Use Best Practices to Raise Wellness Participation

Efforts should be customized, not commoditized

By Melissa Popp-Lloyd, HealthMedia Inc. Mar 8, 2010

There is a movement in the area of participation to avoid cookie-cutter programs and design and deliver products and services that address companies’ participation and engagement needs. These include a carefully built mix of participation planning and best practices, incentive programs, intelligent recruitment, and promotional campaigns—all of which can lead to improved health outcomes.

In order to create a culture of health that's engrained in the fiber of how an organization does business, a strong foundation is critical. Such a foundation includes:

Quality data

Clear goals and objectives

An actionable implementation and program maintenance plan

Beyond building this foundation, there are six keys to success:

1. Executive endorsement

2. A meaningful incentive strategy

3. Program champions

4. Simple access

5. Seamless integration

6. Effective communication

Participation Planning

At the planning stage, benefits directors should work with their advisers to create customized solutions that build on the above foundational elements and success keys to address the health management needs of employees. This process begins with studying the employee population and the business goals of the organization to determine how to support the strategic plan best—with initiatives that match the organizational goals, budget, and program offerings. Support and guidance should come in the form of customizable promotional materials, recruitment tools and leading-edge incentives—all designed to maximize quality participation and outcomes.

Best Practices

Benefits managers should look for a scalable, turnkey solution design that saves time and strengthens relationships. Steps to take include:

Identifying prospects with smart communications. With appropriate authorization in place, use data from a health risk assessment, claims data, or personal health records (including electronic medical records, if available) to identify participants who have an epidemiological need and are ready for change. Sending personalized messaging based on stage of change, motivation, self-confidence, perceived barriers, and demographics is the best way to customize a participation program fully. A tailored recruitment capability has the potential to drive personalized messages through e-mail, direct mail or interactive voice response. It can recruit individuals into the right health programs easily and effectively at the right time to enhance behavior change outcomes. Changing behaviors is key to achieving a healthier population.

Broaden the reach with a tailored promotional campaign. Communications are a vital part of any participation strategy. As part of that process, benefits managers should work with program providers to create a strategic communications plan tailored to their brand, population, and health initiatives. Benefits managers should have access to a variety of communication campaigns that highlight personalized programs that fit into their overall suite of products and services. Benefits managers know what will resonate most with their population. Some even prefer to build a campaign from the ground up and in those cases might want to partner with their communications agency to create a fully managed and branded campaign.

Create added motivation with best-in-class incentive campaigns. People like to be rewarded for good behavior. And while positive changes have their own rewards when it comes to health, they don't always provide instant gratification. Incentive campaigns that provide members and employees some extra motivation to get involved—and stay involved—gain the greatest participation rates. A well-designed campaign manages eligibility through data collection. This ensures that there is a choice of fulfillment options: self-distribution incentives and a strategic partnership with a provider whose incentive fulfillment can be incorporated into an integrated, seamless solution.

The population health industry is moving toward a more customized approach to wellness and participation. Benefits managers should take a close look at their participation partners and vendors to make sure that they are getting the customization and dedicated services required to increase participation, improve employee health, and cut costs.

Melissa Popp-Lloyd has over 18 years’ experience in the health care field. Currently, she is the Director of Participation Strategy with HealthMedia where she works with clients on wellness participation challenges. At the beginning of her career, Popp-Lloyd worked in the wellness and prevention field in employer and hospital-based settings. During her career, she has conducted over 450 corporate and conference wellness and health care presentations.​

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