It is now clear that structural change in health care is well underway. One of the best articles I've read recently to capture this was Forbes Dave Chase's piece : "The worst nightmare of the health plan industry: employers realizing that they are in fact the insurance company ", where he argues that 100 or so employees is an insurance company in all but name. "Quite audacious, but I would not say it's far away."
What is the monetary value of a health plan? Chase regularly advises payers on how to capitalize on the volume transformation in value and how to avoid the "zero-sum game thinking". Do not do anything that can not be done better by an algorithm. (Cue the entry of Amazon Health .)
And health is, of course, no longer just about your annual balance sheets and that the contents of your pantry reflect the food pyramid. People want to know more about their food, do enjoyable exercise and balance not only physical health, but also mental and emotional health. It's not just diet and exercise – it's holistic wellness programs.
Employers and insurers take note. If the concept of health grows in the eyes of individuals, the same goes for insurance. Standard health benefits (that is, visits from your doctor, whether it's regular care or trips in response to a problem) are increasingly being replaced by more comprehensive wellness programs. And one of the most important catalysts is not a new policy or a social change – that is technology.
A quick look at well-being at work
Wellness programs – which add programming to make employee health goals more robust and achievable – are a popular way for employers to try to mitigate the rising costs of health care. health. So popular, in fact, that wellness at work is now an industry of $ 40 billion worldwide, according to the Global Wellness Institute. To maintain employee engagement, companies are constantly innovating new ways to implement well-being at work .
Take a look at Draper, Inc. based in Indiana for example, which was voted 2014 the healthiest workplace in the United States by Healthiest Employers, LLC. It has an entire wellness park on the property of the company. The organization holds company-wide challenges to losing weight and hosts programs, such as the Weight Watchers and Zumba classes, for its employees.
Zappos, who has always been admired for his dedication to workplace wellness, goes one step further by offering free gym memberships and reimbursing employees who participate in marathons. Business leaders even hire employees for fun fitness adventures, such as a laser beacon, and give employees extra time off in the form of recreational Tuesdays.
Given that the ultimate goal of a health insurer's wellness program is more specific, the success of these programs is largely based on patient health data. Today, obtaining and using this data is possible on a larger scale than ever before, thanks to the constant evolution of health and consumer technologies.
Using Technology to Achieve Health Outcomes
It is no wonder that wellness programs have been so widely adopted in recent decades. For employers, involving their employees helps to improve productivity, reduce time off for medical reasons, and reduce the overall health costs of the company. In 2012, a Gallup study showed that employees who improved their well-being cost their businesses up to 41 percent less in overall health-related spending.
For health insurers, health and wellness programs can significantly reduce premiums, especially for chronically ill and at-risk patients. Such programs often help patients cope with the disease more successfully and prevent unnecessary visits to the hospital, which allows insurance companies to save hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.
And, of course, individuals value the goals of programs to boost their own health. With so much time spent in the office, it can be difficult to prioritize nutrition and exercise; Wellness programs demonstrate to employees that their health is important to their employers, which gives them more motivation and permission to take care of themselves. It's a win-win-win for all parties.
But that does not mean that wellness plans are perfect – there is still plenty of room for growth, and that's where the technological breakthroughs of today are coming in. in play
Even the most innovative wellness program is only as good as the data that drives it. Today, this means using innovative technologies, such as wearable devices and interactive software platforms, that can passively collect massive amounts of data on the well-being of each consumer.
The good thing about fitness wearables is that many people already own and use them regularly – especially younger generations, like Millennials . In fact, their sales are expected to skyrocket over the next few years. For those who do not, many employers offer or offer discounts or other incentives to use them. Wearables are also the most important sources of what insurers are looking for the most: reliable data on participants' health and fitness habits so that they can more accurately assess risks. Some vendors are already creating initiatives to associate devices with plans.
As employers and health insurers continue to implement more attractive wellness programs, technology will continue to shape how these programs affect the lives of consumers. Three of the most significant changes will be:
1. Incentives Based on Data
The ability to cultivate and use huge amounts of data is a huge benefit for employers and health insurers, but it will also help employees make the most of the programs available to them . As portable devices keep track of their health and fitness efforts, they can also alert employees to program features and the incentives that matter most to them.
For example, if employees are only a few hundred steps away from their goal of 10,000 steps, a reminder can motivate them to take the final step and complete the program. By facilitating participation, technology can help more employees to pay more attention to their well-being.
2. More robust engagement
Mental wellness is as important as physical health when it comes to the holistic well-being of an employee. This is why some programs use data to help employees cope with non-work-related difficulties that could affect their mental or emotional health. Portable device data and participation in wellness programs provide an unprecedented overview of what individuals need most for their mental and physical well-being.
This could mean help with financial difficulties or providing care to a loved one at home so that employees have more time to focus on their mental and physical well-being. This will not only help to improve the holistic well-being of the employee, but also to retain the employer all his life.
3. A more enjoyable experience
The health benefits of employees are undeniably important, but they may be more of a yell-worthy chore than an exciting addition to an employee's work experience. Different aspects of today 's technology can improve this. If employees have already woven their clothes into their everyday lives, for example, taking advantage of their employer's wellness program can become a fluid experience; they do not have to go out of their way to make updates or review progress toward goals.
Employers and suppliers can go further, aiming not only for convenience, but also fun. Gamification is huge for applications, especially health applications – not to mention that some employers are already experimenting how gameplay can help measure employee performance at their desk. Anything that can easily overlap to highlight aspects of employers' wellness programs, helping employees take care of themselves becomes something they look forward to.
Providing employees with the means to stay healthy is good for employees, employers and health insurers. In fact, a well-designed and attractive wellness program can be one of the most attractive incentives to recruit and retain the best talent. With more intuitive and holistic technologies introduced to modernize the results and benefits, wellness programs could very well become the norm in all industries.