As we’ve previously discussed, there is a rising consensus that generic wellbeing programs simply aren’t delivering their intended results, like reduced healthcare costs and increased workplace productivity. We’ve also explored how this is complicated by the fact that “Wellness” is such a broad category that we can’t conclusively say, “Wellness doesn’t deliver.” That’s like saying, “Dessert is bad for you.” Delicious and healthier desserts exist!  

We’ve also touched on the idea that combining disease management with lifestyle management for a stratified population, rather than for the entire population, increases participants’ health and provides the desired ROI. This has been proven through studies on nationally rolled out wellness programs like PepsiCo’s.

Now, let’s dive into the details of targeting a specific part of the employee population as part of a successful condition management solution.

Can you target your employees?

This idea of offering targeted condition management solutions raises a key question: is this even legal? Are you allowed to identify employees with specific conditions, like obesity or high blood pressure, and then offer only those employees a solution to address their specific conditions? In short, yes you can.

“It is permissible to design a wellness program that favors those with health conditions (benign discrimination). For example, an employer may structure a wellness program that tests cholesterol levels and provides free dietary counseling to individuals with total cholesterol about a specified value such as 200, but does not provide any other type of reward (i.e., there is no reward for having total cholesterol below the target number).”

- Designing a Compliant Wellness Program, p.52, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

Essentially, employers can design condition management programs that specifically target certain employees. The key is removing any type of reward. This is what makes personalization so important – it drives employees to better health based on their actual needs and intrinsic motivations, rather than some extrinsic reward.

Focusing on a personalized approach

Successful wellbeing programs identify and address the underlying conditions that are hindering employees from leading healthier lives. Once a stratified and eligible population have been identified, it’s necessary to ensure that individual needs are properly met.

Now, let’s take it one step further. In addition to stratifying your population so that you can deliver the right solution to the right people, you should also personalize the solution to each individual to make it even more effective.

Without that personalization, there will not be success. Your employees are unique and have different needs; one solution may not work for everyone.

Let’s say an organization has an employee with high triglycerides. A generic wellness program would likely try and put the employee on a new diet and exercise regime. What it doesn’t account for, is that she has already tried various diets. Those programs did not work because she works long hours, takes care of her kids and has no time to exercise. She also never sleeps for more than five hours each night. Because of those facts, the standard guidance of working toward 10,000 steps per day, 30 minutes of exercise, and getting seven hours of sleep is not realistic. Instead, she needs a program that is going to work with her.

This is where employers benefit from Zillion’s utilization of analytics through its Zillion Cube, which ensures that each employee continually receives personalized choice plans driving unprecedented program outcomes. Each individual receives a personalized plan and the Cube then regularly updates the program, continually refining it based on the member’s outcomes and behaviors. Combining technology, data insights, and human expertise can help individuals with making smarter personalized, healthy choices.  

It’s simple to pick ease of implementation over targeted solutions. It’s faster, and honestly, it feels good to be able to say, “We’re offering this benefit to everybody.” But consider your objective. Is your goal to offer a one-and-done benefit, or is it to offer a benefit that works? And let’s not forget that advances in technology have made implementing targeted solution easier than you might think.

That said, there’s still an elephant in the room that we haven’t addressed yet: what if you stratify your population, offer a really great program that’s personalized to just those who need it, and no one signs up? Don’t worry. We’ll cover that in our next post – stay tuned!