How Colorado strives to be the healthiest state in the nation

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Between the mountains and parks, Colorado residents have no shortage of ways to stay fit. But for those who don’t hear nature’s calling, the state is adding an incentive to hit the trails: a reduction to their healthcare premiums.

The state of Colorado partnered with Denver-based healthcare IT company Welltok to create a big-data wellness solution to improve the health of government employees.

Qualified state employees can earn points by participating in a variety of activities, says Nate Sassano, wellness coordinator of the Colorado Department of Personnel & Administration. Those points can then be redeemed for up to $20 a month to go toward insurance costs.

While the health and wellness program is accessible to all state employees, the incentive is only available for the state’s benefits-eligible population, Sassano says.

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“Our goal really is to make sure the things we’re asking employees to do are meaningful for their health,” he says. “We do a lot of analysis internally to determine how things are going. Are they earning the incentive? Is it too easy, too difficult? How can we make it more user-friendly? How can we get the data we want?”

Employees access the program through Welltok’s CaféWell platform, which has access to data from employees and carriers such as UnitedHealthcare and Kaiser Permanente.

Drew Corbett, Welltok’s director for client services, said the state is a unique employer because it is able to offer a more focused and personalized look at Colorado employees through robust data sets.

The system receives a claim and issues a reward based on the utilization, he says.

Corbett says the company invested heavily in data security to keep the platform in a HIPAA-compliant environment. The company also collaborates with employers and carriers to work through a “mountain of compliance.”

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While all medical information is de-identified, it allows the state to track “risk bundles” that the workforce might be associated with, like certain chronic conditions, he says.

Sassano says the medical claims data has helped the state determine what their focus will be.

Currently, the state is working on flu shot incentives but June Taylor, executive director of the Colorado Department of Personnel & Administration, says the state needs to remain agile with the program.

“There are capabilities in terms of technology and information we’re able to gleam, but it’s about creating a space for individuals to have a greater understanding of their benefits [and wellness], and be able to do it in one place,” she says.

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Employee satisfaction with their portal ties into utilization rates, which, in general, tend to be flat, says Corbett.

“That’s a result of how confusing the healthcare system is,” he says. “Connecting consumers to healthcare … should be a priority for every HR team.”

The platform is intended to reduce the hassle employees face with using a wellness program and make the experience rewarding, Corbett says.

It seems to be working.

Since implementing the health and wellness program in July 2013, 71% of state employees reported health improvements, according to a survey of 1,886 users. Eighty-eight percent of those employees said the program has been valuable.

While CaféWell has been successful, Taylor says the state has iterated the program several times since its conception, including offering a host of different wellness aspects to employees.

“We’re trying to reflect a change in wellness,” Taylor says. “We can’t have ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to our approach in wellness.”

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Wellness programs Wellness Healthcare benefits Healthcare delivery Healthcare plans Employee engagement Benefit communication Employee communications