Feature Article - November/December 2014

All Shall Be Well

A Healthier Workforce Equals Healthier Production

By Deborah L. Vence

Motivating employees to improve their health isn't always easy, which is why wellness incentive programs are becoming more and more popular for companies seeking to encourage the behaviors and attitudes that will help employees and drive healthcare costs down.

In an April 2014 Forbes magazine article, titled, "Be Healthy and Get Rewarded: Incentives Driving Engagement in Health and Wellness," Michael G. Dermer, senior vice president and chief incentive officer of Welltok, a social health management company, discussed the importance of wellness incentives.

Without incentives, he said, "Individuals usually participate in health behaviors about 10 percent of the time. For example, everyone on Medicare is entitled to a free annual well-care visit, but only 6 percent take advantage of it. Unfortunately, in healthcare, just because we build it doesn't mean they will come. There is no shortage of great health programs and tools.

"We all know, for example, what we want diabetics to do. The challenge is that we can't get them to do them. Incentives are what drive individuals to take behaviors that improve health and reduce cost," Dermer said.

In fact, an employer survey conducted earlier this year by Fidelity Investments and National Business Group on Health revealed that corporate employers planned to spend an average of $594 per employee on wellness-based incentives within their health care programs this year, which represents an increase of 15 percent from the average of $521 reported for 2013, and is more than double the average of $260 reported five years ago. The survey also indicated that the most popular wellness programs continue to be lifestyle management, such as physical activity programs, weight management programs and stress management.

As companies continue to offer wellness incentive programs, industry experts reveal some of the newest developments in this area, as well as the benefits and potential problems associated with managing such programs.