Although employers are relying on prevention-based employee health benefits to improve work force health and reduce health care costs, there’s still an awareness gap that is affecting that strategy’s success, according to a survey released today by Virgin HealthMiles.
In fact, 83 percent of respondents say they provide employee health and wellness benefits, and 81 percent of respondents report that cutting health care costs is a primary priority. But there’s a gap between employers’ perceptions of employee awareness and understanding of these benefits, and what employees say.
According to the survey, more than half of employers say employees possess a good understanding of their available health and wellness benefits and how they can participate; however, only 41 percent of participating employees say they had a good awareness of these programs, and fewer than 50 percent say they know how to participate.
“If employees aren’t aware of their employers’ programs and how to participate, health behaviors won’t change,” says Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin HealthMiles. “This is a traditional problem with how employee health and wellness has historically been done. If organizations don’t get this right, they won’t get the business impact they seek from their employee health investments.”
“Progressive employers know employee health and wellness benefits are vital in helping to lower health care costs and retain top talent,” says Tom Abshire, senior vice president of products and marketing of Virgin HealthMiles.“Our research shows most employees want to engage. But employers really need to focus on how to promote and manage these programs and how to get the data they need from their providers, so they can make actionable decisions that improve their employee health strategies.”
The survey also finds that more than 89 percent of respondents say an employer’s range of health and wellness benefits are either very or somewhat important when it comes to their choice of employer. Participating employers also note that top employee health benefits include smoking cessation, health reimbursement accounts and physical activity programs. Still, participating employees say they are unaware of whether their employers offered particular programs.
Only 9 percent of responding employers have implemented similar consumer-driven communication channels in an effort to encourage their employee health programs. Among the top communications methods are periodic emails, intranets and websites, on-site posters and signage, newsletters and company publications, and health fairs and on-site events.
Approximately 39 percent of respondents align incentives for a combination of program participation and outcomes, and 26 percent of respondents align incentives for program participation only. Only 2 percent of respondents do so for strictly outcomes only.
Based on the survey, only 36 percent of participating employers say they receive the neceesary information for making strategic, actionable decisions regarding their strategies, and only 13 percent say they are very satisfied with their providers’ when it comes to measuring the impact of their investments. Another 16 percent of participating employers report feeling very satisfied when it comes to the impact of helping employees change behaviors.