Incentives, Communication Increase Wellness Program ROI

September 6, 2012 ( Most employers that have analyzed the financial impacts of their wellness programs have found $1 to $3 decreases in their overall health care costs for every dollar spent.

According to the report by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP), titled “A Closer Look: Wellness ROI,” wellness program incentives such as insurance premium reductions and communications tools like web links and social networks are used more by organizations that are achieving positive returns on their wellness investment.  

“While only 19% of our members are analyzing the financial data of their wellness programs, the data gives us insights regarding initiatives in their programs that are successful, and may provide a blueprint for other organizations in developing or improving their own wellness campaigns,” said Michael Wilson, IFEBP CEO. The Foundation divided the respondents of the survey into two groups, the ROI group and the non-ROI group, based on whether they measured and achieved positive returns.   

Insurance premium reductions for participation in wellness programs accounted for the biggest difference between the two groups, with 49% of the ROI group providing this incentive as opposed to just 29% of the non-ROI group. Other popular incentives included gift cards and non-cash rewards/prizes/raffles. Those in the ROI group were also more likely than their counterparts to attach incentives to specific types of initiatives such as health screenings (65% vs. 43%), health risk assessments (74% vs. 51%) and health care coaches/advocates (43% vs. 22%). Participation among members of organizations in the ROI group increased dramatically when incentives were tied to health screenings and health risk assessments.

Communication was one of the most frequently cited reasons for achieving positive ROI given by organizations in the open-ended response section of the survey. Organizations experiencing ROI were more likely than the non-ROI group to provide most types of wellness information and electronic communications such as web links (43% vs. 32%), social networks (18% vs. 9%) and wellness seminars and speakers (65% vs. 45%).

The survey, completed by members of the International Foundation, found that nearly 74% of organizations experiencing ROI are more likely to have a broader value-based health care strategy that offers initiatives such as health screenings, stress management programs, health risk assessments and fitness and nutrition programs, compared to 45% of the non-ROI group.