Since the passage of health care reform, benefit managers must redefine the employment contract as it pertains to reining in rising health care costs. That means enhancing conventional employee wellness programs so that they evolve into high-value workforce well-being initiatives.

Value is the glue that galvanizes the workforce and better aligns the interests of each organization's leadership with its employees. But such value cannot effectively be delivered without the expertise of a service provider that specializes in a more robust population health solution. The critical ingredient to realizing short-term savings as well as a lasting return on investment, is the provider's track record for achieving enterprisewide improvement goals and a strong return on the dollars spent on enhancing employee work capacity achievements.

The vendor evaluation process should include a review of the comparative effectiveness tools, techniques and best practices for creating meaningful productive interactions and personalized experiences customized to the company's demographics and industry.

HVWW involves a high-touch, high-impact client engagement execution strategy, with C-suite executive champions, coupled with a robust, neighborhood health assurance wrap-around capability that fuse the interests of employers, employees and community providers who become change agents through meaningful productive interactions and personalized experiences.

Vendors must change the way buyers and sellers think and do a better job of delivering a new C-suite message that is believable and actionable. Vendors must promote employee accountability and engagement, as well as successfully manage competitive benefit costs and employee health risks.

To yield hard returns, CEOs must steer cross-functional work teams toward fostering a HVWW culture. This is accomplished with the help of vendors that target the entire population, including disengaged employees, embrace meaningful use of health achievement benchmarks and metrics, create C-suite visibility for innovative HVWW indices, support individual financial security aspirations and align meaningful incentives.

One might expect that hospitals and health systems have embraced a viable business imperative to improve the health of their own employees. Ironically, this industry sector has not done so and is ripe for HVWW services because of its own runaway employee health insurance premiums.

One-third of hospitals have tried to measure their employee health and wellness programs' ROI, according to a report from the American Hospital Association, but only 7% have successfully done so (the median ROI is between 2:1 and 3:1.) Satisfaction is running high, with 82% of those polled who measure ROI reporting that their ratio is equal to or exceeds expectations. Crucial measures are better-quality employee engagement and participation rates, plus high-impact behavior change achievement.

Employers that benchmark their HVWW programs must develop integrated multi-year strategic road maps for improving the well-being of their workforces, expand their sick-care focus to integrated population health improvement and reward smarter consumers of care.

At the heart of this HVWW approach is an employer health opportunity assessment tool that measures progress on more than 250 elements across an 11-point scale that's weighted by five thresholds of program effectiveness and efficiency. Linked to "key corporate performance indices" such as revenue growth, heath care per capita costs and health risk stratification, CEOs can pinpoint critical business issues and business options to sustain competitive advantage.

Les C. Meyer, MBA, is a Dillon, Colo.-based health care strategist and vice president of HealthNEXT, and can be reached at Les.Meyer@HealthAndPerformance.info.

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