Tag Archives: health risk assessment

The Future of Corporate Wellness – Where Will We Go From Here?
7th August 2017 by Site Admin in General

I am proud to say that I have been involved in corporate wellness since the mid-1980s. Helping employees live healthier and happier lives, as well as supporting employers with best-in-class tools to improve their cultures, have been my passion and purpose. I have witnessed and worked on corporate wellness since the time when physical health was the most important aspect of workers’ health. I cannot say I have worked with wellness since its inception, though. Corporate wellness has been around longer than many people think. To predict the future of wellness, we must understand its past.

Writings about the effects of work exposure on workers and how to improve workers’ health and well-being can be found as early as the 1700s1. Later, the industrial revolution brought many health issues to workers such as working 14 to 16 hours a day, low wages, and very poor working conditions2. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of health in the 1940s as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” opened our eyes to the concept of health and wellness as a more complex one3. In addition, the work of Halbert Dunn in 1959 helped the word “wellness” circulate more widely in the public health field, but it was the CBS 60 Minutes program with Dan Rather in 1979 titled, “Wellness, there’s a word you don’t hear every day,” that created curiosity about what corporate wellness was at that time – emphasis on physical health4. Corporate wellness has evolved since then and many studies have been published leading to a wealth of knowledge on best practices, return on investment (ROI), value of investment, risk reduction, health improvement, and more. The March 2017 edition of Health Affairs was dedicated exclusively on the relationship of work and health, and health and work highlighting important recent studies on wellness. Wellness has moved from physical health to thriving in other dimensions such as emotional, financial, spiritual, social, and intellectual health. In addition, many theories on behavior change and behavior economics have been adopted in wellness programs and its incentive designs. Wellness has changed from a “nice to have” to a “must have” benefit, but it must be done right and implemented consistently in order to provide positive results that align with your company’s goals.

I don’t have a crystal ball or special powers, but I believe the future of wellness lies in the following:

Millennials in the workforce will demand more sophisticated technology.

The traditional health risk assessment will be replaced by a more holistic kind – check out the True Vitality Test from The Blue Zones. (The UBA Health Plan Survey finds that although 72.5 percent of wellness programs include health risk assessments, their use has been declining, dropping 10.5 percent in three years.)

Wellness will be part of all successful companies’ business objectives – the Chief Wellness & Well-being Officer’s ultimate goal will be to build a culture of health, self-responsibility, and emotional balance. Wellness will be an important piece of this. For great examples of companies ahead of our time, check out Dr. Ron Goetzel’s work at the Institute of Health and Productivity Studies at John Hopkins School of Public Health.

Non-traditional workplace environments will replace the health-damaging sitting and sedentary work environment of today.

Wellness will be more integrated with benefits in general, but more specifically with high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) as a way to help employees fund them.
ROI will no longer be the focus, and instead it will be part of a long-term business strategy.

Wellness will have a wider impact overall where employees will thrive in the workplace and bring their health improvement skills to their families and communities.

We now know how to deliver wellness that positively affects cultures and population health. We don’t need any additional studies. All we need are brave and open-minded companies to embark on the journey of optimal wellness and well-being. This journey is full of trials and errors, but also full of self-discovery and growth that can build very profitable companies filled with employees who truly engage at work and thrive every day. Who is with me in this journey?

Download our free (no form!) special report, “2016 Trends in Employer Wellness Programs,” for more information on wellness components trending among employers, especially the increase in telephonic coaching and the decrease in the use of health risk assessments.

For complete health plan design and cost trends by industry, region and group size, download UBA’s 2016 Health Plan Survey Executive Summary.

For comprehensive information on designing wellness programs that create lasting change, download UBA’s whitepaper: “Wellness Programs — Good for You & Good for Your Organization.”

To understand legal requirements for wellness programs, request UBA’s ACA Advisor, “Understanding Wellness Programs and Their Legal Requirements,” which reviews the five most critical questions that wellness program sponsors should ask and work through to determine the obligations of their wellness program under the ACA, HIPAA, ADA, GINA, and ERISA, as well as considerations for wellness programs that involve tobacco use in any way.

©Copyright 2017 by Valeria S. Tivnan at EBS, a UBA Partner Firm. Reproduction permitted with attribution to the author.

