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The Role of Data in Well-being

Data analytics has emerged and grown as a critical tool throughout the healthcare industry, and workplace health and benefits are no different. As workplace well-being programs continue to evolve, data analytics plays a key role in both shaping program development and engaging employees in taking steps toward better health. Data can be used to determine program design, encourage sustained participation, and measure success, among other strategies. By leveraging data throughout the development, implementation and maintenance of workplace well-being programs, it’s possible to positively impact both the health of the workforce and the organization’s bottom line.

Leveraging Data to Design Well-being Programs

Understanding the current health of employees and where the highest healthcare claims expenses are occurring can help organizations develop initiatives and programs that are targeted to address healthcare needs across the employee population. By analyzing healthcare claims data, aggregate Personal Health Profile or Health Risk Assessment data, or biometric screening results, it’s possible to uncover the most prevalent health conditions among employees, as well as the biggest drivers of costs.

For example, if the analysis indicates that chronic conditions are contributing to higher costs, integrating a chronic care program can help employees access the resources they need to improve their health and manage their care, which could have a positive impact on common conditions like heart disease or diabetes. If a population includes a high percentage of smokers, then a tobacco cessation program could be extremely helpful, as quitting tobacco has near-immediate positive health effects that only increase the longer people stay tobacco-free.

Surveying employees about their needs and goals can also generate helpful data to guide program development. If employees report being stressed about matters outside the workplace, introducing an Employee Assistance Program can provide welcome support. For organizations with employees looking for extra guidance on budgeting or saving for retirement, a financial wellness component can add value to the well-being program. These are just a few examples of how data can be instrumental in designing a well-being program to meet the needs of each organization’s unique workforce.

Leveraging Data to Drive Engagement

Beyond program design, data can play a key role in driving participation in well-being programs. By utilizing data, it is possible to customize targeted outreach to address employees’ specific needs, more effectively engaging them in their healthcare. Not only can data personalize the message, but it can also help meet employees’ communication channel preferences. For example, a 2016 Health Advocate study found that individuals may prefer texts or emails for a reminder to get up and walk while a phone call to engage with a counselor through their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is more likely to drive higher engagement. Having the data needed to understand employees’ unique goals, needs and preferences can lead to more engaging outreach, driving increased, sustainable engagement in the well-being program.

One effective means to bring this idea into action is a streamlined, data-driven web and mobile engagement platform that drives employees to use the most fitting components of the well-being program. Serving as a hub to all the related services an employer offers, a one-stop engagement portal provides a more automated, intelligent opportunity to engage employees through multiple touch points—for example, automated voice, text messaging, email, mobile and web.

Additionally, by using shared data provided by both the employer via eligibility, claims and other relevant validated data (biometrics, for instance) and the employee, an engagement platform allows for more individualized alerts to prompt the employee to take action to improve their health and well-being. The action alerts can range from filling a prescription medication to getting a diabetes test to staying with a walking goal.

Combining these proactive alerts with meaningful information about resources like wellness coaching, pricing transparency and clinical advocacy can support employees’ total well-being and drive them to appropriate services when needed. Surveys suggest this can result in higher engagement, better health decision-making and lower medical costs.

Companies that have successfully lowered their healthcare cost trend are twice as likely as their counterparts to utilize targeted messaging to drive employees to tools that can improve their health, including benefit decision support, clinical decision support and promoting access to a primary care doctor, according to a 2012 Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health survey of employers. 1 The effective application of data can increase engagement in well-being programs, leading to both improved outcomes and reduced costs.

Leveraging Data to Measure Success

Once a well-being program has been created and launched, it is critical to begin analyzing data from the outset and again at certain intervals to assess whether the program is effective. By leveraging the initial aggregate data as a baseline, it will be possible to see year-over-year improvements to employee health, finances, productivity and more. An annual review of the data also provides a great opportunity to make necessary changes to benefits and well-being offerings to better address the changing needs of an evolving workforce and continue to see the benefits.

According to the latest United States Chamber of Commerce labor and wellness report, metrics developed to determine program effectiveness should include both Return on Investment (ROI) and Value of Investment (VOI). In general, ROI involves assessing the organization’s medical claims to see if the well-being program is producing quantitative changes, and VOI evaluates qualitative results, such as higher workplace productivity, reduced absenteeism, or increased employee morale and satisfaction. Key data sets include program participation, change in health outcomes or risks and cost impact. 2 When reviewing data, it’s important to remember that healthy change across an organization or population tends to be more of a gradual, uphill process measured over years rather than a race to the finish line.

By incorporating data analytics throughout the lifecycle of a well-being program, from inception through implementation through evaluation, it’s possible to create a more personalized offering that more effectively engages employees and promotes positive behavior change. Utilizing data can help ensure success of well-being programs, improving the health of employees and reducing costs for the organization.

About the Contributor // Caitlin Kennally is the Director of Wellness Program Consulting at West’s Health Advocate Solutions. She brings extensive experience to the Health Advocate Wellness Program and has served as a strategic resource both internally and externally for clients by providing direction, coordination and consultation on the delivery of wellness services. She oversees a team of Wellness Program Consultants, lending her expertise and insights on balancing the goals of clients with the health needs of employees to drive healthier outcomes.

About West’s Health Advocate Solutions // West’s Health Advocate Solutions makes healthcare easier for over 12,500 organizations and their employees and members nationwide. Their solutions leverage a unique combination of personalized, compassionate support from healthcare experts using powerful predictive data analytics and a proprietary technology platform including mobile solutions to provide clinical support and engage members in their health and well-being. Members enjoy a best-in-class, personalized concierge service that addresses nearly every clinical, administrative, wellness or behavioral health need. Clients benefit from high levels of engagement, improved employee productivity and health, and reduced medical costs, while simultaneously simplifying and upgrading their health benefits offerings.


  1. Performance in an Era of Uncertainty, 17th Annual Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health Employer Survey.
  2. Louise J. Short, M.D., M.Sc., Mercer, and James O. Prochaska, Ph.D., Director, Cancer Prevention Research Center and Professor of Clinical and Health Psychology, University of Rhode Island and Founder, Pro-Change Behavior Systems, Inc. Co-authored by Janice M. Prochaska, Ph.D., President and CEO, Pro-Change Behavior Systems, Inc.; and Jenn Roberts, M.S., Mercer. Winning with Wellness, U.S. Chamber of Commerce labor and wellness report, April 2016.