HRA as MVP Part 4 – Game plan for dealing with HRA vendors


I hope you are starting to raise your expectations on what you can achieve with your HRA. Inevitably, making changes often means working with your vendor (or getting a new one).

Now let’s think about pens. If you’re like me, you have a drawer somewhere with a bunch of old pens—many of them I got for free at some long forgotten conference or event. There are also many from vendors. Now I don’t want to malign vendor tchotchkes, but let’s be honest, free pens from vendors aren’t usually going to be the best pens—the ones that you look forward to writing notes with in the important meeting. Free isn’t usually synonymous with “the best”.

There seems to be a growing trend of the “gift with purchase” HRA. You get the HRA with the purchase of other services, or by working with a specific health plan, etc. While “free” is always pretty tempting, there are many times when a free HRA is no bargain, especially if it’s poorly designed and can only realize poor utilization. Often, free HRAs don’t have many of the features I described in past posts that drive a WOW. Especially features that provide instant value to your employees. HRAs aren’t all created equal.

Give your HRA check-up from the neck-up

Before you go through the headache of changing vendors, you need to find out if your current HRA vendor can change an improve your HRA. The best vendors will be willing to work with you—from salespeople to account management and technical staff. They should want the same things you do: an HRA that drives results by engaging employees in healthy lifestyle choices.

To give your current HRA vendor a chance to get on board, here’s what I would do if I were you:


Step #1 – Collect some employee feedback on your current HRA. Ask employees right after they complete the HRA and have access to their personal report, the following 4 questions:

  • Q#1: How would you rate your experience with our current HRA on a 1 – 7 scale with “7” being “excellent” and “1” representing “poor.” (Average their scores)
  • Q#2: Does our current HRA provide you with new insights about your health and wellness each time you complete it? (Yes or No) or (Always, Often, Seldom, Never)
  • Q#3: Has the HRA helped you change a health behavior? (Yes or No) or (Always, Often, Seldom, Never)
  • Q#4: Would you recommend that your friends complete this HRA? (Yes or No)

Step #2 – Sit down with your HRA vendor and share your findings. Summarize the answers to the four questions with your vendor. Lay out your findings and describe how you got them. Ask if other clients have done anything like this and what did they find. Ask if this is what they expect employees to be experiencing when they complete their HRA. Do they want to produce a “wow” experience for users?

Step #3 – If the survey shows poor results, tell them this situation is not acceptable –you need to have an HRA that does better. If your numbers are as low as I think they will be then be candid with them and tell them that you are going to have to make a change unless they can improve the HRA experience for your employees in a significant way.

Step #4 – Set a date for your vendor to give you their plan for improving the HRA. Make sure you give them enough, but not too much time, to come up with a remedial plan for addressing the needed improvements. I have found that it is necessary for the vendor to actually believe that you will really dump them if they don’t fix the problem. Make sure you give yourself enough time to review the plan in depth.

Step #5 – Determine if their plan for improvements is acceptable. Consider how soon the vendor will be able to make the necessary improvements as well as if the proposed changes will fully address the current defects. Will you have to wait one, two or three HRA cycles before the improvements come on line? Will the improvements produce a “wow” HRA experience?

Step #6 – Keep your current vendor or get a new one! Based on steps #1 -#5 decide to either keep your current vendor and work with them or go get a new one. Make sure you are actually accomplishing the improvements that will make the HRA a “wow” experience for your employees and spouses.

Step #7 – Get the same kind of employee feedback on the new HRA. Use the same survey questions to evaluate the new HRA among a small pilot group. Compare the results with the previous 4 question survey results. Determine if the new HRA is performing at an acceptable level.

Don’t forget that the HRA should be one of your wellness program’s most valuable players and its full potential takes consistent effort to realize!Next week we’ll look at how HRAs connect to the “A” function of “AMSO”- a powerful framework for making sure your wellness program is producing results!

Don’t forget, strategies for effective use of HRAs are one of the key skills we teach in our Level 1 WellCert worksite wellness certification program and we have a new set of “Virtual” trainings coming!

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