No two populations are identical. If you have designed wellness programs for multiple organizations in the past, you’ve likely seen notable differences in demographics, health needs, and lifestyle factors. You know that your client’s population isn’t cookie-cutter. You probably understand that your solutions shouldn’t be cookie cutter either. You should design wellness programs that are custom-tailored towards each unique population. 

What far too many wellness professionals do is craft a solution once and forget about it. They might revisit their population annually to see if anything has changed, but they’re not monitoring in between to see how their population has shifted over time. 

Keep in mind that your population isn’t static; there are likely new people added and removed frequently. Furthermore, if your wellness programs are working effectively, there are likely members of your population who are moving from high-risk to low-risk stratifications for various ailments. Your population is constantly changing, adjusting, and pivoting, and your wellness program should be equipped to handle that. This means actively monitoring the efficacy of your wellness initiatives every month. Only through this analytical lens can you truly see what’s necessary to craft wellness initiatives that can affect your population.

Wellness initiatives should be unique and diverse

Marketing 101 teaches us about target audiences. Basically, there is a group of consumers that is most likely to respond to your offer. You should target your message specifically to them, as opposed to a more generic message that could appeal to anyone. Wellness can be viewed through a similar lens. In order to reach members and drive a meaningful impact, we must structure our program to match their needs and behaviors. Today’s leading wellness programs have taken the critical first step of understanding their population, before initiating any well-being activities

In the early days, wellness programs were spread across the population with hopes of sticking with the people who needed the engagement the most. For the rest of the population, this homogenous messaging and outreach were unnecessary noise. And, it arguably eroded the value of the wellness program: The next time a communication was needed to reach that person, they wrote it off as irrelevant. 

Fortunately, targeting engagement and building relevance has never been easier. With data that’s already available, you can build a wellness program that sends the right message to the right people at the right time.

Identifying opportunities in your data

As more data and analytics tools come on the market to address every function of business, companies are leaning on data-driven decision making more than ever before. Thankfully, the wellness industry is following suit. In the past, the insights needed to craft a truly personalized wellness program was hidden in binders full of data. Today, however, technology is disrupting those dusty binders and augmenting the expertise of HR professionals, brokers, and wellness vendors to help them more effectively target their messaging. 

So, how can you identify the opportunities that already exist in health data

First and foremost, you need to get a unified view of all the data. This can be extremely difficult without leveraging a health analytics tool, but it’s arguably the most important part of the entire process. You need a bird’s eye view of the data in order to see if anything in particular stands out. This means medical and pharmacy claims, biometric data, payroll data, and the like, all in one place. 

Next, you need to segment and filter to identify the unique cohorts within your population. These filters are unique to your organization and can be based on either demographic or behavioral attributes. For example, you might create a cohort to measure the segment of the employee population that is at a particular worksite or location. This type of analysis can not only help isolate key cost drivers, but also help you pinpoint where to focus future efforts. For example, is our biggest driver of cost the warehouse in Fargo, or is it the headquarters in Dallas? You can similarly create cohorts around behavior. How did the group that participated in the disease management or health coaching program fare against non-participants? 

Finally, now that you know the “target markets” that you’re addressing, you need to do some research into some of the following questions: 

  • What motivates these cohorts to improve their health and wellness?

  • How do these cohorts like to be communicated with? How do they differ from one another in preferred communication channels? How are they similar?

  • What types of initiatives are these cohorts most likely to engage with? Are there any initiatives that have broad appeal?

  • What types of incentives might make sense for these cohorts, given their demographic information?

Once you’ve done this homework, you’re ready to craft your wellness program around your insights.

5 ways to craft wellness around data insights

So, let’s recap. At this point, you’ve compiled all of the health data at your disposal. You’ve zoomed out and viewed this data from a bird’s eye view, and you’ve zoomed in to view this data at a cohort-level view. You also thought about how to create programs and communicate them in ways that are tailored to your specific cohorts. Now, let’s craft a program around these insights. Here are five ways you can craft wellness programs around these specific insights:

 1.    Share these insights with all of your partners: Your vendors and wellness partners could have ideas from other clients or industries that you may not consider. Now that you have specific data on segments of your population, your vendors will likely have some ideas as to how you can craft more customized plans based on what they’ve seen work with similar groups.

2.    Create strategic goals for each cohort: Now that you see the employee population segmented into its component parts, you’re likely to notice that your overarching goals may be misaligned for some cohorts. Instead of painting in broad strokes, try to set strategic goals for each individual cohort and craft plans to accomplish these more tailored objectives.

3.    Create a customized messaging plan for each cohort: In addition to custom programming and incentives, you should create custom messaging for each cohort. The message that resonates with a 25-year-old employee may not resonate with a 55-year-old employee. Create internal messaging plans with that in mind.

4.    Look outside the industry for creative solutions: Many of your best ideas may come from outside the wellness space altogether. If you’re looking for programming that will be compelling to a particular demographic, one of the best places to look is the programming that demographic voluntarily seeks out. What types of shows do they attend? What types of activities do they like to participate in? What types of restaurants do they go to?

5.    Measure programs against their objectives: Finally, now that you have a detailed, focused view of your wellness initiatives, it can be useful to measure differently. Instead of looking at all of your programming and determining success or failure compared to the mean, it might make more sense to measure success or failure within a given cohort. After all, we all know that not all interventions are created equally, and some people are more receptive to wellness initiatives than others.

Key takeaways:

This article presents a lot of information. Instead of taking over the world all at once, try to achieve a few things to get program moving in the right direction.

For brokers:

  • Ensure you have all the data your clients could need — We recommend looking into a health analytics tool. It makes your life easier, your clients’ lives easier, and both parties more effective. If you already have one, great! You can mark this box “done.”

  • Perform a “recommendations audit” — For every recommendation you give your clients, you should be able to support the “why” behind the recommendation. Ideally, your recommendations will include implementation and communication plans for different segments of the population.

  • Be brave and willing to update as you go — The data will change; so should your recommendations. Have a plan in place, whether it’s driven within your agency or with an outside partner, to know how to communicate to specific segments.

  • Compile your data in one place — This is the most important part of the process. Ideally, you should have an employer-facing solution that you and your broker can use together.

  • Identify a few key trends in your data — Don’t overthink it; this doesn’t need to be overly complicated. For today, just try to evaluate a couple trends in the data. Evaluate cost drivers and health status in your population by different segments (i.e., by work site, blue/gray/white collar, clinic cohort participation, etc.). See if there are any key differences.

  • Tell vendors your plans — You want to work hand-in-hand with your vendors and consultants to craft a data-driven strategy. They will likely have recommendations, so the more transparent you can be with them, the better!

For employers:

In the coming years, the health and wellness industry will become far more outcome-driven. This will mean far more targeted initiatives, detailed reporting, and predictive analytics. You may not have all of the tools in your arsenal today to perfectly track your wellness initiatives, but you can take giant steps in the right direction if you’re simply willing to look.