CHICAGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- It’s flu season again, and employers across the nation will be pulling out all stops to encourage, cajole, assist, incentivize and beg employees to get their flu shots. On average, 200,000 Americans are hospitalized each year due to seasonal flu, costing businesses more than $10 billion in hospital and outpatient costs annually, and another $76.7 million for absenteeism and other indirect expenses, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Much of the cost and personal hardship caused by flu could be avoided if workers would obtain flu shots. Yet, only about 20 percent of employees, on average, receive a flu shot, even when it is offered at no cost.
Now, new evidence suggests that a simple “nudge” may be the most effective strategy for increasing employee participation in flu shots. According to a study published in the June 13, 2011, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, simple messaging that prompts employees to “make a plan” by writing down the specific date and time when they intend to complete a health activity can significantly increase the likelihood of follow through. The research was conducted by a team of academics at four leading universities – the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, Yale University and Harvard University – in conjunction with Evive Health, the nation’s leading innovator in the design of customized communication tools that motivate individuals to engage in health and wellness activities.
“Employers have a vested interest in reducing sick days at the worksite, and flu shots are an important preventive tool to achieve that,” said Peter Saravis, CEO of Evive Health. “Fortunately, breakthrough studies in behavioral science are helping us understand new ways to motivate employees to participate in healthy behaviors, such as getting a flu shot. Our research found that prompting people to simply write down the specific date and time for when they planned to get a flu shot was a highly effective and zero cost method for increasing flu shot compliance.”
In the controlled study of 3,272 employees at a large Midwestern utility firm, individuals 50 years of age or older or those with chronic health conditions were randomly assigned to receive one of three reminder mailings encouraging them to obtain a flu shot at an on-site clinic. Of those who received a prompt to write down a specific date and time when they planned to get a vaccination, 37.1 percent obtained the shot, an increase of 4.2 percentage points over those who received a general identical reminder, except that it contained no prompt to make a plan. The planning prompt was even more effective among employees for whom on-site flu shots were offered on a single day only. Prompting these employees to write the date and time when they intended to receive their shot increased compliance by 7.9 percentage points, presumably because not attending the on-site clinic would mean missing out on the free flu shot benefit altogether.
“Advances in the science of consumer decision making provide unique insights that can help us design more effective ways to encourage and stimulate health engagement in employer settings,” said Prashant Srivastava, chief operating officer of Evive Health. ”Through Evive’s collaborations with top researchers, we continue to develop new behavioral economics-based messaging that further increases member engagement in health and wellness. Employees, employers, health plans and our nation as a whole benefit from these kinds of results.”
“We believe that similar prompts can be used to increase employee engagement in many other healthy behaviors that people often intend to follow through on but end up overlooking due to competing demands on their time,” added Saravis.
About Evive Health
Founded in 2007, Evive Health is one of the nation’s leading innovators of technology solutions that motivate employees and health plan members to engage in health and wellness activities that improve their health, lower healthcare costs and lead to a happier and healthier lifestyle. Evive’s health engagement technologies merge data mining with behavioral economics strategies to increase employee engagement by as much as 19 percent in the first year alone. Evive offers employers and health plans a turnkey, personalized communications solution that works hand in hand with existing wellness, prevention and chronic care programs. For more information, visit www.evivehealth.com, or call 312-374-9150.
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