According to a study from Harvard Medical School’s Department of Population Medicine led by Jason Block, MD, TOS Member and Assistant Professor, new research shows that when employers offered financial incentives, employees were 33 times more likely to participate in telephone health coaching, and did so sooner, than employees without incentives.
Telephone health coaching – one-on-one phone calls with a personal health coach – is one of myriad employee wellness programs that employers and insurers can offer today. With all that goes on in the workplace, employee wellness programs can sometimes go unnoticed; however this new research shows that adding an incentive can drastically change participation numbers, thus leading to a potential increase in overall health and a decrease in costs for health plans. The findings were presented last month at the annual meeting of the Obesity Society in Boston, Mass.
From October 2010 to July 2013, researchers led by Dr. Block gathered data on adult members of one non-profit health plan. They compared the uptake of a telephone health coaching program among the 16,961 members who received financial incentives to the 974,782 members who did not. Their research found that during the nearly 3 year follow-up period, 10% of the members with incentives began using the telephone health coaching, whereas only 0.3% of those without the incentives did so. Financial incentives were also strongly associated with how long it took members to begin using the program. Members who used the telephone health coaching typically had 6 – 7 interactions with a coach over an average duration of four months, where they discussed their lifestyle, assessed their health situation and concerns, and worked to develop specific health goals.