- Healthier choices, reduced risk for chronic conditions, lower healthcare costs and usage, and fewer "unhealthy days" are the results of Humana's Go365 wellness and reward program, according to the payer. The five-year study examined 10,000 participants in the company-wide program in the areas of employee health, healthcare costs and productivity.
- Humana says that "high-engaged members had lower healthcare cost increases than members with low or medium engagement" and that higher engagement is linked with fewer emergency room visits and hospital admissions.
- Humana says lifestyle risk factors also decreased, as members of the program ate healthier foods, exercised more and reported reduced stress and tobacco use. Clinical risk factors also decreased, with biometric data showing "notable" improvement in lowering risk for heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and other conditions over five years.
The success of wellness programs remains difficult to measure, but research suggests the long-term benefits could make them worthwhile for employers. Almost half of the nation's employers offer workplace health or wellness programs, according to researchers from the Gillings School of Global Public health at UNC, the Centers for Disease Control and RTI International.
In Humana's program, high-engaged members had 35% fewer emergency room visits and 30% fewer hospital admissions than low-engaged members by year five of the program. High-engaged members had 11% more preventive doctor's office visits than low-engaged members, as well as 55% fewer unhealthy days.
Though Humana researchers noted "the struggle to measure the success of wellness programs remains," they concluded organizations should expect to see value from a wellness program after three to five years.
But not all the evidence agrees with Humana's results. Aligning the findings from a one-year examination of a University of Illinoise wellness program, a study by BJ's Wholesale Club, conducted over 18 months, concluded that workplace wellness programs provide few benefits.
BJ's analysts found that workplaces where the program was offered reported better health behaviors, such as regular exercise and active weight management, but no movement in clinical measures of health, healthcare spending, healthcare utilization or absenteeism.
Some data suggests that personalization and total well-being support might be the best way to design and implement the programs. Eighty percent of employees would be motivated to be more engaged if offered personalized wellness programs combined with a variety of non-cash incentives like paid time off, according to a Welltok report.
But even if such programs have little or no direct ROI, some say the boost they can provide to recruiting and retention efforts is likely worth the cost, especially in an employee-driven market. The majority of employees (70%) in a 2019 Alight study said wellness benefits were the reason they stayed at the job. Younger workers especially valued the programs across health categories.