Wearables and Wellness Programs

If you’ve been wondering how to seamlessly integrate wearable devices into your wellness programs, the Health Enhancement Research Organization has some success stories to share.

In a new report, HERO includes findings from three case studies of organizations that, combined, employ more than 60,000 people, “and whose incorporation of wearables into their wellness program reflects a comprehensive, results-oriented approach,” according to a statement from the Waconia, Minn.-based organization.

Each of the employers that participated—BP, Emory University and Ochsner Health System—took a different path to achieve positive results, but also showed some “clear commonalities” in the way they implemented wearables as part of their wellness plans, such as sound communication strategies, encouraging long-term use of wearables and making them financially feasible for employees, for example.

The report identified a handful of promising practices for organizations that have added wearables to their wellness initiatives, or are planning to do so, including giving or subsidizing devices for employees rather than requiring them to buy their own; involving spouses and domestic partners to increase participation and create a support system outside the workplace; and using a pilot program before expanding the use of wearables to include the entire workforce.

Emory relied on the latter approach when it rolled out its wearables program in 2014, with a pilot program at five sites. According to HERO, Emory made modifications and offered wearables to all Emory University and Emory Healthcare employees the following year, based on the results of the initial pilot program.

When Emory expanded the program, 6,300 Emory employees participated in the university’s Move More Challenge, with 82 percent of them remaining active for its eight-week duration. In a post-program survey, 67 percent of participants said it was the first time they used a wearable device, with 82 percent reporting that they used one every day of the challenge.

Such results only hint at the potential in using wearables as a component of comprehensive workplace wellness programs, says Jessica Grossmeier, vice president of research at HERO, stressing the need to “continue our focus on research that uncovers what works and what doesn’t.

“Early research supports that a device, on its own, will not change health behaviors over the long-term,” continues Grossmeier. “That’s why we’re focused on identifying those leading-edge strategies that employers can use to ensure an effective, safe and engaging approach for employers and individual participants.”