Corporate wellness programs are growing steadily, and many companies are betting they will keep their costs under control. But how employers utilize technology to fit their workforces’ needs is a critical success factor. Wellness is rapidly evolving and becoming an integral part of how employers ensure maximum productivity and efficiency of their workforces. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that U.S. businesses loses $225.8 billion per year to employee illness and injury.
In addition to lost productivity, overall spending on health care rose by nearly $1 trillion between 1996 and 2013. The rise of chronic, lifestyle-related diseases accounts for a significant impact. Tens of millions of workers suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes. The cost differential per employee with diabetes, for example, amounts to more than $10,000 more per year.
Making Technology Work for You and Your Employees
Given the substantial burden of chronic diseases on the workforce, there has been an increase in technology that employers can embed into their wellness programs to promote productivity and efficiency. Leading companies have recognized the need to get to the root of the problem in order to see real progress. We’ve already begun to see shifts taking place as employers prioritize the health of their workforce.
This shift is not only good for employees, but also for business, as wellness programs can provide a significant return on investment. In a well-known example of successful corporate health promotion, smoking rates among Johnson & Johnson employees dropped by more than 66 percent, and the number of employees with high blood pressure or physical inactivity fell by more than 50 percent. As a result, the company returned $2.71 for every $1 spent on the program.
Knowing Your Workforce
The first key to implementing a successful program is knowing your workforce, including their needs and preferences. For example, wellness programs must take into account potential barriers such as health literacy – the ability to make informed decisions based on one’s understanding of health information. Low health literacy is surprisingly common; the National Assessment of Adult Literacy found that nearly 90 percent of adults lack proficient health literacy.
While it is not anything to be ashamed of, it is certainly something to be aware of, and reviewing tools from the AHRQ can provide a baseline for understanding the abilities of employees to manage their health. Identifying the best wellness program for your organization can be a challenge, but resources are widely available to get started. Of course, it’s vital to keep in mind the relevant laws and regulations shaping the framework for voluntary employee wellness programs, including the Affordable Care Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Other resources, such as the Johns Hopkins/Transamerica Center for Health Studies report offer a variety of useful tips on how to proceed with the creation and implementation of a variety of initiatives. With a clear goal and plan in place for your wellness program, integrating technology is the next important step. In our mobile- and data-dominated world, people are constantly on their devices, logging their every move and sharing it with their social networks.