Measuring Return on Investment for Hospital Wellness Programs

Adapting a culture of health, or at least implementing health and wellness programs, is becoming a wise move for hospitals with financial benefits and incentives found in the Affordable Care Act, according to a recent report by the American Hospital Association.

The American Hospital Association issued a Jan. 2011 report, "A Call to Action: Creating a Culture of Health," which includes survey results, best practices and recommendations for hospitals considering employee health and wellness programs.

Health and wellness programs vary in scope and number, but some of the most common include health risk assessments, personal health coaching, smoke-free campuses and healthy food options. Hospitals should not consider these offerings as permanent. Programs need to be evaluated for effectiveness each year — and a return on investment measurement is an important determining factor in its success.

Ideally, hospitals should measure the ROI of employee health programs, but an AHA survey revealed 93 percent of hospitals struggle to measure ROI. Of those that did, however, 82 percent reported an ROI ration as equal or exceeding expectations.

When implementing a health and wellness program, hospitals must commit to measuring ROI over several years. This commitment needs to be made from the start and carried on since ROI measurement is a time-consuming process.

If a hospital has not yet measured ROI, it first needs to determine which metrics are most effective for their organization. Hard and soft factors, such as healthcare cost savings and savings due to employee productivity such as reduced absenteeism, can contribute to an effective ROI measurement.

It is important to balance these out and not focus strictly on healthcare cost savings. Soft factors, such as employee presenteeism, have become huge perks of wellness programs. Presenteeism refers to employees not only being present but engaged in productive work.

It may also be helpful for hospitals inexperienced in ROI measurement to begin small and focus on specific programs. For instance, a hospital can take employees who have undergone an intervention or participated in a certain program (such as diabetes management or weight loss programs) and compare them to employees who did not participate in such health and wellness activities.

Read "A Call to Action: Creating a Culture of Health" here.

Learn more about AHA.

Read more about hospital health and wellness programs:

- The Top 10 Reasons for Your Hospital to Initiate a Wellness Program

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