Wellness programs: More than a 'nice to have'


A few years ago, employee wellness was a nice-to-have program. But now, more than 50 percent of healthcare dollars are associated with lifestyle conditions, making it a must-have for today's employers. And with this must-have mentality, companies increasingly look to start or expand wellness programs.

One of those companies is Louisville, Kentucky-based Humana, which offers a wellness and rewards program provided through HumanaVitality. Thanks to the wellness program, Humana cut unscheduled absences from work by 56 percent and monthly claims costs by an average of $53 for more than 13,000 participating employees.

To learn more about the increased focus on employee wellness and how to encourage healthy behaviors, FierceHealthPayer spoke with Joe Woods (pictured right), CEO of HumanaVitality.

"It's a great focused effort to get people to understand that they can make changes, even if it's a step at a time," Woods told FierceHealthPayer in an exclusive interview.

FierceHealthPayer: How has the industry's approach to wellness evolved over the years? And where do you think wellness programs are headed?

Woods: In the past, individuals have taken a self-assessment and gotten their results, but nothing really happened. You get all this information but there's nothing there to guide you to figure out the appropriate choices to make to change the way you're living you're life, or if you're living a healthy life, how to continue down that pathway.

What's happened recently, particularly with HumanaVitality, is you not only take the health assessment to understand your current state of health, but you actually get personalized help to make the changes that you need.

I'm the perfect example of this. When I started with HumanaVitality three-plus years ago, I took the health assessment. It was a real wake-up call for me because I realized I had high cholesterol, my vitality age was older than my actual age, and I was overweight. I participated in the program and lost about 47 pounds in nine months.

It was an eye-opener for me, even someone in the industry, because I didn't know what I was doing wrong and I wasn't sure how to change what I was doing. That's what these programs offer now that wasn't there two or three years ago.