Do HRAs save organizations money?
A wellness program could take several years to show a substantial direct economic return, although some programs may see results within the first year or two. However, the value of a health risk assessment extends beyond standard return-on-investment metrics in several ways.
Positive health improvements
A health risk assessment paired with engaging, personalized reporting leads to healthier populations. Comparing health risk assessment (HRA) data from one year to the next will provide evidence of health behavior and health status improvements, such as:
- Improvements in the severity of health risks
- Decreases in the overall number of health risks
- A positive shift in risk level, such as high-risk people moving to moderate risk
- Positive behavior changes within populations, such as:
- Increased emotional agility
- Increased fruit/vegetable consumption
- More physical activity
- Reductions in blood pressure
Reduced absenteeism and presenteeism
Healthier, happier employees mean less absenteeism and presenteeism (working while sick). Wellness and population health managers can compare absenteeism rates for an organization for the year prior to implementing a wellness program that includes a health risk assessment, and each subsequent year. They should notice that as health risks decline and health behaviors improve within a population, absentee rates (sick days) go down. For example, smokers experience an average of 4.1 more lost work hours per week than the typical non-smoking worker.
Back in 2005, University of Michigan researched the effects of poor health practices and risks on productivity in 28,375 employees. They found that productivity decreased by about 2.4% for each risk factor present. Risks that were most closely linked to the greatest decrease in productivity include:
- Relaxation medications
- Life dissatisfaction
- High stress
- Job dissatisfaction
- Current smoker
- Physical inactivity
- Poor health perception
- Obesity (BMI 30+)
- High Blood pressure
Things haven’t changed much. A 2017 research article reports that “Sick and healthy individuals who improved their health increased productivity by about 10%, with surveys indicating sources in improved diet and exercise.”
When Principal Financial Group surveyed workers at U.S. businesses with 10 to 1,000 employees, 45% of them said they would likely stay with their current employer longer “because of employer-sponsored wellness programs,” according to a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) article.
Wellness programs and services have almost become expected benefits for many job-seekers, and 87 percent of workers consider them when choosing an employer. Therefore, offering a top-notch program with a comprehensive HRA can help to attract the best new talent and keep it, reducing costs from high turnover.
Lower healthcare costs
Healthier health plan members mean a decrease in expenses, as these organizations are covering all of the medical bills of their members. So the healthier their members are, the less medical care they will need, and the less medical expenses they will accumulate.
For employers with self-insured group health plans, a healthier workforce equates to a direct decrease in expenses, as these companies pay their employees’ health claims out of pocket. But even employers who are insured by outside companies could reap the benefit of wellness programs (which include health risk assessments), because they may receive a discount from their health insurance provider.