Beyond Biometrics: Evolving Workplace Wellness Programs to Fit Employee Needs

June 30, 2022 · NCQA Communications

Neepa Patel, Chief Executive Officer of WellRight, and Vanessa Guzman, President of SmartRise Health wrote this guest blog in advance of NCQA and Hl7’s annual Digital Quality Summit.  Guzman will be leading Track 1 of the summit.

The past two years have presented unprecedented disruptions to the structure of everyone’s lives, both at home and at work.

The pandemic changed commuting patterns, upended childcare options and brought new financial struggles to the surface, all while the nation dealt with extraordinary and prolonged grief. It also brought to light existing health, social and economic inequalities.

office, workplaceThe vast majority of large employers that offer health benefits (83% in 2021) have some version of a workplace wellness program to improve productivity, lower healthcare costs, attract top talent and improve employee retention, among other benefits.

But just as COVID-19 redefined what life looks like, now is the time to think beyond biometric screenings and the traditional one-size-fits-all workplace wellness approach. Employers need to evolve wellness programs into dynamic offerings that meet each employee where they are on their own multifaceted wellness journey.

Striving for Equity in Workplace Wellness

Even though many large employers offer a wellness program to their employees, the program doesn’t always resonate with the employees who may benefit from it the most. A 2019 study found that employees who participated in the programs already had lower medical spending and healthier behaviors than their nonparticipating colleagues in the year leading up to enrolling in the program.

That self-selection problem is happening in part because many wellness programs offered today were built with equality in mind, instead of on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) principles.

For instance, an employee wellness offering that includes an on-site gym isn’t equitably accessible to employees who work remotely. A walking challenge designed to get people active may lack participation because people don’t have a safe place to walk. Or a nutrition program may fall flat because recipes weren’t built with cultural preferences in mind.

A wellness program that can truly meet employees where they are will address the main dimensions of whole-person wellness and be built on a foundation of equity, not equality.

The six main dimensions of whole-person wellness are:

  • Purpose
  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Social
  • Occupational
  • Financial

To gauge employees’ needs in these six distinct areas, employers should bring representative voices to the table to inform the choices being made, with a particular focus on specific subpopulations of employees that may be underutilizing wellness benefits.

Employee resource groups (ERGs) can be a valuable resource for this exercise. ERGs are built to address the needs of employees in typically underrepresented groups that employers will want to hear from when retooling their wellness programs.

When organizations approach wellness programs with a whole-person mindset and build them on a foundation of diversity, equity and inclusion, they can truly meet each employee where they are in their wellbeing journey and grow the positive impact of both wellness and DEI initiatives, together.

Stay tuned for a series of articles where we’ll share equity issues that appear in each of the dimensions of whole-person care — and how employers can address them.

Neepa PhotoNeepa Patel is the Chief Executive Officer at WellRight and joined the team in 2021. With over 25 years of experience in health care strategy and business development, Neepa has previously held executive positions at the BCBS Association, AIM Specialty Management, Evolent Health and IPG during periods of high growth and rapid change. With a strong understanding of both the challenges and opportunities facing the wellness industry, Neepa is uniquely skilled to lead WellRight’s next phase of growth.


guzman Phot

Vanessa Guzman is an expert in health equity and population health strategies, including patient and physician engagement techniques, clinical reporting, health IT and quality management models, and CEO at SmartRise Health.

With almost 20 years of industry experience and with an approach centered around person-empowerment, she works closely with individuals, health systems, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), payers, and technology and community partners to promote equitable care. Her unique approach includes a close collaboration with physicians and hospitals to implement data-driven tools, payers, clinical infrastructures, pharmaceutical companies, and community partnerships to promote wellness and improve patient health outcomes.





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