by William Ng | October 03, 2011
Workplace health and wellness programs have become a focal point for employers as employee health care costs continue to escalate. As companies add on different types of programs to their employee health benefits, managing them effectively becomes an enterprise-level challenge, says Chris Boyce, president and CEO of Framingham, MA-based Virgin HealthMiles, a provider of a customizable incentivized wellness program of the same name. It has developed Integrated Incentives, an online software tool that puts all of an organization’s wellness programs in one place to streamline their management for HR managers and program administrators.

Integrated Incentives is a seamless component of the Summer ’11 Release of the Virgin HealthMiles platform, in which participants earn award-redemption points by walking and running, track their progress with supplied pedometers, and manage their participation through an online portal.

While Virgin HealthMiles is just one type of wellness program, its platform is able to pull together the platforms of other, disparate program vendors through Integrated Incentives. “Employers have the challenge of managing different vendors for programs that range from smoking cessation to disease management to nutrition,” says Boyce. “The challenge is to get consistency across all the programs, and Integrated Incentives gives HR folks the tools to centralize them. It lets them tie their entire wellness enterprise together.”

According to the supplier, program administrators can choose which programs to put into Integrated Incentives and configure their award structures to needs. Under one umbrella, they can track program results more effectively and add or delete programs or award elements as conditions change.

Integrated Incentives also benefits employees. When they log onto their personal Virgin HealthMiles pages, they see all of the wellness programs and incentives their employers want them to see from a single site. If they participate in multiple company programs, they can access all the information and manage them there.

That one site is also a central location for employers to raise awareness of their offerings and engage employees.

Citing a recent Forrester Research survey, Boyce says the majority of U.S. employees are unaware of all the health improvement programs available at their companies. Streamlining communications is the way to solve that problem and gain participation and consistency across programs, he notes. “For employees, it’s a challenge—‘Where am I supposed to pay attention?’ Coordinating everything is one piece of Integrated Incentives,” he says.

Boyce says the other major key to better wellness program management in Integrated Incentives is real-time reports. The tool, he says, lets administrators see, up to the minute, how many people are participating in each of the programs across their enterprises and how employees are doing within program competitions. They can not only analyze key measures, such as utilization rates (e.g., the number of times they log in), biometric changes, incentive earnings, and redemption trends, but also break down the graphical snapshots provided by the platform to segments of their employee populations based on various factors.

“Clients can see overall engagement and also specific pieces of their programs,” Boyce notes. The other benefit of that is program managers can demonstrate the performance and ROI of their companies’ wellness efforts and convince their C-levels of continuous investments.

More on the Virgin HealthMiles platform can be seen in an Incentive feature on wellness incentives and on the company's website. The company has approximately 120 organizational and corporate clients and about 750,000 participants. The company is a unit of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. Boyce hints that Virgin HealthMiles will continue to add innovations to the platform with its upcoming Fall and future releases.