Engaging with employees can be difficult, and the routine, repetitive manner of barraging workers with nagging emails doesn’t quite seem to do the trick. But some employers are taking different tactics, such as text messaging, to enhance employee-employer engagement.

Health Net, a California-based health benefit administrator, has recently took on the initiative of using text messages to entice employee to get annual flu shots.

As Louba Aaronson, senior quality improvement Specialist at Health Net, points out, text messaging offers several valuable assets to an employer, including the potential to reach a large number of members in a cost effective manner.

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The purpose of the program, she said Tuesday in Washington, D.C., was to improve the influenza vaccine rates of its employees as well as to educate members on appropriate use of antibiotics – a problem which, according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, causes roughly 2 million antibiotic-resistant infections a year, leading to 23,000 deaths.

Aaronson says the emails containing informational messages alongside an invitation to enroll in the text messaging program were sent to employees. She says the invitation was for a 10-week text messaging campaign that would provide 15 topics related to flu and antibiotic use.

Results were mixed, with a quarter of the participants showing interest in continued education, but only 1% of employees actually enrolling in the program. She notes that a majority of 18-49 year olds were a bit more selective to enrolling in text messaging programs – with 60% of the interested participants showing some concern because it was a text messaging program.

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Still, Aaronson says, while a continued use of multiple platforms will be used to better engage with employees – some interest has been shown to use a company app which provides rich media alongside push notifications that won’t impede on cellular text messaging plans.

Another campaign is in the works she said, with further research needed on better targeting populations and different health topics to consider. 

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