Table of Experts: The Role of Technology in Workplace Wellness

It’s no mystery that technology advances continue to affect and change nearly all aspects of our lives – and the vital area of our personal health is no exception. But as workplace wellness programs grow and as businesses consider new ways to engage employees, drive healthier individual outcomes and address rising healthcare costs, a new discussion has evolved: What is the proper role of technology in workplace wellness?

  • How can advances in analytics and behavioral science be applied to workplace wellness?
  • If all health is personal, how can technology work seamlessly with the human component of a successful workplace wellness program from employee engagement to health coaching to personal action — and what’s next?
  • How should the next generation of technology advances be considered and implemented in workplace wellness?

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Wellness Works Hub will be discussing these question and more over the next two days with a panel from Interactive Health, the leading provider of workplace wellness solutions and Fuzzy Math, an industry-leading user experience design, strategy and innovation firm that has partnered with Interactive Health to enhance their member website:

When most of us consider technology and workplace wellness, we think about fitness trackers or apps or other devices. How do you think about it?

Tim Hardy: The main goal of technology is to enable individuals to understand their health and provide them with the tools to take action with their health information. Apps and devices can clearly play a part, and every individual has their own taste in the apps or the devices they might use or not use. As a wellness provider, we want to provide individuals the tools to use, or the option to integrate the different devices or apps that they may currently be using, taking it a step further.

Jane Ruppert: I think that people interact with technology in different ways when it comes to wellness programs. Technology can be used as a tool to affect behavior change. When a program provides a technology vehicle, like a website that uses behavioral science, it can foster intrinsic motivation and skill building that can amplify the program and render better, measurable health outcomes.

As we consider the behavioral science component of technology, how should we think about the connection between user design and the individual, and how does it tie back to workplace wellness?

Mark Baldino: The way we approach design is really as a mechanism to better understand users of technology, applications and services, and getting to the core of who those users are as humans. Our approach is really about discovering some of the elementary needs of users and how it can translate into an effective experience for them. It requires a deep sort of ethnographic understanding of who they are and what their goals and drivers are, and then trying to translate that into an experience that’s going to meet them where they are, fulfill their needs and accelerate the experience.

Isaac Steiner: To build on that, when we began work with Interactive Health on their member website, we tried to embed ourselves into the process to understand the intricacies of the wellness space through the lens of behavioral science. That sounds like a really cold, dry term but essentially it has to do with motivation–the ability to find the right triggers that help people make decisions that relate to their health.

We wanted to help those in the wellness program reach the health outcome they desire using technology that incorporates behavioral science. We tried to understand how Interactive Health is currently doing this through their member website so that we could assist them in creating the right triggers at the right time to positively affect the member’s health outcome.

If the objective of most healthcare technologies is to enable individuals to understand and take action regarding their health, how can technology help individuals take action and more specifically, how can that help change health outcomes?

Tim: Integration of the various health information that an individual may have from their fitness trackers, health evaluations and assessments they participate in – and making that available, accessible and understandable to them is key. Using technology to integrate all that information and present it to the individual in a way that’s personalized better enables someone to understand where they’re at with their health and what actions they may take to stay healthy or get healthier. This personalized presentation of health is extremely important.

How do you effectively use technology to help drive program engagement and better health outcomes?

Jane: Our IT and Health Management departments were married in an effort to really understand how members interact with our program and how can technology–or, more specifically our member website—can be the catalyst that promotes engagement and ultimately health outcomes. Because people come from different backgrounds including a variety of beliefs, values, attitudes, cultures and demographics, we looked at all these factors and considered how they affect behaviors.

Through studying our own data, we learned more about how we could improve the experience right from the beginning – at the individual’s decision to participate in our program.  Our goal was to identify the key decision points, or what we like to call “wow” moments, within the program where we can have the most impact and leverage those moments to encourage individuals to take action so that ultimately, they improve their health outcomes.

With an audience that is so diverse and with a topic like wellness and health that is so personalized, how did you think about website design and a user experience that would offer the required flexibility to meet needs at a personal level?

Mark: I think there are two components here. One is, you do want a personalized experience for people, and that is a general best practice that we try to follow in the design world. We wanted to meet the user where they are. It not only increases their comfort level, but also increases the effectiveness of an application. The second part is that we were also designing systems here, so we needed to have a general set of core components that are shared across multiple user types. This is part of our processes – not just user design, but user-centered design–or even human-centered design, meaning really focusing on the human elements of the experience which require a common set of tools. Then the personalized aspect came from understanding the goals that differentiate different users.

We applied what is called “goal directed design,” which means differentiating users by different goals around their health and wellness. These could be short or long term. This approach enabled us to provide an experience that is common at some level for all humans but is differentiated and personalized based on the specific goals of various users. For example, if a member has a specific disease state or condition, they’re probably going to have different goals than somebody who might be trying to lose weight.

Isaac: Every person has their own relationship to the technology they’re using. Ultimately the relationship should help harmonize with the goal that they have from a wellness perspective.

The tool or platform should provide information to the user that is easy to understand and relevant to them. Then, for a user who might be interested in engaging with the tool, it should use the right tone of voice and the right language.

What we really tried to do was humanize the platform by asking ourselves questions like: What is presented to them at any given time? Have we given the user too much information at once? Are they able to understand what’s presented? What do you expect to be doing on the screen and what do you think of your next action? That was the big challenge, but it was an exciting one and especially relevant to health and wellness.

Click here to read Part II: Table of Experts — The Role of Technology in Workplace Wellness, Part II