According to an article published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Aetna saved more than $650,000 in the first year of an employee wellness program that incorporated information obtained through genetic testing. The health insurer used the genetic information to individualize interventions for 445 employees at high risk of developing metabolic syndrome. This is an incredibly impressive statistic since many programs do not deliver an ROI, especially within such a short time frame.
Specifically, 76% of the 95% of study participants that reported their weight at the beginning and end of the year lost weight, a major risk factor in diabetes and metabolic syndrome. The study group also saw improvements in their triglycerides and HDL cholesterol as a result of the testing and tailored lifestyle changes. With personalized feedback, more than half of program enrollees stayed engaged with the program for at least 12 months.
We don’t want to take a position on whether or not genetic testing is an appropriate program to implement with employees but wanted to share this research because it inspires lots of good discussion. First, personalization clearly works. Employers should incorporate personalization into their programs, and they don’t need genetic information to do this. Many of the consumer wellness technologies assist users in creating personal goals. For example, Garmin devices adjust user step goals every day based on historical steps taken. Second, coaching has an important role to play in employee wellness. Some coaching can be digital and come from a technology, and one study shows that supporting wellness technologies with traditional health coaching services can improve adherence and motivation. Last, it is hard to deny that the wellness industry as we knew it is slowing going away so employers should stop clinging to programs of the past that have been proven not to work. These include health risk assessments (HRAs) and biometric screenings. It is unclear what the optimal solution of the future will be, but it is clear that new technologies are expanding what is possible. We look forward to see how things in the coming years.