Viewpoint: Wellness Collaboration Is Key to Change

Stakeholder collaboration to promote employee wellness takes many forms

By Dix Wheelock, collaborativeCARE Conference Mar 25, 2011

Today’s health care environment requires bold changes. One change geared toward improving patient health and well-being is educating key stakeholders across the health care spectrum on the importance of collaborating with one another.

Collaboration comes in many forms: specialists working together with primary care physicians to prescribe the best medical treatment for patients; physicians teaching their patients about new medical procedures and techniques relevant to their disease condition; employers offering employees guidance and incentives on health and wellness.

Employers play an important role in that spectrum since they have the opportunity to empower employees to take control of their own health and wellness. Offering wellness programs and incentives that will motivate employees to become healthy and stay healthy are key first steps toward changing ritualized behaviors.

According to the Nov. 5, 2010, study, The Impact of the Prevention Plan on Employee Health Risk Reduction, 42 percent of the 2,600 participants experienced a decrease in the number of high health risks they faced after 12 months of participating in a wellness program. Sixty-four percent of high-risk participants lowered their risk status, and 87 percent of low-risk participants maintained their health status.


Employers can offer an array of benefits to incentivize employee participation. These include:

Gym membership reimbursement.

Nutrition counseling.

Online meal tracking.

Supplied heart-healthy snacks.

On-site flu shots.

Health screenings.

Stress management.

On-site exercise equipment.

Weight-loss challenges.

Disease prevention lectures (i.e. diabetes).

Free admission to health care expos.

By offering access to these programs, employers can empower their staffs to take control of their health and reduce their need for medical treatment and medication.

What’s the ROI?

Worksite wellness programs allow HR professionals to invest in the physical wellness, safety and mental health of their workforce through preventive meansthat initiate a healthier environment. Having an employee wellness program can boost morale and increase productivity in the workplace as well. At a time when employees and employers are budget-conscious, and with rising insurance deductibles, a simple and well-executed program can:

Reduce health care costs.

Increase motivation.

Reduce sick days.

Improve energy.

Promote wellness and fitness.

Increase productivity.

Reduce stress and anxiety.

Financial Incentives

By improving the health of employees, companies might find it more affordable to carry out year-long wellness programs continuously. Although it might be simple to implement these programs, companies might find it difficult to motivate employees to participate. More companies are offering financial incentives to boost an employee’s willingness to engage.

According to findings from Fidelity Investment’s February 2011 Annual Wellness Study, 62 percent of employers offered incentives in 2010 vs. 57 percent in 2009. The survey revealed that 56 percent of employers believe that incentive-based programs increase employee participation. Incentives include:


Vacation days.

Gift cards.

Free health-conscious food.

Extra funds for health savings accounts.

In a study conducted by Highmark Inc. that investigated the impact of worksite wellness programs, health care costs rose at a 15 percent slower rate among wellness participants than a comparison group when employers offered a wellness program to their employees consistently.

Employers can embrace collaboration and take ownership of their position in the health care spectrum by empowering the employees to kick-start and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Incentive-based health promotion programs can help lower the rate of escalating health care costs, reduce health-related absences and improve employees’ productivity. The employer becomes part of a broader effort to reform the delivery of health care by making it more inclusive, integrated and collaborative.

Dix Wheelock is the co-founder and partner of Medical Exchange and the collaborativeCARE Conference.​

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