New Research Finds Employers Need to Rethink Their Approach to Engaging Employees and Dependents in Managing Their Health

May 6, 2010

MBGH’s employee focus group research will help employers design benefit programs to encourage participation and improve health

CHICAGO, May 6 /PRNewswire/ — Today the Midwest Business Group on Health (MBGH) released the results of its 2010 Employee Focus Group Research, conducted to identify the triggers and barriers for engaging employees in health benefits and improving and managing their health. Presented at MBGH’s 30th annual conference being held May 6-7, 2010 in Chicago, the results indicate that employers may want to rethink their approach to engaging employees and dependents. What is needed is an entire spectrum of support on a patient’s health team – including the physician as the foundation, family, employer, health plan and health coach.

“This focus group research is the next step in a series of research conducted by MBGH over the last four years to dive deeper into the issues that impact the decisions not only to participate, but to maintain involvement in prevention and health management programs offered by employers,” said Larry Boress, president and CEO, MBGH. “By better understanding the employees’ perspectives on health care and health benefits, employers can restructure the design, communication and delivery of benefits, wellness incentives and health management activities.”

Research findings include:

  • Employees have an emotional attachment to their health – family and loved ones are strong triggers for healthy change, and could be also be barriers due to their strong influence on the employee’s behavior and choices.
  • Employees need the confidence to take action and the conviction along with the tools, resources and support to get started.
  • Employers need to focus on gaining employee trust which leads the list as a top barrier to participation in worksite health programs.
  • Employees believe the most credible source for health information is their doctor. Those with chronic conditions will often have the most involvement with a “health coach,” who is viewed as an extension of the employer, rather than their doctor.
  • Co-workers are a major influencer for employees to become involved in worksite programs, but senior management can also be a strong influencer if company morale is high.
  • Employees want clear and concise communications on coverage, cost, choice and benefit changes. Employers can support employee efforts through personalizing communications and marketing efforts that are focused on the health status and readiness to change of the individual, as well as reaching out to the family by providing incentives, information and tools to help the person improve their health.
  • Overall, employees are open to the use of incentives and disincentives, but perceive incentives as more powerful than disincentives in changing behavior. Ultimately, the fear of pain/risk aversion is a greater motivator to change than incentives or disincentives.
  • People need to believe they can achieve change on their own – self-esteem and key support systems are critical elements.
  • Employees indicate they are sometimes untruthful when completing health risk assessments in order to obtain participation incentives.
  • Employees prefer activities that are personalized, targeted to their specific needs and support work/life balance. Employers need to move beyond traditional programs that focus only on health risk factors.

This research builds on four years of MBGH’s Value-Based Benefits Research series which focused on employers’ readiness to adopt value-based benefit design (VBD) strategies – higher quality care at a lower cost, and employee views and reactions to employer-sponsored VBD, use of incentives and participation in wellness activities.

Survey Methodology

More than 170 participants from MBGH member employers, spouses, health coaches and physicians participated in focus groups and surveys. The project was sponsored by Merck and Novartis. The ROC Group, a Chicago-based benefits communication firm, assisted in developing and conducting focus groups.

Next Steps

In the next phase of this project, the results will be used to build a best practices communications road map and toolkit for employers that includes templates and resources to help companies increase participation and engagement in their health management programs.

About the Midwest Business Group on Health

Celebrating 30 years of advancing value in health benefits management, the non-profit Midwest Business Group on Health (MBGH) is one of the nation’s leading business groups of private and public employers. MBGH’s more than 100 members represent over 3 million lives, spending more than $3 billion on health care benefits annually. MBGH member benefits include health benefit education seminars, networking opportunities, research, demonstration projects and community initiatives. MBGH is a founding member of the National Business Coalition on Health. www.mbgh.org

SOURCE Midwest Business Group on Health

Source: newswire

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