Employee health and wellness programs have been around for several decades but driving worker participation remains an ongoing challenge, with the corresponding health benefits often left unrealized.
Adherial, a Portland, Ore.-based startup, aims to significantly improve participation rates in employee wellness programs by making them more user-friendly and accessible.
“Our technology helps automate the health and wellness process and makes it easier for people to participate,” says Joe Tanous, CEO at Adherial.
One example of a condition that can be improved with a wellness program is hypertension, one of the 10 most expensive health conditions for U.S. employers. High blood pressure adds $76.6 billion to the nation’s healthcare bill each year and is responsible for 35 million physician office visits annually, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Technology makes it easier for people and helps them be more engaged in their health and wellness.”
“Hypertension is usually caused by lifestyle factors – being overweight or smoking. It can be controlled by drugs or sometimes surgery,” Tanous says. “But if someone can stop smoking or lose weight and become healthier, the problem can be reduced significantly or even go away.”
Adherial—derived from the word “adherence”—promises to transform the workplace wellness experience by making it easier for employees to set and reach their health goals. It does that through its innovative product, WellNest, an online program available via desktop or mobile device that enables users to plan, track and complete wellness activities.
In addition, WellNest organizes and personalizes all insurance information, including co-pays, co-insurance and wellness incentive rewards offered by the employer. Employers and workers can create and access all information through the WellNest Dashboard.
“Participants have an insurance card on their smartphone, so they know what their deductible is at any point in time,” Tanous says. Because employees can see their out-of-pocket costs, they are much less likely to delay treatment.
Adherial came out of university research on wellness programs. The company is getting a policy boost from the Affordable Care Act, which allows employers to provide even greater incentives to workers to participate in wellness programs and to create disincentives for employees who smoke or have other unhealthy habits.
The reasons why employees don’t participate in workplace wellness programs are well-documented. In one survey published in 2013, 43% of employees said they felt their company’s wellness program was not convenient. And 56% said they lack the time to participate, according to the survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. The job to be done for Adherial is improving employee health status by breaking down those barriers through technology.
“If you have a health or wellness program, and you get very low participation among your employees, then it is not a very effective program,” Tanous says. “Our technology makes it easier for people and helps them be more engaged in their health and wellness.”