What do your clients want from their corporate wellness programs? If the first response is lower health care costs, they might be in for a rude awakening. The path to lower costs is not a rapid-release magic elixir, but rather the time-released action of the corporate wellness program. By prescribing a long-term solution, you offer your clients a healthy dose of reality and set the expectation that there is no instant cure.


Year one - diagnosis and treatment plan

Each client has different needs for its wellness program. Developing long-term strategy is like a physician seeing a patient for the first time. The physician collects vital information and test data so he or she can assess the patient's health, diagnose any medical conditions and develop a treatment plan. The same approach works for your clients' corporate wellness programs.

Collect vital information, such as the demographics of the group, claims data and employee survey results. Gather tests and measurements of the employee population, such as health screenings, environmental assessments, Employee Assistance Program data, paid time off reports - anything that offers clues to the overall health of your clients' employees. Enlist the help of carriers and vendors to follow the paper trail of information.

Help your clients commit to being in it for the long haul with realistic expectations for the first year and beyond. Identify your clients' vision and goals for the program. For example, if the vision is a healthier workplace, look at short and long-term solutions based on the information and data you have.

This is also an excellent opportunity for setting expectations for your role. Consider a multi-year agreement with certain deliverables, such as specified communication support and securing contracts with vendors.

The first year lays the foundation and lines you and your client up for success. Success lies in the completion of tasks that support long-term strategy.


Year two - awareness and change

A physician understands how challenging changing behavior is for a patient. The first step is awareness by the patient that there is a health concern, followed by an understanding of the change needed for better health.

The first year of the program identifies the health issues, initiating the campaign for awareness and change. The second year takes information, analyzes it and benchmarks it against industry norms. If you do not have a metric for the data, create it. For example, set a target for a percentage increase in the utilization of your client's employee assistance programs.

Encourage behavior modification tools like online support and interactive coaching. Monitor and manage activity tracking in wellness initiatives, such as smoking cessation, nutritional counseling, EAP education programs or training courses. Continue the use of the first year's data and analyze case management and pharmacy data.

All of the data and information offers ideas for adjustments to the program and improving results. For example, does carving out pharmacy or disease management to a specialty vendor offer opportunities for better management? This is the time for taking what you learned and putting into action the planned strategy. It may work - it may not. Constant monitoring and adjusting is vital to the success of the program.


Year three - improving outcomes

Ultimately, the physician and patient are working toward better health. The right medication reduces cholesterol or lowers blood pressure. A healthier lifestyle reduces the risk for a heart attack or stroke. The third year of the corporate wellness program targets better outcomes. Where in the first two years your clients focus on participation in the program, they may want to move from participation to individual accountability and behavioral change. For example, the employee has to take an action to receive an incentive.

Achieving better outcomes is a culmination of efforts - the integration of all programs, evolving incentives, changing plan designs and contributions. By setting expectations in the first year, and developing the program in the second and third years, the program delivers a healthy return on investment. And that's an easy pill to swallow.

Taylor is a consultant and certified wellness program manager for Intercare Insurance Solutions in San Diego.

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