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Are HRAs Obsolete?


Published on | With over 100 combined years of experience in wellness, the health professionals at Wellsource have created some of the most comprehensive and evidence-based health risk assessments available.

Published in: Healthcare
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Are HRAs Obsolete?

  1. 1. CommonMistakesinImplementingHRAs ThesecommonfailurescausesometoclaimHRAsareunnecessaryandineffective: ✖✖UsinganHRAthatissoshortandsimplisticthatit doesnotprovidemeaningfulinformation. ✖✖UsinganHRAthatissolongandcomplexthat participantsdon’twanttocompleteit. ✖✖AdministeringanHRAbyitselfandnotasanintegral partofacomprehensivewellnessprogram. ✖✖Failingtoprovidefollow-upeducationalopportunities, includingbehavioralchangeprograms,aftertheassessment. ✖✖AssumingthatgoodHRAsareexpensiveandout ofreachforsmalltomid-sizecompanies. ✖✖Failingtoadequatelyaddresstheprivacy concernsofparticipants. Fortipsonhowtoeasilyavoidthesecommonpitfalls, SoareHRAsobsolete? Onlyifyouthinkpreventivemedicalexamsareobsolete.Acomprehensive HRAidentifiespersonalrisks,presentsguidelinesformakingthemost importanthealthchanges,offersinsightsforindividualsonhowtobegin,builds awarenessandmotivationformakinglifestylechanges,andprovidesbaselinedata fortrackingprogressandgivingrecognitionandawards.Onlywiththisdatacan youtrulymanagethewellnessoutcomesofyourorganization. Withover100combinedyearsofexperiencein wellness,thehealthprofessionalsatWellsource havecreatedsomeofthemostcomprehensiveand evidence-basedhealthriskassessmentsavailable. AreHealth RiskAssessments Obsolete? Do YOU think HRAs are
  2. 2. Having been a leader in the wellness industry longer than most (since 1979), Wellsource is no stranger to the benefits of HRAs. In fact, we know that identifying people’s health needs at the beginning of a wellness program has many valuable benefits. But for the sake of time let’s just consider two. 1. HRAs create a teachable moment. Receiving an objective overview of one’s lifestyle risks helps a person more accurately assess their present health status – and realize if health improvements are needed. Before taking a health assessment, most people think they are doing “fine.” But after reviewing a personalized health assessment report – tailored to their responses and health habits – many will realize they may not be fine and need to start taking better care of themselves. The assessment creates a teachable moment to get people’s attention and help them set goals unique to them. For a wellness program to thrive, you need to present solutions when people have a felt need. Offering generalized programs you think they need, at a time when the participant is oblivious to their health risks, are unlikely to have the desired effect. 2.Healthassessmentsestablishabaseline for the individual and the company. If you want to see if your population’s health is improving, you have to know where they started. For example, how many minutes a week are employees exercising now, compared to the beginning of the year? If you don’t establish a starting baseline, you have no way of knowing if the company’s wellness initiatives are contributing to health improvements or not. Doctors keep records to see if their patients are getting better or worse over time. To effectively manage the health of your organization, you also need to track progress over time – both at the individual level and at the company level. If you don’t conduct assessments, you don’t really know if your program has made an impact. You can tell anecdotes of individual cases, but you have no way to report on what percentage of employees are more active now, eating healthier, getting adequate sleep, or maintaining normal blood sugar levels or blood pressure, than when you started. These are key risk indicators that are directly linked to an individual’s health and healthcare costs, and need to be measured at least on an annual basis. Power of an Evidence- Based HRA Offering generalized programs you think they need, at a time when the participant is oblivious to their health risks, are unlikely to have the desired effect. The Problem with a One-Size- Fits-All Wellness Solution Is it sound advice to just presume everyone has the same health habits? A one-size-fits-all wellness “solution” might be easier – and it might even save you a buck or two per participant per year. But how effective will it be? Consider the information you would miss out on if you didn’t offer an HRA: 1. How many prediabetics do you have in your company? 2. Are depression and high-stress levels problems in your organization? 3. How many of your employees are getting the recommended amount of exercise for good health? 