New survey report: Primary care emphasis included in workplace wellness programs

Study shows increase in incentives to keep employees healthy, from average of $204 in 2008 to $329 in 2009

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No other kind of health management program has been given the same scrutiny as health and productivity management in measuring its effectiveness in reducing total health-related costs, including sick days, disability claims and impaired performance at work. Employees are too valuable a human capital investment for companies to take their health and productivity for granted.

Washington, DC (PRWEB) July 29, 2009

As politicians and policymakers debate how to structure and pay for clinical prevention and chronic disease services within new models of care--both at the work site or through new delivery systems--many are looking to mature employer-based health management programs as models. A new, in-depth survey of employers into the use of incentives in corporate wellness programs shows that smart investments in employee health programs are yielding results.

Despite tight economic times, paying employees to participate in worksite health and wellness programs is almost uniformly believed among employers of all sizes, with and without programs in place, to boost program success and return value. Almost two out of three U.S. companies offer programs to keep employees healthy, and 66 percent of those offering programs also use incentives, with a healthy number showing an ROI of greater than $1 for each dollar spent.

The findings are part of a survey, now in its third year, of the use of incentives. The survey tracks how much employers pay in incentives, what activities they incentivize, and how success and return on investment is measured. The report, "How employers use incentives to keep employees healthy: Perks, programs and peers," was released today by Health2 Resources.

This is the first year that many small-to-midsize companies were included in the survey, revealing the extent of expansion of these programs beyond large companies. The survey explored several new trends, such as the role of primary care in prevention and health management programs and extension of programs to spouses and children.

"During tough economic times, employees who take control of their health and are more engaged and active in their own health are valuable assets," said Katherine H. Capps, president of Health2 Resources. "We are not talking about $5 here or there. We are talking about serious investment into productivity, made by employers with as few as 200 employees, for as much as $1,400 a year per employee. Employers are taking control of health care costs by creating smart, effective new strategies to keep employees healthy, and to keep employees at work."

Among the key findings:

  • Perks matter. The value of incentives is up, averaging $329 in 2009 and ranging from $1 per pound for weight loss to annual premium reductions valued at more than $1,500. The most commonly used incentive is premium reductions, followed by merchandise/tokens and gift cards.
  • Employers offer cash, gift cards to spouses and family to keep them healthy. More than half of the companies surveyed offer health and wellness or disease management programs to spouses and a third extend the programs to other family members.
  • Confidential health history/questionnaire is an important starting point for worksite wellness and disease management. Two out of three employers--large, mid- size and small--offer a health risk assessment to employees, and nearly three out of four of those offer incentives to take it. Incentives to take the questionnaire range up to $300 annually, with about 10 to 15 percent exceeding $300.
  • Smoking cessation programs are the most popular health and wellness program offered. More than half of employers surveyed (53 percent) offer smoking cessation to employees, but weight management and physical activity programs are not far behind.
  • Diabetes programs are the most popular disease management program offered. Among those employers that offer disease management programs, 92 percent offer diabetes programs, making them the most common disease management program offered in 2009.
  • Company size matters, but doesn't dictate value of incentives. Among large employers, a bigger percentage offers programs and incentives when compared to small and mid-sized companies. But some organizations with as few as 210 employees are offering incentives valued at $1,450 per year to keep employees healthy, well above the average.
  • Results count, and employers are counting. The percentage of companies successfully measuring return on investment for health and wellness programs has sharply increased over the years, from 14 percent in 2007 to 73 percent in 2009. Some 83 percent of those who have measured say the programs return better than 1:1 on their investment. In growing numbers, employers are rewarding goal achievement during and after health and wellness program completion.
  • Employers face challenges to program success, but challenges wane. Among both employers with programs and those without, nearly every challenge- even the top challenge of motivating employees over time--has lost intensity.
"Employers are becoming more sophisticated about measuring the return on investment from wellness and disease management programs, and today's economic outlook dictates that these programs bring a positive ROI," said Sean Sullivan, president and CEO of the Institute for Health and Productivity Management. "No other kind of health management program has been given the same scrutiny as health and productivity management in measuring its effectiveness in reducing total health-related costs, including sick days, disability claims and impaired performance at work. Employees are too valuable a human capital investment for companies to take their health and productivity for granted."

Five company case examples included in the report demonstrate the evolving nature of health and wellness and disease management programs, and how employers are working to match the specific health improvement needs of their organizations to the programs that are most effective.

The web-based survey of 372 small, medium and large U.S. companies employing 1.8 million employees was conducted to determine the prevalence of employer-based programs to keep employees healthy and the use of incentives within those programs as a tool to encourage participation, engagement and program completion. Digging deeper to explore the nuances of the use of incentives, the survey assessed the types of incentives used with these programs, what programs were incentivized, how much employers pay for incentives and the employee activities and/or behaviors that are rewarded. The survey also sought to understand employer expectations for program outcomes and ROI, as well as challenges employers faced in implementing and operating these programs.

To order the report or to register for the August 11 Webinar offering an overview of the results, go to http://www.health2resources.com.

About Health2 Resources
Health2 Resources, in business since 1998, is a health care and e-health specialty public relations and communications firm providing market trend research and analysis that leads to results-oriented marketing communications and public relations programs for a broad mix of clients -- those who purchase, pay for and provide health care. For more information, visit http://www.health2resources.com.

This press release was distributed through eMediawire by Human Resources Marketer (HR Marketer: http://www.HRmarketer.com) on behalf of the company listed above.

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