Technology Can Help ‘Health Risk Factor Reduction’ in Workplace Wellness: Study

The question of how to integrate technology into a well-run workplace wellness plan is highly significant for any company or employer to consider.

A study published by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and titled “The Association of Technology in a Workplace Wellness Program With Health Risk Factor Reduction” provides some important insights.

As background, the study states: “By embracing a prevention and health promotion strategy, employers have the capability and expertise to meet the challenges of creating a more resilient, healthier workforce and improving their bottom line.”

The authors looked at the levels of engagement that could be achieved via an IT solution that “leverages social cognitive concepts such as efficacy building and self- regulatory mechanisms like goal setting and self-monitoring, which facilitate health behavior change. This Web-based prevention plan allows individual users to complete a health risk appraisal (HRA), biometric reporting, and laboratory testing to develop a customized prevention plan. The plan provides users with knowledge of their health risks as well as suggestions to reduce those risks. In addition, each user is provided a suite of support tools, recommended risk- reduction activities, and information that allows them to translate knowledge into action.”

More detail: “Users were able to complete an HRA, virtual coaching, live coaching, or social challenges to reduce their risks and were able to determine for themselves what level of engagement they preferred. All coaching programs were structured using risk-based educational modules. Live coaches completed these modules telephonically, while virtual coaching was completed using the same content, through self-directed online programs. Both coaching interventions used recommended action programs related to the risks identified from the risk appraisal, laboratory testing, and biometric screening. They were focused on identification of barriers, goal setting, and self- monitoring activities aimed at increasing self-efficacy. Live coaches used motivational interviewing as a method for engaging members in the coaching process, which was the only significant difference from the virtual coaching intervention.”

The results were impressive:

  • “The dramatic population health risk reductions in [the] 7804 individuals who participated in their personalized prevention plans for 2 years showed that 23% of that population significantly (P < 0.0001) reduced their health risks.”
  • “In following the transitions of risk across the total population study group, those at low risk moved from 60% at baseline to 71% at year 2; those at medium risk moved from 29% at baseline to 23% at year 2; and those at high risk moved from 11% at baseline to 6% at year 2. Also, of those individuals who started in a high risk category at baseline, 46% moved down to medium risk and 19% moved down to low risk category.”
  • “Equally impressive is the number and percentage of individuals remaining low risk. Getting a population transition to low risk and then helping them re- main at low risk will essentially eliminate the impact of risk factors on costs and can lead to zero trends.”

Conclusion: “This study provides strong evidence that an innovative personalized prevention intervention with engaging technology and interactive Web-based tools, as well as high-touch outreach by health coaches on a limited, as needed basis, can reduce health risks by engaging individuals to be more proactive about their health. Furthermore, this study yields more evidence for the business case that prevention is an investment to be leveraged rather than a cost to be justified.”