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6 ways to emphasize wellness in your annual enrollment communications

June 16, 2010

in annual enrollment,health care,health communication

this post initially ran on july 14, 2009. i’ve updated it with new information and links to other articles.

for the past few years, high deductible health plans (HDHPs), while controversial, have been the silver bullet du jour for employers trying to keep their costs managebalanceable for themselves and their employees. coming quickly on the HDHP’s heels, employers have been weighing the value of wellness programs that focus on altering lifestyle habits and reducing barriers to preventive care.

personally, i shoot for rational wellness — i work out regularly, don’t smoke, do drink, and must have a sweet after every meal, including breakfast. all of the above keeps me fairly healthy, clears my mind when i need it, and generally makes me much nicer. professionally, i believe corporate wellness programs are a smart move even though there are differing views on whether well-designed programs truly deliver stronger financial performance and increased productivity, improved engagement, lowered presenteeism, and positive employer image. skepticism is waning as more and more research comes out to show a healthy workplace’s ROI in several forms. really, they had me at “it’s the right thing to do.”

with annual enrollment coming up — and employees facing the prospect of choosing their health benefits — many companies are refining their benefits program and retuning their annual enrollment communications. whether or not your company offers a comprehensive wellness program, there are a number of ways you can incorporate wellness messages.

#1. frame your message wisely.

after years of hearing about rising costs, how to be an informed health care consumer, and “we’re in this together,” employees are tuning out. yes, there’s much employees can do to help maintain costs by choosing the right plan, enrolling in programs they need, mail-ordering generic drugs, and the lot. but this is change in a minor key. there’s precious little they can do to change the cost structure in a major way. this fact makes framing your company’s wellness message around cost containment not nearly as inviting — or successful — as framing the message around things near and dear to your employees’ interests: feeling good, being around to see their children grow up, and living long enough to retire at a better time for retirement than today.

#2. add completing a health risk assessment to the steps leading to enrollment.

i’ve been involved in health communication for roughly 14 years, i get the lingo, and i know what i need to do to enroll yet every year rob and i procrastinate, then muddle through at the final hour. it’s such an onerous task, and making the wrong decision seems fraught with potential doom. because choosing benefits is so overwhelming, annual enrollment communications often offer a step-by-step guide to break the process into manageable bits. typically, the steps include understanding how much you used your benefits in the past year, reviewing any big changes to prices and plans, and working with available tools to find the best plans. this year, why not add completing a health risk assessment (if you don’t offer a health risk assessment, you can suggest getting an annual physical)? more and more companies are doing so, and it makes great sense. encouraging completion as part of annual enrollment makes the HRA the hub of managing one’s health and a tool for selecting the right level of coverage. once employees know their health risks, their interest will also be heightened, as employees are often surprised by what their assessment tells them. with their awareness raised, employees are ready to “contract” to do more for themselves (and contracting leads to greater follow through) and to hear about your available benefits. and with employees worried about the confidentiality of the HRA, framing its completion this way emphasizes that the HRA is a source of information for the employee to use, not the company.

#3. reference existing programs that support healthy lifestyles.

with any decision support you offer — whether online tools, print, or web — look for opportunities to reference those additional programs your insurance provider and other health partners offer, such as acute care and disease management; diabetes, asthma, and other free pharmaceutical programs; health coach programs; and stress and financial counseling. these are often overlooked and misunderstood benefits.

#4. add wellness to your employee meetings.

many companies hold employee meetings during annual enrollment. if you’ve ever run one of these meetings, you know they’re guaranteed to pull a crowd. like most face-to-face communications, they’re highly valued because they allow employees to hear firsthand about any big changes and get specific answers to their individual questions. while you have employees gathered, dedicate a portion of the meeting to wellness issues. what you focus on depends on your company’s needs — what are the top chronic conditions present in your workforce? do people need a refresher that preventive benefits are fully covered? given the stress we’re all under, would it be a good time to remind everyone what your EAP offers? options abound, and so do speakers. your EAP, insurance provider, or local chapter of a national health organization can send a speaker — or you can provide prepared materials for the HR presenter.

#5. reach out to the family.

sending annual enrollment communications to the employee’s home is one way companies reach out to the family, a population that typically represents upwards of 60% of the health care price tag for most companies. you can reach out further this year by including direct messages to your employees’ families, letting them know what benefits are available to them. and be sure to invite families to your annual enrollment meetings, where you’ll have another opportunity to encourage their involvement, participation, and informed decision making.

#6. use social media to inform, connect, and motivate people.

there are plenty of good reasons to use social media as part of your ongoing health communication strategy. here are five.

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[image: pinksherbet]

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Willard Grunewald February 29, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Magnificent web site. Plenty of useful info here. I’m sending it to a few friends ans also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thanks in your effort!

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