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June 2016

UnitedHealthcare Shapes the Future of Workplace Wellness Programs

Stock Photo
Stock Photo

June is National Employee Wellbeing Month – an opportunity for companies in Texas to implement, evaluate and refine their employee wellness programs. An estimated 70 percent of employers already offer wellness programs, and 8 percent more plan to do so during the next year, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Employers are investing in wellness programs because these initiatives can support their employees’ desire to improve their health and create a happier, healthier workforce while reducing costs for employees and the company.

Some of these wellness programs give employees wearable devices at no additional charge, helping provide a more accurate and comprehensive summary of the user’s daily activity, sleep patterns and other health markers. Fitness trackers – usually small devices worn around the wrist or clipped onto clothing – give users a snapshot of actual physical activity.

Employers nationwide are expected to incorporate more than 13 million fitness tracking devices into their wellness programs by 2018, according to technology consultancy Endeavors Partners. That’s important, considering a study published in Science & Medicine showed people tend to overestimate how much exercise they get each week by more than 50 minutes, and they underestimate sedentary time by more than two hours. People who use wearable devices are better able to monitor and hold themselves accountable for their physical activity.

Here are five tips for employers to help improve and enhance wellness programs:

  • Offer Incentives: More employees may participate in wellness programs when companies offer incentives, which can include gift cards, lower health insurance premiums, cash bonuses, and discounts on various health products and services. One such unique program offered by UnitedHealthcare, called Motion, enables employees to earn up to $1,095 per year to pay for out-of-pocket health care costs by meeting specific daily walking goals.
  • Gather Biometric Data: Biometric screenings may give employees a better snapshot of their current health, including weight, body mass index and blood glucose, so offering them onsite at the workplace and at health fairs may encourage more employees to participate. More advanced programs can include connected devices, such as a Bluetooth-enabled wireless scale, blood pressure monitor or thermometer, which can transmit the participant’s vital signs to a case management nurse or wellness coach.
  • Keep Data Secure: Companies that want to incorporate fitness trackers and other connected devices should first ensure the health plan will keep private data secure. This includes using the latest encryption technology, including medical-grade connectivity for seamless and secure data transmission. Management should never have access to individual employee data; instead, the health plan should report aggregate data to help the company assess the value of its wellness program.
  • Generate Support: Set up a wellness committee with “wellness champions,” selecting leaders within the organization who are respected by their peers and can motivate others. Use email, promotional flyers and in-person meetings to communicate the goals of the program. Messages from executives will demonstrate leadership support and may improve participation.
  • Track Results: Evaluate the success of the wellness program each year, taking note of employee engagement and medical costs. While engagement can vary, some companies have achieved participation rates of more than 85 percent.   

Following these tips, including the adoption of new technologies such as fitness trackers, may help employers and employees maximize the benefit they get out of employer-sponsored wellness programs – and improve the health of the company and its workforce.

UnitedHealthcare Honors Fort Bend ISD Project SEARCH Graduates

Project SEARCH graduates pose with (back, left) Don Langer, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Texas, Dr. Charles Dupre, Fort Bend ISD Superintendent, and Rep. Rick Miller (TX-26) (far right).
Project SEARCH graduates pose with (back, left) Don Langer, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Texas, Dr. Charles Dupre, Fort Bend ISD Superintendent, and Rep. Rick Miller (TX-26) (far right).

UnitedHealthcare recently held its annual Project SEARCH graduation ceremony. Families, teachers and UnitedHealthcare leaders recognized seven Fort Bend Independent School District students living with disabilities who have completed an internship with UHC’s Sugar Land office.

These students worked as interns, shadowing UHC employees and gaining confidence, pride and office skills. The program’s goal is to help young adults make a successful transition from school to productive adult life through employment training and learning independent living skills.

Project SEARCH was established 20 years ago by Erin Riegle, Director of the Emergency Department at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. It has since grown to include more than 300 sites in the U.S. and around the world, helping thousands of people living with disabilities to pursue fulfilling careers.

Congratulations, 2016 graduates!

Project SEARCH intern Bryan Xu receives his graduation certificate from Angela Trahan, Chief Operations Officer, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Texas (left), and Project SEARCH teacher Leah Davis.
Project SEARCH intern Bryan Xu receives his graduation certificate from Angela Trahan, Chief Operations Officer, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Texas (left), and Project SEARCH teacher Leah Davis.
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