Health Programs Better When Spouses Included

03.20.2013
HR & Safety

A new report from the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) and Mercer indicates that employers who follow best practices for workplace health management programs are more likely to report improvements in medical cost trends, as well as improved employee health status.

In an analysis of data collected from more than 700 employers through the HERO Employee Health Management Best Practices Scorecard in collaboration with Mercer, researchers found that the best practices most strongly associated with positive outcomes were:

  • Including spouses in key components of the program
  • Promoting all wellness activities under a single brand name
  • Having a formal, written strategic plan with financial objectives
  • Active participation by senior leadership in wellness programs

The HERO Scorecard provides employers with an inventory of best practices for successful health management, and lets them see how their program stacks up against those in similar organizations.

As the Scorecard database grows, so does our ability to test the relationships between specific best practices and outcomes, says Mercer. For example, while it’s not surprising that effective employee communication is one of the keys to a successful program, the new study pinpoints the importance of giving the program a brand name.

Extending the program to spouses also had a strong impact on outcomes. Employers that permit spouses to participate in lifestyle coaching programs reported an average employee participation rate that was twice as high as the rate among employers that don’t include spouses (28% compared to 14%). When spouses were included in key components of the health management program, employers were also more likely to report improvement in health risk and in medical trend.

Now in its fourth year, the HERO Scorecard is beginning to reveal important trends in health management program strategy and design. Where health management programs once centered on managing chronic disease, best practice programs now also focus on preventing chronic disease by improving health habits.

For example, the majority of Scorecard respondents: 70%: now conduct biometric screenings to alert employees to possible health risks, and offering personal coaching, by telephone, online, or face-to-face, has become one of the fastest-growing elements in health management programs. In addition, the use of financial incentives to drive employee participation in these programs is growing rapidly: and employers that use them are significantly more likely to report medical cost savings (76%) than those not offering incentives (46%).

For a free copy of the HERO Scorecard 2012 Annual Report or to learn more, visit the-hero.org (select the Scorecard link).

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