I hope you had a great holiday season! Always nice to regroup, be with family and refresh! Right before the holidays I wrote about a new study on the effects of a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) in a health plan setting that was just published in JOEM. Several commenters questioned the magnitude of results reported in the peer review article and we continue to dialogue on the interpretations and implications of the article.
However, my bottom-line point is that I believe that the average HRA out there is designed and used in a way that produces very little positive effect on program participants, even though researchers like Sieck and Dembe continue to provide alluring snapshots of its potential.
Michael Hyatt, in his landmark book, “Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World” unequivocally states that in order to be taken seriously now days we need to strive to give our audience a “wow” experience. In other words….taking your wellness program’s HRA needs to be a “wow” experience for every participant!
Getting to “wow” means making the experience more powerful and memorable. Now be honest: does your program’s HRA provide that kind of experience to participants now? I seriously doubt it.
How can you make the HRA a “wow” experience for your program’s participants? I would like to share four steps to help you do just that.
Step #1 – make sure that each participant clearly understands that the HRA is part of an ongoing process to provide practical help for improving their personal health and well-being. Plan on at least three carefully crafted messages about this issue, used at least three separate times each with employees. Don’t assume that they know this… We know it but I have found employees often don’t! It’s an important tool for health improvement!
Step #2 – make sure the participant knows that the HRA is important to your organization. That happens when you connect completion to a lower health plan premium contribution or by posting organization wide completion goals and actuals. It also helps to repeat messages about the value of the HRA to the organization and its value as a tool for health improvement. Emphasize the confidentiality of the information they share. Let them know that the process of completing the HRA has been shown to have positive effects on people’s health and their use of health care. (Cite the JOEM article) Finally, make sure your messages about the HRA are all written from the perspective of the benefits to the user. It’s important to your organization!
Step #3 – make sure the entire HRA completion experience is technologically pleasant for the user, from the moment they sign on to the point that they have completed it. This includes a number of key things: ease of access and entry, single sign on, quality of screen views, color and graphic standards used, flow of questions, presence of branching logic, helpful explanatory links, and an interesting range of comprehensiveness of topics and issues (“actionable insights”). Of course it goes without saying that the experience should be as short as possible, and visually hide questions and pages that aren’t relevant. If you aren’t using the information, ditch the question sets. Use technology to make it painless!
Step#4 – make sure you given them an almost instantaneous version of a graphically attractive personal report that is: easy to read, provides comparisons with previous HRA results, lays out small practical steps that can be taken to improve health, contains active links for selected self-tests and actionable follow-up steps, and each year the individual’s personal report from the HRA should cover fresh health and wellness issues based on the responses of the participant. Also each year new questions should arise from the previous year’s information provided by the participant. Reward the employee for every data-point they shared with rich feedback and details. The HRA must provide valuable information for the user!
Push your team, your vendors, and yourself for WOW and you will see participation improve and employees keep filling out these instruments.
Next week we’ll look at how to make the HRA process a more powerful behavioral change intervention.
Don’t forget, strategies for effective use of HRAs is one of the key skills we teach in our Level 1 WellCert worksite wellness certification program!