During Benefits Open Enrollment Season, Virgin HealthMiles Shares Best Practices for Implementing Corporate Wellness Programs That Deliver Real Results

Five Tips for Forging a Workplace Culture of Prevention to Drive Down Costs, Create a More Healthy and Engaged Workforce

Framingham, Massachusetts, UNITED STATES

BOSTON, MA--(Marketwire - November 2, 2010) -  As companies across the U.S. roll out new benefits initiatives for 2011, employee wellness programs are increasingly being implemented thanks to their potential to help organizations improve workforce health and lower soaring healthcare costs. More than 64 percent of employers think a new breed of wellness programs will be one of the most effective strategies at improving health. And an overwhelming majority of those same respondents believe they'll also reduce costs, according to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research Educational Trust.

As organizations implement employee health and wellness programs, Virgin HealthMiles today shared five best practices gleaned from its customer-base of large employers. Virgin HealthMiles is a leading provider of employee health and productivity programs that pay people to get active.

Five Employee Health and Wellness Program Best Practices:

1. Promote prevention and stem demand. Personal health behaviors are prime drivers of chronic diseases, which account for 75 percent of healthcare costs impacting businesses and their employees today. Prevention is essential to keeping people healthy and stemming the demand for expensive medical care. Prevention-based employee health programs are applicable to your entire workforce; offer opportunities for everyone to participate and to benefit; and enable you to reward the healthy behaviors you want to promote that will lead to overall improvements in employee health and your company's bottom line.

2. Tap technology to ensure programs are measurable and manageable. Organizations won't see quantifiable benefits in employee health without measurement mechanisms in place. Innovative, technology-based workplace wellness programs enable employers to ease the burden on their over-taxed HR teams; capture validated data to understand the impact of their employees' healthy behavior changes; and have the data needed to measure and manage their overall employee health strategy.

3. Incentives spur participation and sustain behavior change. Recently, Virgin HealthMiles conducted a survey of employers with Workforce Management and found that nearly 70 percent of the 1,012 respondents agreed that incentives are a powerful motivator and effective in getting employees to make healthy behavior changes. But incentives must be compelling for employees to participate. They must also be tied to the behaviors employers want to promote for physical and fiscal sustainability. One-time incentives do little to improve healthy lifestyles and bottom lines over the long-term. Aligning wellness incentives for ongoing performance (in accordance with HIPAA wellness program regulations) keeps employees striving toward health goals and assures employers that earned incentives are a direct result of the healthy behaviors you want to encourage.

4. Make it social to drive employee engagement and see real change. Data proves people take their health cues from their social communities. And what better community to focus on wellness than the workplace, where most adults spend one third of their day? Social networking tools built into these programs create online communities that foster a culture of workplace wellness, build camaraderie, and help to foster healthy behavior change. Opportunities for social engagement, such as challenges, are also extremely effective in helping to engage disparate workforces.

5. Evaluate cost-neutral ways to fund wellness efforts. HR leaders should note the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) expands provisions in existing HIPAA regulations, which currently allow employers to offer incentives of up to 20 percent of annual premiums to employees who participate in employee health programs. The PPACA increases this differential to 30 percent in 2014, with an option to increase to 50 percent at Secretary of Health and Human Services' discretion, allowing for even greater flexibility in funding programs. Taking advantage of these provisions, in conjunction with cost-shifts or plan redesigns, can yield enough cash to fund programs, incentives, and even realize potential net savings.

More on Virgin HealthMiles' perspective on creating a workplace culture of prevention and insights on employee health and wellness trends can be found on its blog, http://www.theuprisingblog.com.

About Virgin HealthMiles
Virgin HealthMiles provides employee health programs that pay people to get active. The company's Pay-for-Prevention™ approach, based on physical activity and healthy lifestyle change, attracts an average of 40 percent of employees who participate, which helps organizations reduce medical costs and improve employee productivity and satisfaction. The program is offered by employers, government entities, and insurers. Over 120 industry leaders representing more than 500,000 employees across the U.S., including American Diabetes Association, Intuit, MWV, OhioHealth, Ochsner Health System, Protective Life, SunGard, SunTrust, and Timberland have selected Virgin HealthMiles' award-winning program for their employees. The company is a member of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group. For more information, visit www.virginhealthmiles.com.

Contact Information:

Media Contact:
Kathy Wilson