Human Resources and Benefits

Measuring ROI for Wellness Programs and Advanced Wellness Initiatives

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You can achieve a positive return on investment with your wellness program by setting clear goals and demanding results.  In order to do this, you will need to start with clear data regarding the health of your employee population.  Analyze your group’s illnesses, patterns, and health problems and identify the areas that need improvement.  Then set wellness program goals based on these issues.

  • Decrease in unplanned absences
  • Decrease in number of
  • emergency room visits
  • Decrease in claims costs
  • for heart disease
  • Increase in number of employees participating in a weight or diabetes self-management course

Once you have identified the health problems that are specific to your employees, design your wellness program to target these specific issues.  With this targeted approach, you will see a change in the health costs related to these problems and ultimately a positive return on investment for the program.



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  • About 40 percent of all deaths in the U.S. are premature and are attributed to unhealthy lifestyle behaviors and habits (i.e. inadequate exercise, poor diet, use of tobacco, and misuse of alcohol and drugs.)
  • Individuals who live a healthy lifestyle typically live about six to nine years longer than those who don’t.
  • Studies have found that workplace wellness programs that focus on helping employees make lifestyle changes are effective in reducing health costs and absenteeism.



ROI, wellness, wellness programs, healthy, employees,

Having healthy employees means lower health care costs for employers and business owners.  An employee wellness program can help improve the health of your employees; however, to be effective, it must motivate employees to change their habits and lifestyles.  The following are a few suggestions for implementing advanced wellness initiatives to secure long-term health results. 

Personalized and Health-Related Incentives

Incentives should be tailored to fit the person and should motivate individuals to make long-term lifestyle changes.  Cash is a common incentive used in wellness programs; however, it doesn’t necessarily drive long-term engagement in a healthy lifestyle.  A more effective strategy would include a combination of elements:

  • Encourage employees to set attainable goals (i.e. reducing body mass index (BMI) by 10 to 15 percent in one year).
  • Provide support for reaching goals (i.e. free access to a weight management plan such as Weight Watchers).
  • Provide rewards and recognition when goals have been achieved.

The goal is to inspire behavior changes by providing tools and support that effectively help an employee reach attainable goals.

Health Risk Management

Historically, many wellness programs have been based on the idea that providing information on unhealthy behaviors to employees (via newsletters or websites) would motivate them to make changes and improvements to their lifestyles for better health.  However, information alone is not enough to make a difference.

The concept of employee health risk management goes beyond simply providing information.  It actually helps employees manage their health risks.  A wellness program centered on this idea will enable employers to identify the risks that are driving their health care expenses and devote attention to minimizing those risks.

Employee health risk management utilizes health risk assessments to identify risks that could contribute to poor employee health and higher health care costs.  It also utilizes biometric health screenings for early prevention of some health risks.  Health risk management ties consequences to actions.  For example, employees who join a gym and use it at least three times per week might be offered reduced health insurance premiums, or an annual bonus could be given to employees who agree to regular cholesterol and blood pressure screenings.

Spending with a Purpose

The cap on wellness incentives is currently 20 percent of an employee’s total health insurance premium cost.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) increases this cap to 30 percent by 2014 (and to 50 percent for tobacco cessation wellness programs).  With increasing funds being driven towards wellness programs, it is important to make sure those funds are spent with the purpose of improving employee health in the long run.  This will help improve the return on investment of your wellness program.

By incorporating goal-driven incentives, support for reaching goals, and health risk management techniques, your wellness program will yield a healthier workforce and show improved return on investment.


The coverages discussed herein are for illustrative purposes only.  The terms and conditions of your specific policy may differ from those described.

Please consult the provisions of your policy for the terms, conditions, and exclusions that apply to your coverage.

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