Preventive care is crucial to long-term health and can help reduce employees’ need for medical services provided by their employer-sponsored health plans or Occupational Medicine (OccMed) clinics.
Even before the pandemic, employees used few – if any – employer-sponsored medical services each year.1 As a result, employers saw a reduction in claims in 2020 and 2021 despite paying for employee healthcare coverage that included preventive care.2
Employers and OccMed clinics already know that providing nutritional support, opportunities for exercise and movement, smoking cessation programs, and vaccine clinics can theoretically help prevent health incidents. But these programs need to be tailored to the workplace.
Since it’s in the best interests of employers and the OccMed clinics they contract with to encourage preventive care, we’ve come up with some strategies that go beyond the checklist and help workers take advantage of employer-sponsored programs both in and outside the workplace.
Get Employee Buy-In Before Implementing New Health Initiatives
Whether companies offer new healthy food options in their cafeterias, subsidize gym memberships, sponsor smoking cessation programs, or update on-site OccMed policies, it’s crucial to ensure employees understand the benefits of these interventions. Ideally, employees will be part of the decision-making process to begin with to ensure preventive health and wellness initiatives are a good fit.
For example, trying to improve nutrition by removing vending machines and/or changing on-site snacks from chips to fruit is likely to fail if employees haven’t had a chance to weigh in on what food they’re eager to see.3 And if gym subscriptions go unused even when people pay for them (as 67% do), they probably won’t be any more popular when they’re free.4
In other words, offering health benefits can be futile unless they provide employees with the support they want, need, and understand.5 For example, preventive health programs for fitness and nutrition are most successful when they’re:
- Designed according to employee interests in addition to wellbeing.
- Implemented in a way that makes them accessible.
- Evaluated based on criteria such as health scores as well as employee satisfaction..6
Educate Employees on Preventive Healthcare Benefits
Most employees receive a compilation of all of their health benefits in a thick packet each year. But these are rarely distilled into an easy-to-understand format that makes workers confident about scheduling preventive care appointments. Over half of Americans are confused by their health insurance plans, including the types of preventive care they cover.7
Workday education seminars that don’t require employees to use their personal time to attend are a great way to empower employees to use their health benefits.8 These educational offerings may be most helpful when they:
- Don’t simply reiterate what’s in the insurance packet.
- Highlight undervalued and underused preventive health benefits (such as alerting people to the benefits provided for employees and their families under the Affordable Care Act).
- Provide time for a Q&A on benefits.
- Inform employees of OccMed offerings that help with common workplace injuries like ergonomic issues.
- Highlight the care available for mental health issues, such as burnout. 9 (According to a 2021 Gartner survey, 87% of employees have access to mental health offerings, but only 23% use them.10)
Address Privacy Concerns
Workers are more privacy-savvy than ever. Apps and wearable devices that track activity, sleep, nutrition, BMI, and blood pressure, employee-sponsored genetic testing, and reproductive health tracking are now raising eyebrows among workers who worry about their employers having access to this information.11
These programs often use personal information to reward workers, but downsides include:
- The risk of singling people out who cannot meet increasingly arbitrary health guidelines (like BMI).
- Excluding disabled workers.
- Rewarding only those employees with lifestyles that allow them free time to meal plan or spend time at the gym.
- Exposing private employee information to co-workers or losing it in a data leak.
Creating preventive health plans and perks that ensure that all employees can participate, reducing financial incentives for the non-disabled, and deliberately safeguarding private information (for example, hiring outside vendors to manage such information) may allow companies to ease workers’ concerns.
Reassess Traditional Knowledge to Improve Occupational and Overall Employee Health
When employees use workplace wellness programs for preventive care, their healthcare costs typically decrease.12 As a result, employers and their OccMed clinics are focusing more on wellbeing, preventive care, and occupational health for both in-person and remote employees.
Rather than implementing generic programs that may not fit every industry or set of employees, organizations will likely see increased engagement and long-term savings by personalizing their programs, securing employee buy-in, and ensuring workers know what resources are available to them. The good news is that 56% of U.S. workers with employer-sponsored health benefits said that good health coverage encourages them to stay at their current job.13
Note: Net Health makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any of the information presented herein. All information is provided on an as-is basis. It is the viewer’s responsibility to verify any and all information presented herein.
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1 McKinsey & Co, “Innovating Employee Health: Time to Break the Mold?” September 10, 2021.
2 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “As Employees Catch Up on Their Delayed Health Care Needs, Claims Could Surge,” April 12, 2021.
3 Los Angeles Times, “Healthful Vending Machines are Increasing, But Do They Help?” September 26, 2011.
4 Exercise.com, “What Percentage of Gym Memberships Go Unused?” July 19, 2021.
5 Oven-Ready HR, “It’s Going To Take More Than A Fruit Bowl!” Accessed September 12, 2022.
6 Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Engaging Employees in Their Health and Wellness,” August 24, 2008.
7 Bend Financial Inc., “How Preventive Care Helps You Save Even More with an HDHP and HSA,” April 20, 2022.
8 Harvard Business Review, “How to Get Employees to (Actually) Participate in Well-Being Programs,” October 5, 2021.
9 American Psychological Association, “Develop Programs and Policies That Support Employee Mental Health,” June 2, 2022.
10 Gartner, “Make Way for a More Human-Centric Employee Value Proposition,” May 13, 2021.
11 Consumer Reports, “Are Workplace Wellness Programs a Privacy Problem?” January 16, 2020.
12 The Quarterly Journal of Economics, “What do Workplace Wellness Programs do? Evidence from the Illinois Workplace Wellness Study,” August 16, 2019.
13 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “Employees Are More Likely to Stay If They Like Their Health Plan,” February 18, 2018.