The Shift Away from Health Risk Assessments
30th November 2016 by Site Admin in News, Healthcare Reform, General

Historically, employers have utilized health risk assessments (HRAs) as one measurement tool in wellness programs design. The main goals of an HRA are to assess individual health status and risk and provide feedback to participants on how to manage risk. Employers have traditionally relied on this type of assessment to evaluate the overall health risk of their population in order to develop appropriate wellness strategies.

Recently, there has been a shift away from the use of HRAs. According to the 2016 UBA Health Plan Survey, there has been a 4 percent decline in the percentage of employer wellness programs using HRAs. In contrast, the percentage of wellness programs offering biometric screens or physical exams remains unchanged – 68 percent of plans where employers provide wellness offer a physical exam or biometric screening.

One explanation for this shift away from HRAs is an increased focus on helping employees improve or maintain their health status through outcome-based wellness programs, which often require quantifiable and objective data. The main issue with an HRA is that it relies on self-reported data, which may not give an accurate picture of individual or population health due to the fact that people tend to be more optimistic or biased when thinking about their own health risk. A biometric screening or physical exam, on the other hand, allows for the collection of real-time, objective data at both the individual and population level.

Including a biometric screening or physical exam as part of a comprehensive wellness program can be beneficial for both the employer and employees. Through a biometric screening or physical exam, key health indicators related to chronic disease can be measured and tracked over time, including blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar, hemoglobin, or body mass index (BMI). For employees, this type of data can provide real insight into current or potential health risks and provide motivation to engage in programs or resources available through the wellness program. Beyond that, aggregate data collected from these types of screenings can help employers make informed decisions about the type of wellness programs that will provide the greatest value to their company, both from a population health and financial perspective.

One success story of including a physical exam as part of a wellness program comes from one of our small manufacturing clients. From the initial population health report, the company learned that there was a large percentage of its population with little to no health data, resulting in the inability to assign a risk score to those individuals. It is important to note that when a population is not utilizing health care, it can result in late-stage diagnoses, resulting in greater costs and a burden for both the employee and employer. In addition, there was low physical compliance and a high percentage of adults with no primary care provider. In order to capture more information on its population and better understand the current health risks, the company shifted its wellness plan to include annual physicals as a method for collecting biometric data for the 2016 benefit year. Employees and spouses covered on the plan were required to complete an annual physical and submit biometric data in order to earn additional incentive dollars.

By including annual physicals in its wellness program, positive results were seen for employees and spouses and the company was able to make an informed decision about next steps for its wellness program. After the first physical collection period, the percentage of individuals with little to no information was reduced from 31 percent to 16 percent (Figure A). Annual physical compliance increased from 36 percent in 2015 to over 80 percent in 2016 (Figure B), which means more individuals were seeing a primary care provider. As a result of increased biometric data collection and one year of Vital Incite reporting, the company was able to determine next steps, which included addressing chronic condition management, specifically hypertension and diabetes, with health coaching or a disease management nurse.

Figure A – RUB Distribution 2014 –

wellness programs

Figure B – Preventive Screening Compliance

wellness programs

Employers that are still interested in collecting additional information from employees may consider including alternatives to the HRA, such as culture or satisfaction surveys. These tools can allow employers the opportunity to evaluate program engagement and further understand the needs and wants of their employee population.

Download our free (no form!) special report, “2016 Trends in Employer Wellness Programs,” for more information on regional, industry and group size based trends surrounding prevalence of wellness programs, carrier vs. independent providers, and wellness program components.

For complete findings within the 2016 UBA Health Plan Survey, download UBA’s 2016 Health Plan Survey Executive Summary.

For comprehensive information on designing wellness programs that create lasting change, download UBA’s whitepaper: “Wellness Programs — Good for You & Good for Your Organization”.

To understand legal requirements for wellness programs, request UBA’s ACA Advisor, “Understanding Wellness Programs and Their Legal Requirements,” which reviews the five most critical questions that wellness program sponsors should ask and work through to determine the obligations of their wellness program under the ACA, HIPAA, ADA, GINA, and ERISA, as well as considerations for wellness programs that involve tobacco use in any way.

©Copyright 2016 by Sierra Sullivan and LHD Benefit Advisors, a UBA Partner Firm. Reproduction permitted with attribution to the author.