Health And Wellness Programs Improving And Evolving

Health and benefits management firm, Towers Watson, presented the results of its survey on employee wellness programs. The survey included responses from 5,000 employees about how they participate in their organization's health program.

Overall, the survey found that 50 percent of employees are engaged in some type of health-related program or activity. Of those, about half utilize the programs that have been available the longest, like health risk assessments and biometric screenings. Another 11 percent have accessed online health information. Although only eight percent of those surveyed said they have engaged in telemedicine, experts expect this practice to rapidly increase over the next few years.

So, what digital tools do employees find very important to their health management? Survey results show:

  • Online doctor and hospital ratings (36%)
  • Wearable devices to monitor fitness (26%)
  • Apps that monitor a health condition (21%)
  • Apps to track diet (26%)
  • Websites that compare the price of health care products and services (25%)

The number of employees who opted out of their employee health program (40 percent) was higher than the previous year. Employees say they would rather manage their own health; are uncomfortable giving employers access to their health information; or claim the programs offered do not match their needs. Aditi Pai "Survey: 8 percent of employees used a telemedicine service last year," mobilehealthnews.com (Oct. 7, 2015).

Commentary

Technological growth is transforming how individuals manage their health care. The number of digital tools available is growing and allowing people to take control of their health.

Mentioned in the above article is telemedicine, a real-time electronic communication between the patient and doctor via phone or video conferencing. This type of diagnosis and treatment is typical in rural areas where access to specialists is limited, but the practice is increasing in all locations.

Online access to health information and doctor/hospital reviews are quickly becoming the tool of choice. Mobile device applications to monitor diet, exercise, or health conditions are also popular. Employers who understand what health tools their employees find most helpful can use that information to create an effective wellness program.

Confidentiality is key. As the above survey shows, many employees are concerned with an employer's access to their health information. Wellness program involvement can increase if employees understand the employer's legal obligation with regard to confidentiality and exactly what steps are taken to fulfill that obligation.