0 Comments | Jun 08, 2010

HRAs: What Are You Really Assessing?

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Health Risk Assessments are popular wellness program starting points. They’re commonly thought to be an indication of the aggregate risk baseline of an employee population.

Unfortunately, HRAs are usually an indication of the aggregate risk baseline for the wrong end of the health risk cost spectrum. Because they’re nearly universally symptom-based, and the solutions they point to are equally symptom-based, the risk reduction techniques employed rarely achieve the ROI available through attention paid to more causal factors. This is a natural outcome of the source of the wellness genre – which arose from the disease management model that underpins our healthcare system – that we are now understanding to be insufficient and inefficient. In short, we’re chasing horses after they’ve left the barn instead of “shutting the barn door” by creating more positive conditions for lasting health.

What are those conditions? Nearly all have psycho-emotional roots. Stress and depression create adverse immediate hormonal and biological responses, and influence adverse health behavior as well, setting up a negative feedback loop. Those patterns eventually manifest in adverse HRA indicators, but they should only be treated symptomatically when acute.

How does a holistic approach look from a business return standpoint? We’ve thoroughly researched the literature from both a healthcare cost reduction and work environment perspective, and discovered that even conservative holistic improvement estimates are startlingly significant. It makes sense though – the further upstream you address problem areas, the more effective your intervention can be. We’ve assembled a conservative business savings calculator for our solution of choice based on our research.

As can be expected with any mindset shift of significance, employee wellness benefit program managers, human resources directors, employee health and wellness consultants, and other stakeholders in the employee wellness and healthcare cost reduction sphere, are migrating slowly toward more cost-effective, integrative, “upstream” health solutions. Our contribution to the genre is Vacation Wellness™. It’s designed to target stress and depression directly by leveraging the power of destination vacations. It works, it’s inexpensive, and it’s easy to implement.

By the way, employees love it. Vacation Wellness has an 89% organic (non-incentivized) participation rate. Click here to see why.

While there’s not yet consensus surrounding health risk assessment utility (I think you’ve got a good feel for our opinion), one thing is certain: the information you receive about the state of your employee wellness affairs from any HRA is a collection of lagging indicators. Be sure that the employee wellness benefit package you implement tackles stress and depression directly. Otherwise, you’re in serious danger of paying for pounds of cure when an ounce of prevention is all that’s required.