Why advisers should let population health data breathe

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Data guides virtually every decision a business makes. From financial data that prompts the purchase of new property, to quantitative data that results in an open-concept workspace remodel. Decisions made for employee wellness shouldn’t be any different.

On average, employee healthcare costs make up about 7.6% of a company’s annual operating budget. That’s over $8,000 per covered employee. It’s no wonder 72% of employers offered wellness programs in 2016 — no doubt an effort to minimize the staggering amount they’re paying in health insurance if they are self-insured, or to help reduce their premiums if they are fully insured.

Those companies that decide to invest in employee wellness often set up a Health Risk Assessment to collect all sorts of rich data regarding the health of their staff. The trick, however, is knowing how to interpret and act on the data. Companies must do the following in order to make the most of their population health data.

Collect all of the dataA true HRA goes beyond collecting the standard demographic information and biometrics, it captures data about personal medical history, lifestyle choices, habits, and willingness to change. While blood glucose levels and body mass indexes are important stats, they don’t provide enough context to drive an effective wellness strategy by themselves.

Analyze the trendsA quality wellness solution collects all that valuable data and turns it into actionable insights. Smart systems offer predictive modeling and automated data analysis to spit out a clear and accurate look at the trends. For example, it’s important to see the percentage of the population that’s eating well, exercising, or is interested in wellness overall. Every company’s employee base is different, so it’s not fair to assume that data from the U.S. Census Bureau is representative of a single company’s population.

Employee Benefit Adviser, in partnership with business intelligence data analytics firm miEdge, presents the 2016 list of the top employee benefit brokerages in the country, ranked exclusively on health and welfare revenue. Revealed in descending order, the listing is based on Form 5500 reporting data as of Aug. 31.
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Offer individualized feedbackAfter employees complete their HRAs, they should receive a snapshot of their health status plus recommendations that are solely for them. Customized wellness plans are essential to reach the entire population. It wouldn’t be wise to send smoking cessation notifications to a nonsmoker, for example or pregnancy class notifications to men or elderly women. Keep it personal.

Segmented analysis allows the administrator to send tailored messages, challenges, and incentives to a handful of individuals with similar health concerns. And because personal health is an extremely private topic and subject to HIPAA compliance, it’s important that the administrator sees only the data and nothing that identifies the employee.

Craft company-wide wellness programs that make senseWhile individualized wellness efforts are essential, there are still benefits to the promotion of general health. Population health data allows administrators to see the most prominent issues and determine the best company-wide wellness efforts to address them.

Melanoma prevention is a perfect example as it is the most common but easiest to help prevent. There were an estimated 76,000 new cases in 2016, making it the most common form of cancer in the U.S. Looking at a company’s population health data, an administrator could determine that it would be beneficial to implement a company-wide initiative to help employees take care of their skin. From learning the importance of staying out of the sun’s most harmful rays to providing sunscreen and recommending protective clothing, employers can do a lot to help keep their employees from being a part of that statistic.

Measure improvementsFinally, population health data needs to be collected and monitored regularly. If employees begin to receive the resources to improve their health and then start taking action with that information, those changes should be reflected in their data. Evolving data and real-time reporting tools serve as great motivation for employees, and help administrators calculate the return-on-investment because like any incentive, encouragement delivered in a timely manner is the most powerful.

The right wellness platform means the difference between an expensive and unhealthy workforce, and a workforce that’s thriving and also saving the company thousands on health insurance costs. Start by ensuring the population health data you’re collecting is accurate and comprehensive, then follow our suggestions and allow that data to breathe new life into your company’s physical and financial health.

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