Employers Exploring Technology for Health Engagement

March 26, 2013 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Employers are committed to using new technologies to promote health engagement and achieve desired employee behavior changes, new research indicates.

Buck Consultants and WorldatWork’s study, “Emerging Technology in Health Engagement,” finds gamification (i.e., putting in a game-like context) is the most prevalent technology used by employers (62%) and ranks highest in employers’ perception of effectiveness. Thirty-one percent likely will adopt one or more new gamification elements in the coming year.   

Social networking is used in some fashion by 50% of organizations, but ranks highest in concerns over privacy of personal information. Mobile technology is the least implemented (36%) but leads the pack as the highest priority for future adoption or expansion (40%).

The survey also found, while 73% of responding organizations have a health engagement strategy in place, measurement of communication effectiveness and return on investment (ROI) is lacking.

Nearly half of all respondents believe mobile technology will be the most frequently adopted technology by employers during the next two years, yet only 11% measure ROI on mobile apps and social media initiatives. Just 21% measure ROI on gamification technologies.

"The lack of measurement is due, in part, to the fact that many companies are using third parties, such as health insurers and wellness program vendors, to handle various aspects of their wellness programs," said Lenny Sanicola, CBP, senior benefits practice leader, WorldatWork. "These companies should direct their vendors to better engage employees and to collaborate on measuring effectiveness."

By far the greatest barrier preventing organizations from using these new technologies is competition from higher-priority issues in their budgets (71% for gamification, 73% for mobile technology and 68% for social networking). Lack of support from senior management and the absence of a technique for measuring effectiveness were also identified as barriers across all categories. In addition, 43% of respondents said they blocked some or all social networking or social media websites from their organization's computers.

More than 360 employers participated in the survey, conducted jointly by Buck and WorldatWork in the fall of 2012. More than half of the respondents were multinational organizations. The median employer size was 2,500 employees, but 11% had a workforce in excess of 100,000.