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How to Tame Your Wellness Dragons - eBook Transcript

Taming Your Wellness Dragons

Wellness leaders start out on the quest for a more effective program, one that uses validated data and well-designed incentives. But pretty soon they find the Dragons blocking their path. There's a stack of biometric faxes from physicians that have to be decoded and typed in. There are data files from HR systems and wellness vendors that have to be cleaned up, formatted and loaded. Programs for physical activity and weight are still using inaccurate self-report data. Incentives are creating a lot of manual book-keeping and spreadsheet work - along with worries about ACA and HIPAA compliance. These and other Dragons must be tamed to finish the quest for an effective wellness program. Here are 6 Key Considerations to tame your Wellness Dragons.

Destination: Effective Wellness Program

  • Illegible Physician Forms
  • Monster Spreadsheets
  • Inaccurate weight & steps data
  • Lumbering Data Files
  • Fire-Breathing Questions
  • Incentives that Bite Back

1. Illegible Physician Forms

Is your FAX machine drowning in these little monsters?  Paper physician forms are likely to be incomplete or illegible.  It takes a lot of time and work to type them into spreadsheets or your wellness portal.  And if you make a typo - mistakes have consequences. If illegible physician forms are slowing your path to a validated wellness program, the right portal with an integrated smartphone App can help. Your participants already bring their smartphones into the exam room, why shouldn't they be securely logged in to the wellness portal's app? The participant simply hands the phone to the physician when it's time to put in the biometrics and the physician signature. A well-designed app can even capture a picture of the face of the person who types in the biometrics. And a good app is ready to help the participant scan the paper lab reports that arrive a few days later.

2. Monster Speadsheets

How much of your day is spent working with your data in spreadsheet programs?  Would you rather spend that time planning, communicating, and working with your participants instead?  Many wellness leaders set out to create a comprehensive program - only to find themselves mired in the quicksand of typing and pasting data into spreadsheets, creating formulas to determine incentives, and updating the files as people join and leave the company. To tame your monster spreadsheets, consider using a wellness portal that collects data for onsite and online programs directly from participants, vendors and apps - so you're not putting the pieces together in Excel. The portal should let you configure incentive rules, and then automatically use those rules to calculate incentives. When you and the participants can see incentive status in real-time, based on live data - you'll know you've tamed your monster spreadsheets.

3. Inaccurate Steps and Weight Data

You'd like to run programs for physical activity and weight that have real, provable results. Asking participants to self-report their steps and weight won't get you there. But you can't afford expensive fitness tracking devices that upload data automatically. A kiosk for measuring and uploading weights isn't in the budget either. A portal with a well-designed App can tame these dragons for you. Your participants' smartphones already have the same kind of accelerometer that's built into popular fitness tracking devices. With the right App every smartphone becomes a highly-accurate step tracker. Smartphones also have two cameras built in - facing both directions. Based on pictures from the App, the wellness program can verify who is on the scale, and what their weight is. You can have validated weight data without doing manual weigh-ins.

4. Lumbering Data Files

How often have you had to wait on a vendor to load an eligibility file, a biometrics file, or deliver an incentive file?   How many times have you had to rearrange a file to fit someone else's format? If you're tripping over data files on your path to wellness program success, the right portal can help. A good portal can let you map and import your own files, so you're never waiting for a vendor or re-arranging files. And a good portal lets you create and run reports in real-time - your data, when you need it. A well-designed portal can also eliminate the need for many of the files you load today. If your screeners input biometrics directly into the portal on a tablet - there's no need for screening files. If you take attendance at onsite classes and events directly through a smartphone or tablet - there's no need for attendance files. If you can implement a single-sign-on, there's no need for eligibility files.

5. Fire Breathing Questions

Your head of HR wants to know if the participants in your coaching program actually have better biometrics a year later.  Your CFO wants to know if the right people are joining onsite programs - or just the ones who are already healthy? Do changes in HRA results really reduce claims costs? Unfortunately, most wellness programs' data sits in disconnected silos - with HRA's and biometrics stored on one system, onsite program data in another, and online program and incentive data somewhere else. Most wellness programs can't connect the dots to answer these kinds of fire-breathing questions. To tame these dragons, you need a wellness portal that's designed to link the data from end to end: from the health assessment and biometrics, through onsite and online programs, through incentives, and through to next year's assessment and screening. And you need a health assessment that's validated against claims data.

6. Incentives That Bite Back

Are you trying to implement powerful incentives based on biometrics and validated lifestyle data- but worried about compliance?  A portal that's designed around the ACA rules for reasonable alternatives and a documented appeals process can take compliance worries off your desk.  The right portal guides you through the process, and makes it transparent for the participant. To effectively change biometrics and outcomes, your portal needs to accept updated readings all throughout the year - and apply those new biometrics against your alternative standards for biometric improvement. That lets you design a more effective program that rewards improvements in lifestyle and biometrics - not just participation in coaching or onsite programs.

Some Questions You Might Ask Yourself:

  • Am I at my desk managing data and spreadsheets when I need to be out leading initiatives and programs?
  • Could my program be more effective if I had accurate data for steps and weight instead of self-report data?
  • Am I using spreadsheets to link data and calculate incentives when a database could do a better job?
  • Can I prove that my programs are changing HRA and biometric results for participants in subsequent years? Can I show that HRA changes lead to reduced medical claims?
  • Do I have an incentive process that's based on the ACA regulations? If someone on my staff misses a step, how would I know?

Benefits of Taming Wellness Dragons

  • More effective wellness program
  • Better able to show results and ROI
  • More time available for high-value tasks
  • Fewer hours spent on basic administration
  • Better ACA and HIPAA Compliance


Wellness leaders are on the road to a more effective program, one that uses validated data and well-designed incentives. But they face a common set of operational obstacles - the dragons blocking their path. Many of these dragons can be tamed by using technology to streamline the wellness process. If you're decoding physician faxes, typing and pasting data into spreadsheets, and using spreadsheet formulas to calculate incentives - consider upgrading to a robust wellness portal that can automate or eliminate these tasks. Other dragons can be tamed by incorporating better data and linking it together. If your lifestyle programs use self-report data for physical activity and weight, consider using Apps to collect validated data at no additional cost. And if your C-Suite is asking questions that require you to connect the dots across programs and program years - make sure your database and reporting is up to the task. We hope you've enjoyed these 6 Key Considerations for taming your Wellness Dragons.

About the Author

Jesse Hercules is the President of Extracon Science, a leading health promotion company. Mr. Hercules is a frequent speaker and writer on health promotion topics, including speaking at the American Journal of Health Promotion's annual conference, and the American Heart Association's annual Worksite Wellness Conference.

About Extracon

Extracon creates wellness portals for employers and resellers - including Health Assessments, Online Programs, Team Challenges, and Incentives. The portals can also manage the data from Biometric Screenings, Onsite Classes, Onsite Programs and Events, and Coaching Programs. Extracon clients move from disconnected data in Excel, fax and paper to seamless online administration through the portal. They can run a variety of programs with content and communications sent automatically. They can incorporate wearable devices, smartphones and kiosks into their programs.

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