While we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, there’s another disease silently spreading around the country—one that costs employers millions in healthcare dollars and one that significantly reduces quality and length of life. We’re talking about metabolic syndrome. Today, nearly 47 million adults in the US have metabolic syndrome, which means having at least three of the following five risk factors: out-of-range waist circumference (BMI), elevated blood glucose, elevated blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol. Of these, waist circumference—or obesity—now ranks among the most significant of the risk factors. According to the CDC, 42.4% of all adults and 18.5% of children in the US are obese. And those numbers are expected to double in the next 10 years, leading employers and health plans struggling with a heavy economic strain on their bottom lines.
What Can You Do?
The best way to protect your company is to shore up your employee health benefits programs. The place to begin is assessing what you already have in place. The first signal that your programs aren’t working is if employees aren’t using them. Wellness or disease-prevention programs are a good example. It’s normal for employees to jump on board when a new program is offered. But as time goes by, they lose interest. In many cases, they may not be experiencing the physical benefits they had hoped for. In other cases, they may just get bored and lose motivation. Take a look at your other engagement programs and ask if your health programs align in terms of ongoing participation.
Another sign that your programs aren’t working is that you haven’t seen the decrease in costs that you expected to. In actuality, you should be able to realize a significant savings within the first year of launching a new health benefits program. If a program isn’t driving value for your company, you can be assured they’re not driving value for your employees. And that can lead to missed opportunities in the area of employee satisfaction ratings. A good benefits program should have a positive impact and contribute to employee health and loyalty.
If you find that your benefits programs are falling short, it may be time to look for a new vendor. Following are nine key attributes to look for when choosing a new health benefits program provider.
Guaranteed performance. Many vendors sell benefits programs as they would a stand-alone technology product; once you sign the contract, you’re on your own. The best vendors will be those that put skin in the game. They share in the risks by not getting paid until the employer sees success, or by getting paid based on the program’s performance.
Focus on long-term goals. Many programs, especially the direct-to-consumer programs, focus on short-term improvements. Look for a vendor that focuses on helping employees achieve small, sustainable improvements over time. Research shows that these types of health programs result in true behavioral change that achieve sustainable improvements that last a lifetime.
Look at more than weight. While weight is one of the most significant factors in metabolic syndrome—even a 5% reduction in weight can improve overall health—it’s just one part of a complete health benefits program. Choose a vendor that focuses on changing habits that lead to obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Hyper-targeted. Sending blanket emails to all employees inviting them to join a new program may not resonate with the employees who need the program most. The highest-achieving vendors will work to identify those employees by pulling existing data from claims, risk screenings and other sources. In this way, messaging can be more targeted and impactful for the employees who at highest risk.
Take a one-size-fits-one approach. Many health benefits programs rely on a classroom approach where everyone is provided the exact same information, leaving employees to figure out on their own what will work best for them. Look for vendors that curate programs unique to the individual. That means surveying employees to identify their personality traits, habits, and other defining qualities that can impact success and then build the program around the employee.
Includes optional genetics testing. It’s a fact that genetics can influence a person’s food cravings, metabolism, and weight. Vendors that offer optional genetics testing for program participants can help themselves and the employee. The employee may gain insight into their habits and why it’s been so hard to achieve their health goals, while the vendor can use the information to help personalize the employee’s program to enhance results.
Provide regular one-on-one support. The reason many people get bored with a health benefits program is that there’s little camaraderie or support. Achieving success on your own is extremely difficult. Choose a vendor that provides coaches to help motivate and encourage employees to stay engaged. Find a vendor that takes the time to match a coach to an employees based on personality and preferences. Engagements should be ongoing, as often as meets the employee’s needs.
Provides an app. Managing information solely through a website limits employee participation. Look for a vendor that includes the use of an app in its program. This makes it easier for employees to track progress, engage with their coach, participate in social groups, and review goals. When it’s easier to participate, employees are more likely to stay engaged.
Guard privacy. It’s no secret that employees are leery of sharing personal information with their employer—especially when it comes to their health. Choose a vendor that guarantees employees that none of their data will be shared with their employer. Building a high level of trust is of the utmost importance.
Putting It All Together
Benefits managers are continually under pressure to find new ways to reduce costs and improve employee engagement. When the company has a large population of employees with metabolic syndrome, achieving those goals can be challenging. Having the right health benefits vendor on board can make all the difference. But not all vendors are equal. Using the guidelines above, employers can achieve significant savings while improving the health and wellbeing of their employees.
If you’re curious about how Newtopia can contribute to your employee benefits package (and achieve 2x ROI in Year 1, email email@example.com.