4. How many of your employees have three or more major risk factors (smoking, obesity, inactivity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol)? 5. Can you easily invite employees with major risk factors into a risk reduction program or follow-up session with a wellness coach? 6. How many life years are your employees losing due to poor health practices? 7. What are your company’s three greatest health problems? 8. What health needs are your employees most interested in getting help with? 9. How many smokers in your company report they would like help to stop smoking? 10. What are the top three nutrition concerns in your company? 11. What percentage of employees are healthier now than they were last year? 12. If nothing changes, how much can you expect your healthcare costs to go up next year based on the risks identified in your organization? A good HRA can give you quick answers to these very important questions. The If you attended t he 2014 A r t & S c i e n c e o f Health Promotion Conference, you might get the idea that health risk assessments (HRAs) are becoming obsolete. With many wellness programs under attack for failing to show stellar ROI, it’s tempting to point the finger at health risk assessments (or any wellness tool for that matter) as the “culprit” of wellness program shortcomings. But before we throw the baby out with the bath water, let’s remember why HRAs have been a core component of corporate wellness programs for the last 40 years, and continue to have value today. A Personalized Approach to Wellness Imagine your doctor saying, “Wealreadyknowwhathealthproblems the majority of people have. To save time and money, I just prescribe the same treatment for everyone.” Would that give you much confidence you were getting good health care? The same principle applies to wellness management in an organization. If the goal is to improve the health of your individual employees, it is helpful to know something about their personal health habits. Do they exercise? What kind of foods do they typically eat? Are they coping well with life? Is their blood pressure normal? Are HRAs Obsolete? By Dr. Don Hall, DrPH, CHES Some have suggested that because the health risks of the nation’s population are well known and documented by health studies, individualized health assessments are no longer needed. Yet some of these same commentators are also calling for more personalized self- care. How can we have it both ways? Throwing universal wellness solutions at a population – assuming they share all the same risk factors as every other population – is a giant step toward less personalized care. And while it’s true that “we should be doing wellness with our employees – not to them,” that’s not a good reason to abandon HRAs. Health assessments can be implemented in a way that shows employees you care about their health. When conducted in a positive framework, they can even contribute to greater employee loyalty and morale. They can also help bring about a greater sense of purpose and self-awareness by creating a teachable “Aha!” moment. If you don’t measure it, you really don’t know if you are making progress or not. 1979 2014 35 YEARS OF WELLNESS! 800.533.9355
  3. 3. Common Mistakes in Implementing HRAs These common failures cause some to claim HRAs are unnecessary and ineffective: ✖✖ Using an HRA that is so short and simplistic that it does not provide meaningful information. ✖✖ Using an HRA that is so long and complex that participants don’t want to complete it. ✖✖ Administering an HRA by itself and not as an integral part of a comprehensive wellness program. ✖✖ Failing to provide follow-up educational opportunities, including behavioral change programs, after the assessment. ✖✖ Assuming that good HRAs are expensive and out of reach for small to mid-size companies. ✖✖ Failing to adequately address the privacy concerns of participants. For tips on how to easily avoid these common pitfalls, visit So are HRAs obsolete? Only if you think preventive medical exams are obsolete. A comprehensive HRA identifies personal risks, presents guidelines for making the most important health changes, offers insights for individuals on how to begin, builds awareness and motivation for making lifestyle changes, and provides baseline data for tracking progress and giving recognition and awards. Only with this data can you truly manage the wellness outcomes of your organization. With over 100 combined years of experience in wellness, the health professionals at Wellsource have created some of the most comprehensive and evidence-based health risk assessments available. AreHealthRiskAssessments Obsolete? DoYOUthink HRAsare