Is Your Health Incentive Program Successful? How Would You Know?

Is Your Health Incentive Program Successful? How Would You Know?

Health incentive programs have become hugely popular in recent years. CNN has reported that at least four out of five large employers have initiated some form of health incentive program.

That’s a lot of programs.

And while it might be a stretch to say that, like snowflakes, no two of those many incentive programs are alike, it’s not a stretch to say that there are many variations among programs. But in spite of the huge range of variability among programs, there’s one commonality that’s shared by every health incentive program on the planet: each one is intended to be successful.

After all, nobody plans and initiates a program with the goal of failing. Even so, many programs do fail. Many programs, in fact, are unintentionally doomed to failure from the very beginning. These doomed programs face an insurmountable hindrance to success: success for each of these programs has not been defined.

You Call That Success?

Everyone defines success differently. Certainly, on a personal level, we have individual definitions for success; your definition of success may differ considerably with mine.

Even within a single organization, multiple definitions of success may abound when applied to any organizational effort, including health incentive programs. Your CEO, your employee members, your human resource officers, your health plan management — each are likely to have very different expectations from your program.

And that’s a major hindrance to success. Because before a program can be successful, a single, organizational definition of success — an operationalization of success — must be established. Without that all-important organization-wide definition of success, a program cannot be successfully deployed.

So, to achieve program success, various organizational factions must formulate an acceptable organization-wide definition of success. And that must be accomplished with the realization and acceptance that the organizational definition of success may or may not be consistent with any individual’s definition of success.

Crafting that organizational definition of success may seem an impossible task. But it’s doable. And quite necessary.

The Venn of It (and When to Venn)

Remember Venn diagrams?

Venn diagrams are those graphics that portray several circles (or other geometrical shapes) that overlap each other to varying degrees. Within each circle is contained items that are logically or organizationally related. Where some of the items within one circle match some of the items within another circle, those circles overlap. So, the overlaps contain areas of commonality.

The concept of the Venn diagram holds the key to formulating the organizational definition of success for your health incentive program. As discussed above, every stakeholder within your organization has his or her own definition of success. Each could create a listing of the many criteria that define success, and place that listing within a circle (figuratively or literally).

Within each of those ‘circles of defined success,’ certain components will overlap, Venn diagram style. Those overlaps contain the keys to defining organizational success for your incentive program — a definition that most, if not all, stakeholders can support.

This process — whether using actual Venn diagrams or not — MUST be completed before a program is initiated. The end result should be a comprehensive and measurable organizational definition of success for your program.

With that definition in hand, you’ll be well-positioned to build your program for success.

 Define Success First, or Fail Later

All too often, health incentive programs make a common mistake that could be described by a very old saying: putting the cart before the horse. That old saying reflects the fact that it’s basic human nature to rush into something without thorough preparation and planning.

That’s what happens so often with incentive programs. The programs are built and initiated in a rush, before success has been fully defined — the cart before the horse.

The result of that mistake is consistent and inescapable: programs that are not designed to drive the desired success metrics, even when those metrics are belatedly defined later.

Consider, for example, an exercise incentive program. Will this program help to achieve success? It depends, of course, upon that definition of success. If the organizational definition of success is reducing short-term costs, an exercise program is not the way to get there. An exercise incentive program is not going to produce improved clinical outcomes and reduced healthcare costs within two quarters of implementation. So an exercise program would fail to achieve success for that organization.

But that’s the very type of mistake that so many organizations make with their healthcare incentive programs. They fail to define success. And, as a result, the design and implementation of the program has little chance of achieving success.

Are you making a similar mistake with your program?

It’s likely you are if you can’t define success on an organizational scale for your program. Because this much is for certain: If you haven’t created your organizational definition of success, then, by default, you are answering the leading question in the headline up top.

And it’s not the answer you want.

Contact to get more information on defining success for a wellness incentive program.