Technology, data analytics transform wellness programs

Barbells and a scale
Data analytics and consumer-facing IT platforms are taking on a bigger role in wellness programs.

As employee wellness programs have evolved beyond a cost-control measure to become more ingrained in corporate culture, technology and data analytics are taking on a larger role.

The corporate wellness industry has become a far more diverse market, leaving health plans to decide whether to develop their own wellness program, contract with a vendor or acquire an existing wellness program, according to a study in Health Affairs. Based on interviews with wellness program representatives, researchers from the University of Minnesota noted that more established players in the wellness program market are competing with tech-heavy newcomers that offer the appeal of health gadgets and mobile apps.

But the push towards technology is forcing entrenched players to invest in software engineers and data integrators to incorporate more substantial IT platforms. Employees expect access to interactive interfaces that track various aspects of their health, while employers use databases to look at overall health trends among employees.

Conference

2019 Drug Pricing and Reimbursement Stakeholder Summit

Given federal and state pricing requirements arising, press releases from industry leading pharma companies, and the new Drug Transparency Act, it is important to stay ahead of news headlines and anticipated requirements in order to hit company profit targets, maintain value to patients and promote strong, multi-beneficial relationships with manufacturers, providers, payers, and all other stakeholders within the pricing landscape. This conference will provide a platform to encourage a dialogue among such stakeholders in the pricing and reimbursement space so that they can receive a current state of the union regarding regulatory changes while providing actionable insights in anticipation of the future.

RELATED: Feds finalize privacy rules for employer wellness programs

“Interviewees suggested that one of the most important areas of expertise required today is advanced data analytics, used to support reporting and evaluation—which are often customized for the client,” the authors wrote.

Although independent entities like Fitbit have launched their own corporate wellness program, health plans have the advantage of offering a cheaper price point by bundling wellness programs into a broader benefits package and integrating data from EHRs and administrative claims data to offer a more comprehensive health outlook.

RELATED: AARP sues to block wellness program rules

One area that wellness programs have yet to figure out: wearables. Although wellness program executives pointed to the strong interest in wearable technology, most have not determined how to best integrate wearables into their program.

Concerns surrounding the use of wearable technology in wellness programs were echoed in a separate Health Affairs study that acknowledged the promise of cutting edge technology on population health, but determined there was little evidence of substantial health improvements.

RELATED: Most docs say health wearables provide little helpful data

Payers like Aetna and UnitedHealth have integrated wearable technology into their wellness programs, but recent studies have questioned whether wearable technology can help users lose weight or increase physical activity.

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