Based on a cost analysis of recent data gathered from more than 250,000 health plan subscribers, incentivizing employees to complete digital health coaching courses as part of a workplace wellness program can produce a significant return on investment (ROI).
The analysis, released last week by SelfHelpWorks (http://selfhelpworks.com), shows that using digital health coaching to eliminate or significantly lower expensive health risk factors such as obesity, tobacco or alcohol use, inactivity and emotional stress with can cost as little as $50-90 per successful intervention (plus the cost of incentives).
“The numbers leave no doubt that when done right, digital health coaching can be a valuable addition to any workplace wellness program,” says Lou Ryan, SelfHelpWorks founder and CEO. “Depending on the structure of a workplace wellness program, digital health coaching can be used either as a stand-alone solution or as an adjunct to live coaching.”
Due to the low cost of Internet bandwidth, the hourly cost of digital health coaching – also known as virtual or online health coaching – is significantly lower than the hourly cost of live intervention methods. But Ryan cautions that implementing a successful digital health coaching initiative is not as easy as it sounds. “Most health coaching courses currently offered online provide a good education but, for the most part, don’t produce significant results. That’s because education is only the tip of the iceberg.”
According to Ryan, who spent two decades developing and delivering live health coaching courses before starting SelfHelpWorks, an online course can only be truly effective if it meets two basic requirements. First, it must be interactive and engaging. And second, it needs to go beyond mere education to the point of literally transforming the thought process at the root of unhealthy behavior patterns.
“Think of the live coaching experience that’s used to bring out the best in athletes,” says Ryan. “The key is for digital health coaching to simulate that same compelling experience – a combination of education and motivational instruction, supported by repetitive actions designed to form new behavior patterns. Over the last decade new technologies have made it possible to make great advances in this regard.”
Impressive results have been documented for the multimedia digital health coaching courses developed by SelfHelpWorks using Ryan’s philosophy. F
or example, comparative annual Health Risk Assessment (HRA) data collected from a large population of health plan subscribers showed that 62 percent who were obese reduced their Body Mass Index (BMI), with an average BMI reduction of more than 12%; 33 percent of tobacco users reported quitting; 47% reported lower stress levels; and 52% reported reduced levels of alcohol consumption.
However Ryan is quick to point out that a successful digital health coaching initiative involves more than meets the eye. “For your digital health coaching to achieve a positive ROI, offering the right courses is only half the battle. The rest involves getting your employees or members to actually log on and complete the courses that apply to them – often easier said than done. This is where incentivizing course participation and completion comes in.”
To emphasize his point, Ryan points to recent data shared by a health plan that incentivizes subscribers for completing SelfHelpWorks courses. “25 percent of their subscribers who enrolled in a course completed the entire series of video-based sessions and quizzes,” says Ryan.
"That’s double the average course completion percentage experienced across our overall partner/client base. The high completion rate brought down the cost per successful intervention to less than $50 excluding incentives, compared with just over $90 for our overall partner/client base. Whichever way you look at it, the potential benefits are significant for organizations that incorporate digital health coaching courses into their workplace wellness efforts.”