An “engagement chasm” is adding to the low adoption and participation rates employers face when developing their health and wellness programs, with even electronic or online tools doing little to keep employees motivated in health, fitness and dietary programs.

But experts say there are incentives for both employees and employers to continue the wellness battle, and succeed.

With wellness engagement, “the issue isn’t what anymore, it’s how,” says Dan Newton, staff vice president, product/solutions development and behavioral economics at WellPoint, a subsidiary of Anthem, speaking at a wellness panel meeting Monday in Washington, D.C.

Also see: Wellness programs: A new layer of compliance

A recent Gallup poll, Newton says, suggests that only 26% of those surveyed participated in wellness programs – although the majority of that segment (68%) said the wellness programs were sponsored by their employers.

Using data gathered from Parks Associates, Newton says there is no one-size-fits-all solution for engaging employees. While they have been considered a critical element for building engagement, consumer use of various online tools to help encourage and maintain additional activity in wellness remained at low levels over the past 12 months:

  • 27% used a health care or insurance provider’s Web site.
  • 25% used an app.
  • 22% used a device to track health.
  • 13% participated in an online support group.

Now the question is how to get across that chasm to find better adoption rates, he says. Consumers, he adds, want it easier, personal and meaningful, as they’ve found in all of their own digital and personal shopping experiences.
Also see: Wellness conversations still one-dimensional

For employers, wellness programs can provide a positive impact on the bottom line.

According to a RAND study, wellness programs were able to reduce costs, on average, by $30 per member, per month, added Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

And while lifestyle programs provided minimal health improvements, the real savings could be seen in disease management efforts. Specifically, 87% of savings were attributed to disease management wellness programs.

Some elements of successful wellness programs include engaged managers, instilling a culture of wellness and convenient and accessible programs.

And, Newton adds, when it comes to the bottom line “A healthier worker is a more productive worker.”

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