Knowing what to measure in order to track and report on outcomes from Wellness initiatives is crucial to program success. Establishing the key metrics that are strategically important to the organization at the beginning of a wellness initiative enables appropriate baseline measures to be gathered and documented as a foundation for future reporting. It also ensures that stakeholders across the organization are on the same page about the objectives of wellness initiatives and the metrics that will be used to track progress over time. Taking the time to set up metrics and baselines sets the scene for transparency, accuracy and credibility of outcomes when future discussions around program design and funding take place.

There are 7 key factors to incorporate into a solid reporting process:

  1. Characteristics of the workforce – age, gender, worksite location, job type, full-time/part-time status, union and management status, types of health plans being utilized;
  2. Health Risks of the workforce – these can be collected via Health Risk Assessment (HRA) surveys and biometric testing to understand which behavioral health risks are most important to target. Behavioral health risks include eating, exercising, smoking, drinking and other substance abuse and sleep habits. Biometric measures include body mass/body fat, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The Health Risk and Biometric data together provide important insights about risks for lifestyle diseases such as type II diabetes and metabolic disorders, heart disease, stroke and other major killers;
  3. Health Conditions of the workforce – Healthcare claims data can provide important insights into the top existing physical and mental health problems that reduce productivity and increase healthcare costs. These data are useful in prioritizing initiatives for particular sub-groups in the workforce population;
  4. Operating Metrics for wellness programs currently in place such as:
    1. Engagement rates
    2. Methods of Engagement
    3. When engagement ends, and why
  5. Healthcare Utilization and Expenditures – tracking inpatient, outpatient, emergency room, pharmacy and ancillary services provides insights about how these are used. Linking these data with operating metrics enables an organization to see how programs contribute to a reduction in utilization and/or the migration from more expensive services to more cost effective alternatives.
  6. Productivity-Related Utilization and Expenditures – Current wellness research shows the largest savings can be attributed to impacts on productivity. Measures of absenteeism, short-term disability claims, workers compensation claims and personal-time-off data provide insights into indirect savings outcomes of wellness initiatives.
  7. Access to Care, Health Status and Program Satisfaction – conducting periodic surveys to gather feedback from the workforce (those engaged and non-engaged) enables comparisons to be made of program impacts and ways to improve programs between sub groups in the workforce population. Key insights will be the impact of programs on groups that profile similarly initially and enable comparisons of those that participated in an initiative versus those that did not.

Timing of reporting is also an important consideration. Information about characteristics of the workforce, health risks and conditions should be reported annually unless there are factors in play such as rapid turnover or growth of the workforce that would render these data less stable. A more frequent reporting regimen may also be warranted at the inception of a Wellness Program as utilization increases over the first year or two. Reporting on Operating Metrics should be at least quarterly and more frequently as new initiatives are rolled out or vendors are changed. Utilization and Expenditure metrics should also be reported at least quarterly.

Finally, setting up data to enable metrics to be linked across the 7 factors will ultimately provide the deepest insights to guide program design, tightly target program offerings to sub groups and ensure maximum ROI.