When you think of fitness trainers, your boss probably is the last thought that comes to mind. As health insurance companies shift their focus on preventative care, companies now are being forced to offer compelling health incentives to employees.
As discussed at a recent panel from the 2014 International CES, the challenge for better health initiatives isn’t due to employer ignorance but a lack of employee participation. A recent report from the Rand Corp on employee wellness found that while 50 percent of companies offer wellness programs only 20 percent participate.
Healthcare is a Dehumanizing Experience
One of the biggest problems with employee wellness programs is that while the benefits are clear, healthcare is a dehumanizing experience. Needles, long waiting room times, intimidating medical equipment and the hassles of dealing with the insurance companies are all some of the biggest pain points of the current healthcare system.
Even with the promise of living a better life or even saving money on health insurance, the sad fact is that most employees would rather risk their lives than put themselves through the stress of proactive healthcare.
The Importance of Storytelling
Thanks to wearable technologies such as the Fitbit, consumers can now gain insights into their health in between doctor visits. Even when there isn’t a problem, the Internet now allows doctors to remotely check in on key patient information allowing for more effective proactive patient care.
Even the best information is useless unless the patient actually acts on it. This is where gamification comes into play. By encouraging the user to interact with their data through games and other activities, employers can drive their employees to participate in wellness programs and be healthier. It’s vital to note that to keep employees engaged, content needs to be continuously refreshed so that the user always has an incentive to use the program.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Today consumers are able to get virtually anything they want customized, be it sneakers, their phone and many other items. When it comes to healthcare however, doctors are usually forced to work around individual patient needs. Scenarios such as this are the biggest reason why our healthcare system is broken beyond repair.
When creating a wellness program, one of the biggest considerations employers need to keep in mind is how the participants think of themselves. Health solutions need to be kept as simple as possible while still being able to suit all users. By using individual health data gathered from wearable sensors, health technology vendors can develop customized programs to ensure employees are able to work out at their own pace without getting burnt out.
Privacy Remains a Major Obstacle
One of the biggest challenges for employer wellness programs which is unlikely to change anytime soon is concerns over privacy. Even if the employer has no intentions to access sensitive health information, the thought of an employer sponsoring health programs opens the door for accusations of the employer attempting to access data, even when it is false.
The best way to overcome this issue is for employers to use the on-boarding process to educate new hires about the wellness programs and address their privacy concerns immediately.
As wearable technology continues to become more affordable, expect to see more employers shift the focus of wellness programs from traditional care (i.e. annual physicals, lab work, etc.) and instead focus on employees using technologies such as the Fitbit to participate in customized wellness programs built around their needs.
While it will be awhile for regulators to fully catch up and make sense of this trend, expect to see many employees embrace these new trends since the current shift to proactive healthcare is going to require employees across the board to improve their health or pay significant penalties. Even with the privacy risks – the simplicity and convenience of these new tools will be very attractive to most employees.