Wellable adds new program to help employees break up with cigarettes

Digital wellness company Wellable has launched a new effort to help employees leave a toxic relationship — with tobacco.

An individual smoker costs clients about $3,400 a year in medical expenses and lost productivity, according to the Center for Disease Control. To combat those costs, employers often impose monthly premiums on smoker health plans. But Wellable says there’s a better solution: Help employees quit smoking.

“[Smoking] is a well-known issue in the wellness industry, and we’re excited to bring this solution to our customers,” says Nick Patel, president of Wellable.

Wellable partnered with public health organization Truth Initiative last month to offer the EX Program — a digital platform designed to help employees quit smoking — to their customers. The platform provides users with online and mobile resources so smokers can quit at their own pace, Graham said.

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“Tobacco should be front and center in any benefits package,” says Dr. Amanda Graham, senior vice president of innovations at Truth Initiative. “Nicotine use is a complex addiction that requires specialized treatment.”

Wellable offers digital nutrition and exercise programs to employers. The company decided to incorporate the EX Program because they wanted to offer a wider range of wellness solutions to their customers, Patel said.

“We do a broker survey every year, and [smoking] came up as one of the issues clients asked the most about,” Patel says. “We’re looking to be a holistic wellness provider, and we felt this was the most comprehensive, and had the best user experience, of all the tobacco free programs we looked at.”

The EX Program works by combining counseling and digital resources. Users can schedule one-on-one conversations with coaches specially trained to help people quit smoking. They also can talk to ex-smokers, and other people trying to quit, through a chat room when they need moral support. Around 1,500 people actively use the chat room every month, Graham said.

“Quitting smoking is one of the most difficult things to do; it helps to be able to talk to others who are going through the same thing,” Graham says. “When you need professional help, our digital approach makes it easy to connect to a coach with warmth and compassion.”

Participants also can have medication, including tobacco patches and lozenges, delivered to their home thanks to the program’s partnership with the Mayo Clinic. The digital platform offers access to a library of educational videos and case studies on the damaging effects of smoking, and best practices for quitting tobacco. Some of the material covers electronic cigarettes, and tips for helping teenagers quit.

“When parents sign up for messaging they can receive support to help a child interested in quitting,” Graham says.

Some employers are so interested in helping employees quit they’re offering incentive programs on top of providing access to the EX Program. Popular incentives for completing stages of the program include monetary rewards and additional paid time off.

“We’re seeing a lot of creativity and flexibility with these reward programs,” Graham says. “I know of one company that’s making contributions to the FSA accounts of employees using the program.”

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