As employer health care spending continues to increase, global information and measurement company Nielsen says implementing a measured communication approach – both on the ground and in the cloud – during open enrollment worked wonders for the company’s internal employee ratings.   

After installing a consumer-directed health plan in 2012, the global company may have figured out how to best deal with rising U.S. health care costs, but it also needed to effectively communicate this change. Liliana Merizalde, manager of health and wellness plans at Nielsen, said this week at the Benefits Forum & Expo that the company, which provides data and insights on what people watch, listen to and buy, sought some assistance to help its workforce be “better health care consumers.”     

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Starting in the spring of 2013, Merizalde said Nielsen embarked on a multipronged communication approach with Castlight Health, a company that helps employees make informed choices about their health through a cloud-based platform. This included everything from sponsored emails from Nielsen’s vice president of benefits and post cards to spouses and domestic partners to onsite information tents and Web training for HR and benefit managers. At the close of last year, Dutch-owned Nielsen employed about 40,000 employees worldwide.

“We learned that Web training offered a great low-cost [way] to help spread the word for our call to action,” Merizalde told BFE attendees in Boca Raton, Fla. She added that leveraging key stakeholders can help to ensure that your entire organization is engaged and supportive of any new health care and benefit programs.

With email and poster messaging focusing on messages such as “Let’s go shopping” and “Better care doesn’t have to be expensive care,” Merizalde explained that employees were able to see the potential of the CDHP.

Having raffles and other incentives also helped. “Incentives were key to our program promotion,” she said. Nielsen, with the help of Castlight Health, instituted prizes such as free health care for a year, or $30 Amazon gift cards to stimulate employee action.

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According to data from Castlight Health’s book of business, the use of incentives has been the greatest driver for getting employees initially engaged with Castlight, said David Mait, product marketing manager for Castlight Health. For instance, if employees were offered a low-money guaranteed incentive, there was a 74% spike from the baseline of employees being offered no incentives for registration. For medium-value incentives, such as a raffle drawing and a chance for employees to win a prize, there is an 85% impact. And for high-value guaranteed incentives, such as a $50 health reimbursement arrangement contribution, there was a 147% surge in registrations.

For Nielsen specifically, the use of incentives targeted directly to spouses and domestic partners for using Castlight spawned a 118% increase in Castlight among this audience. Overall, over a 16-month timeframe, over 52% of Nielsen associates have registered with the Castlight platform, and 60% have returned to the offering since their first visit.  

“Carrots clearly play a role…if you are rolling out a new benefit program,” explained Mait.

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