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Research: 70 percent of medical cost savings comes from employees using health coaches

By Cherie Buraglio, Senior Director, Product Management

The latest buzz in the world of corporate wellness has been focused primarily on technology—from sport watches and health monitors to fitness apps and sleep trackers. Companies are rightfully seeking ways to integrate these new technologies into their wellness programs, hoping to drive stronger employee participation and engagement.

Even though we’re hopeful, we know there is no surefire approach when it comes to supporting our employees’ health and wellbeing, which is comprised of physical, social, emotional, financial and environmental dimensions. And while the latest innovations can certainly help employees achieve their wellness goals, technology is only one piece of the puzzle.

In my experience, programs that marry a personalized experience with innovative technology drive higher participation, sustained engagement and better outcomes for both employees and employers.

Recent research backs that up—employees want more personalization from their wellness programs. While it may come as no surprise to learn that wellness program participants expect a personalized experience given today’s consumer landscape, employees typically prefer that their wellness personalization comes from knowledgeable “live” experts, coaches and specialists. In fact, nearly 75 percent of wellness program participants say personal touch is important in guiding their health.

Research also shows that providing opportunities for employees to connect with live experts can contribute significantly to attracting and keeping participants active in a company’s wellness program, driving significant health results and helping companies realize medical and pharmacy cost savings.

Health coaching supports greater program engagement and holistic, long-term results.

Within wellness programs, coaches can be a valuable source of credible, engaging support that help employees reach their individual goals and create a healthy vision for their lives. In the programs I’ve worked with in the past, participants choose the pace, duration and frequency of their interaction with coaches, meaning that coaches are available for check-ins, support and problem-solving when a participant needs help.

There’s also a benefit to making enrollment and coaching an in-person experience. Our own research shows that employees who enrolled in a wellness program in-person stayed in the program longer, had more coaching sessions, and were more successful in building healthy, sustainable habits. Comparing employees who work with a coach with those who work through the wellness program on their own, research also found that:

  • Employees who work with a health coach stay enrolled in their program longer than those who work through the program on their own.
  • Those who used coaches gained 70 percent less weight than those who did not.
  • Nearly 20 percent of those who used coaches lost approximately 8 pounds each year.

Survey participants who used coaches were 29 percent more likely to quit using tobacco than non-participants.

The coach-driven wellness experience ends up being a more holistic one as well. In measuring improvement of an employees’ nutrition, physical activity, sleep, stress and tobacco use, those who worked with a coach had more significant progress across every category than those who worked on their own. 

Health coaching presents more opportunities for cost savings.  

When examining how wellness programs impact medical and pharmacy costs, the 70:30 rule applies. Research shows that 70 percent of medical and pharmacy cost savings comes from just 30 percent of employees who enroll in coaching. 

What’s more, those who enrolled in coaching saved an average of $586 on medical costs per year, compared with an average savings of $261 among wellness program participants who do not participate in coaching. This translates to approximately 6 percent more cost savings reaped by those who participate in wellness coaching.

Wellness program satisfaction and employee productivity increases with health coaching in the mix.  

Research also confirms that not only do employees achieve their health goals more readily when working with a health coach, they are also more productive and satisfied with their company’s online wellness resources. After working with a health coach, 84 percent of employees reported improved productivity and 91 percent reported being satisfied with their employer’s online health and wellness-related resources, information and tools.

Employees’ desire for live, personalized expertise and coaching remains as strong as ever. Health coaches can provide the encouragement, passion, structure and personalization that employees are seeking in their employer’s wellness offering. And, just as importantly, for employers looking to improve their wellness program participation, health care savings, and employee satisfaction, research shows that health coaches make significant contributions to these ends and should be considered a critical element in reaching wellness program goals.

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About the author: 

As Executive Director, Product Innovation, Cherie is charged with driving our product portfolio strategy. With nearly 25 years of experience in public health and the wellness industry, she has worked closely with industry thought leaders and is experienced in assessment development, scoring algorithms, messaging, health management, coaching and reporting tool design. Cherie is a military veteran with degrees in biology, community health education and a master’s degree in adult education.

 

Posted on February 07, 2017 in Coaching