Employers Increase Use Of Technology To Improve Employee Health Engagement

Employers are increasingly committed to using new technologies to promote health engagement and achieve desired employee behavior changes, according to recent research from Buck Consultants and WorldatWork. The study, Emerging Technology in Health Engagement, examined the current use and future potential for three key technologies: gamification (the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context in order to engage users and solve problems); mobile applications; and social media.

Among the three solutions studied, gamification is the most prevalent (62 percent) 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 percent of organizations, but ranks highest in concerns over privacy of personal information. Mobile technology is the least implemented (36 percent) but leads the pack as the highest priority for future adoption or expansion (40 percent).

The survey also found that, while 73 percent 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 percent measure ROI on mobile apps and social media initiatives. Just 21 percent 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, senior benefits practice leader at 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 percent for gamification, 73 percent for mobile technology, and 68 percent 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 percent of respondents said they blocked some or all social networking or social media websites from their organization’s computers.

“Today’s health care benefits require individuals to absorb an increasing share of expanding health care costs,” said Scot Marcotte, managing director of talent and HR solutions at Buck. “Technology offers unprecedented ways for employers to motivate and enable employees to become more effective health care consumers. But employers need to better understand what drives their workers to make the desired changes.”

The survey contains responses from 360 large employers. For more information, visit http://www.worldatwork.org.

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