employee sends us the data from a third party, that is another data source we can look at to determine if they need further attention for diabetes, hyper tension or so on,” Otto says. “We can also collect data on what their last blood test reported, right down to how many fruits or vegetables they eat, which is then prioritized based on how sick the employee is.”
To influence employees to remain on the wellness plan, employers have offered incentives. These incentives can range from gift cards and cash rewards to funding a HSA or a HRA.
Paul Sterling, vice president of emerging products at UnitedHealthcare, says users who are enrolled in the UnitedHealthcare Motion program – an app programmed to encourage employees to remain active throughout the workday using a smart phone or smart watch – rewards employees by funding money into an HSA or HRA as a way to retain users.
“We have three daily walking objectives through our FIT criteria – frequency, intensity and tenacity – that each of our members try to achieve,” Sterling says. “Each one of those objectives is tied to or associated with an incentive amount.”
For each objective the employee completes, UnitedHealthcare deposits $1 into the user’s HSA or HRA, depending what they have.
Each day, the employee can complete each of the objectives. It resets daily, allowing the employee to continue to receive up to $3 per day.
Over the course of one year, Sterling says participation in the Motion program has held at a steady 67%. “If you think about other products in the health and wellness space, that’s arguably 10 times the level of engagement achieved over that period of time others would achieve,” Sterling says.
While Gardiner says she cannot pin point the number of employees engaged in her program for an extended period of time yet, she thinks incentives do drive continued engagement for some employees who need the extra push to be active or engage in a healthier lifestyle.
“An incentive program that provides at least a $300 incentive to participate is where we see our most engagement,” Gardiner says. “It all depends on the goals of the employer.”
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