Mak­ing well­ness pro­grams per­sonal

Modern Healthcare - - INNOVATIONS - By Maria Castel­lucci

An es­ti­mated 50% to 75% of em­ploy­ers of­fer some kind of well­ness pro­gram to their work­ers. The in­dus­try is worth an es­ti­mated $6 bil­lion in the U.S. The pop­u­lar­ity of well­ness pro­grams partly stems from the Af­ford­able Care Act, which ties fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives and penal­ties to the pro­grams.

But how can em­ploy­ers and health plans mo­ti­vate peo­ple to ac­tu­ally use well­ness pro­grams to im­prove their health and well-be­ing? Joel Spoon­heim, direc­tor of health pro­mo­tion at HealthPart­ners—an in­te­grated de­liv­ery system based in Bloom­ing­ton, Minn., with 1.5 mil­lion med­i­cal and den­tal plan mem­bers—is bank­ing that per­son­al­iz­ing the pro­grams to fit in­di­vid­ual needs is the an­swer.

“Peo­ple ex­pect (well­ness pro­grams) to be hy­per-rel­e­vant to them,” he said.

And re­search backs that up. Well­tok, a tech com­pany founded in 2009 that cus­tom­izes well­ness pro­grams through on­line ex­pe­ri­ences, found that 37% of 1,000 full-time em­ploy­ees work­ing for com­pa­nies that of­fered well­ness pro­grams didn’t par­tic­i­pate in them be­cause they didn’t find the pro­gram per­son­ally rel­e­vant.

So HealthPart­ners last week part­nered with Well­tok. HealthPart­ners’ mem­ber data, which comes from claims and health risk as­sess­ments, will be fed into Well­tok’s plat­form.

HealthPart­ners data in­cludes in­for­ma­tion that de­ter­mines whether mem­bers are vul­ner­a­ble to a chronic con­di­tion or if they are wor­ried about pay­ing med­i­cal bills. HealthPart­ners of­fers mem­bers who com­plete a health assess­ment re­tail gift cards or cash.

That’s es­pe­cially im­por­tant since the Well­tok sur­vey showed more than 90% of re­spon­dents would en­gage in health­ier be­hav­iors if they were re­warded, in­clud­ing al­most all of re­spon­dents younger than 35.

For em­ploy­ers and in­sur­ers—and even hos­pi­tals, which are be­ing held more and more re­spon­si­ble for pre­vent­ing read­mis­sions—the re­wards are plen­ti­ful as well. A 2016 study by RAND Corp. of For­tune 100 com­pa­nies’ well­ness pro­grams found that man­ag­ing dis­eases saved $136 per mem­ber, per month and a 30% re­duc­tion in hospi­tal ad­mis­sions.

Well­tok’s own data­base in­cludes the per­sonal health and fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion of 270 mil­lion Amer­i­cans. Based on ba­sic in­for­ma­tion such as age, ad­dress and in­come, Well­tok matches mem­bers to cer­tain of­fer­ings such as a lo­cal gym or a fi­nance coach.

In ad­di­tion, Well­tok sur­veys new users, ask­ing ques­tions about their in­ter­ests, con­cerns and goals in the well­ness pro­gram. This can ad­dress a va­ri­ety of health and well-be­ing con­cerns, such as sleep issues or stress. Based on these sur­vey re­sponses, the plat­form sug­gests ed­u­ca­tional ar­ti­cles, or­ga­ni­za­tions or group ac­tiv­i­ties that may be help­ful to mem­bers.

En­cour­ag­ing weight loss is also a huge com­po­nent of the plat­form. Plan mem­bers who are con­cerned about weight gain can be set up with a health coach who can guide them through a weight loss plan. Well­tok em­ploys health coaches, but HealthPart­ners can also part­ner mem­bers with its own coaches. The plat­form also al­lows users to sync data from other de­vices such as Fit­bits so the pro­gram is more in­te­grated to their daily life and rou­tine.

HealthPart­ners also sees the part­ner­ship with Well­tok as an op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide more trans­parency on ser­vice costs. For ex­am­ple, the plat­form com­pares the cost of an av­er­age emer­gency room visit at var­i­ous hos­pi­tals. This is es­pe­cially ben­e­fi­cial for mem­bers who worry about af­ford­able health­care, Spoon­heim said.

Terms of the part­ner­ship be­tween HealthPart­ners and Well­tok were not dis­closed. But HealthPart­ners plans to be­gin rolling out the new plat­form to about 157,000 el­i­gi­ble in­di­vid­ual and small em­ployer plan mem­bers next month. The net­work ex­pects 200,000 will be en­rolled by 2018, and it will ex­tend it to large com­mer­cial group mar­kets that same year.

Mem­bers are be­ing told about the of­fer­ing through mail, email and when they call HealthPart­ners with ben­e­fit ques­tions. Par­tic­i­pants can ac­cess the ser­vice by log­ging into HealthPart­ners’ on­line por­tal. Spoon­heim said mo­bile ac­cess through smart­phones was im­por­tant to make it con­ve­nient and easy.

HealthPart­ners is hop­ing that more-ef­fec­tive well­ness pro­grams will lead to bet­ter health over­all for its plan mem­bers, Spoon­heim said. “Our goal is to im­prove health out­comes for the pop­u­la­tions we serve through a more com­pre­hen­sive and holis­tic ap­proach,” he added.

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