Businesses with comprehensive health management programs enjoy better engagement, health outcomes

Employers that utilize best practices tend to perform better than their peers, but how do you define best practices for companies with health management programs?

StayWell Health Management recently completed a study exploring that topic to better understand which of its clients are using best practices and to explore the differences in engagement rates and health risk change when comparing best practice companies with standard practice program designs.

Paul E. Terry, PhD, president and CEO of StayWell Health Management in St. Paul, MN, says the idea was to explore the companies that went “from good to great.” Researchers found that the comprehensive approach is best.

“We advocate that the industry takes a comprehensive approach to get the results they want,” says Terry.

Through its research, the health management company identified several best practices, many of which have been promoted in these pages, such as strong organization commitment, identification of wellness champions, effective communications plans, and comprehensive programs with a lot of variety. (See Figure 17.)

The researchers reviewed 22 companies with a total of 767,640 eligible employees, spouses, and retirees to find out whether the businesses were actually using best practices. The study looked at nine components identified as best practices (see Figure 18 on p. 21), gathered information from the companies, rated companies on whether they utilized best practices, and calculated engagement rates and health impact measures.

StayWell found that:

  • Every best practice company integrates incentives
  • More than 80% of the best practice companies have comprehensive programs and communication and biometric screening
  • More than half of the best practice companies use multiple modalities and population-based programs
  • Half of the best practice companies have management support and a dedicated on-site staff

The companies using best practices enjoy better engagement rates and improved health risks. More than half of best practice company employees participated in a health assessment and completed health coaching. (See Figure 19 on p. 22.) Employees of those same companies also decreased their health risks, according to StayWell.

Companies that use best practices are committed to quality improvement and view health and wellness as a long-term investment, not just a nice program to have, Terry says. These companies have integrated wellness into their businesses’ culture, are outcome oriented, test their programs and incentives to make sure they are working effectively, and provide numerous ways to reach out to employees about their health. One key is to take a whole-person approach, Terry says. The idea is to meet the individual at his or her level through targeted population health and focus on the person’s interests, resulting in more engaged consumers. (See Figure 20 on P. 23.)

“We know that we need to come in the side door with employees, which means that if their issue this year is stress, we deal with that first and then help to segue into other risks,” he says.

One of the companies that has integrated health management into its business is DTE Energy, based in Detroit. Doug Green, benefits manager at DTE, says the company understands that employee health and wellness are connected to productivity and healthcare costs.

DTE has office workers and labor employees who work with heavy machinery. These vastly different work climates require DTE to create wellness programs to reach the different employees.

For example, a woman working in an office might be interested in Weight Watchers classes, but a man working on electrical lines might prefer a weight-loss contest. The company has three on-site StayWell representatives, a program manager and two program assistants, who help run DTE’s wellness campaigns and communicate with the plant manager and union officers.

DTE’s wellness program includes walking programs and stress, nutrition, and weight management classes. The company created an online team competition to spark employees to lose weight and maintain the weight loss.

They also offer gift cards to employees and spouses who take part in programs, such as biometric screenings and health risk appraisals.

The result has been a “tremendous amount of weight loss,” says Green. The company has learned from its wellness programs that businesses need to make wellness offerings fun. “It’s got to be interesting. It’s got to have tips and ideas that make sense for employees,” says Green. “You don’t want to put something out there that is not achievable … It’s something that they can achieve, it’s something that’s interesting for them. If it was a real boring program, we wouldn’t get anyone to participate.”




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