Web Exclusive - May/June 2017

Well-Being Engagement to Improve Employee Health

By Deborah L. Vence

A recent study by global advisory, broking and solutions company Willis Towers Watson revealed that U.S. employers are following a strategy of taking many concurrent steps to manage costs in health care programs.

The Willis Towers Watson 2017 Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey was fielded in January 2017 to determine how U.S. employers with at least 200 employees use and deliver health care programs and services.

When it comes to health and well-being programs, employers have their priorities. But, improving the overall employee experience with these programs is a priority for nearly all employers (96 percent) over the next three years. Meanwhile, perceived benefits of improving the employee experience are better employee engagement in health care decisions (89 percent), increased satisfaction with the health care program (81 percent), improved appreciation of well-being programs (78 percent) and direct impact of long-term costs (74 percent).

One of the points in the study revealed that employers will be taking action to improve the employee experience of the well-being program.

For example, 51 percent indicated that they provide access to a portal for tracking activity and incentives; while another 26 percent are planning to or considering it.

Thirty-nine percent of respondents stated that they routinely ask for employee feedback to enhance programming offerings; while 32 percent are planning to or considering it.

Thirty-six percent of respondents indicated that they personalize rewards for employees who engage in the well-being program; while 27 percent are planning to or considering it.

And, 35 percent of respondents stated that they offer access to tools to help households meet their financial goals; while another 33 percent are planning to or considering it.

Employers also indicated in the study that their top three priorities for 2017 are: increasing point-of-care costs by adjusting deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums and out-of-network coinsurance (51 percent); modifying vendor strategies by expanding wellness programs or changing vendor partners (32 percent); and adding new provisions to prescription drug plans to encourage appropriate utilization (30 percent).

"Effectively managing health care plans requires a multifaceted approach," noted Julie Stone, a health care practice leader at Willis Towers Watson, in an April press release. "Because there is no magic bullet, employers are engaging a variety of approaches to improve the value of these plans for their employees."