Welcome to the Buyer’s Guide to Wellness Technology. The experts at CoreHealth by Carebook have synthesized our experience with a vast number of wellness professionals and providers into this guide. It is not intended to direct the way you create and implement a wellness program, but to share what tends to be the current norm in the industry. Let’s get started!
Wellness technology is a broad term that describes wellness software, tools and systems that allow organizations to assess health risk levels of employees, and to develop, then deliver wellness programming. It also helps evaluate the performance of these programs and measure ROI.
Specific program content is designed to motivate and engage participants to improve a variety of health behaviors, leading to improved total health outcomes, boosted morale, lower employee turnover, greater productivity, and more.
Other names for wellness technology include:
It’s important to note the difference between a wellness software application vs a wellness platform. A wellness app typically has a single function, while a wellness platform is a digital home-base that stores multiple apps, integrations and more, to consolidate all aspects of a well-being program behind a single login.
Additionally, programs and software vary in the duration and complexity of services they provide. Some wellness technology focuses exclusively on specific components or programs (for example, only health coaching, health assessments, or challenges), while others provide a complete, end-to-end well-being program with many components.
So where does wellness technology come from? There are many sources of wellness technology, from independent computer programmers to a company’s in-house IT department. There are also companies that focus solely on creating wellness technology.
Vendors that specialize in developing wellness technology (vs. providing wellness programs AND developing technology) have special insight into the industry. They’re constantly evolving their platform to incorporate customer feedback and improve clients’ ROI.
Most wellness programs have many moving parts, which can quickly become difficult to manage. It can also be time-consuming and tedious to effectively track and evaluate participation in, and the results and ROI of, these programs. Wellness software can help.
Administration is a major part of wellness programming, both for organizations providing an in-house program for its own employees, and for wellness providers that develop, deliver and promote wellness initiatives to employer clients. Programs are growing in variety and complexity and may include (but are not limited to) challenges, health assessments, biometrics tracking, coaching programs, educational/health content, activity/device tracking incentives, personalized screening reminders and more.
Wellness management software allows managers to avoid spending hours doing administrative tasks and instead focus on planning and implementing strategies to improve employee health. This is one of the main reasons employers use wellness technology to power programs: to simplify and streamline programming.
Typically, the following organizations use wellness technology:
Corporate Wellness Companies
Companies that specialize exclusively in providing corporate wellness programs to organizations are common in the United States. These companies focus on building engaging health education content and interactive well-being programs, and are usually run by health experts, not computer programmers. Wellness companies reach out to wellness technology providers for technical support, and typically tailor and re-brand wellness portals to align with their own unique needs. In other words, the wellness companies act as value added re-sellers of the wellness technology company’s tech products. Technology enables wellness companies to offer top wellness programming and IT support to their clients.
Medium to large-sized corporate employers
Typically, larger companies with lots of employees can offer a more robust employee wellness program, with many components to manage and administer. Wellness technology helps offer a seamless, organized, and up-to-date program, and is faster and more effective than creating new technology from scratch. Some smaller businesses work with wellness technology companies too, depending on budget and program sophistication. Most small companies with under 100 employees don’t have a dedicated in-house wellness expert or a multi-faceted wellness initiative. Smaller companies who need support will typically work with corporate wellness providers who can help implement an appropriate program.
Insurers and their wellness divisions
Insurers are increasingly expanding their services beyond traditional insurance products and are now offering wellness programs to their corporate clients’ workforces. Employers are looking for ways to reduce employee health risks and ultimately save on health premiums, so leading insurers are offering wellness programs as a value-add service to customers while gaining a competitive advantage. They partner with wellness technology vendors to create unique, effective, and up-to-the-minute well-being programming to offer their clients.
Health Coaching Companies
Like corporate wellness companies, employee health coaching companies specialize in delivering their health coaching services to employees and their dependents. Health coaching is frequently conducted online, so an effective and secure wellness platform is essential. Wellness technology companies provide the infrastructure for these coaches to deliver their services easily and seamlessly.
For example, CoreHealth’s platform offers video coaching so coaches and employees can digitally meet face-to-face for an engaging and personalized discussion. Many health coaching companies are also expanding their services to include a variety of additional wellness programs and need technology to support them.
EAP ProvidersEmployee Assistance Program (EAP) providers are an invaluable resource to support overall health and well-being. They provide a variety of programs, services and support (e.g. counseling) to employees and their families to assist with personal and/or work-related problems that may impact their job performance, health, mental and emotional well-being. Since EAP providers offers such a variety of programs, they need a sophisticated technical infrastructure to help them develop and deliver their services. This is especially true post-pandemic when many employees have not returned to the office and rely on digital EAP access.
Group Benefits Brokers
Benefits brokers are often the first point of contact for employers seeking guidance on overall employee health and wellbeing, typically in the form of health insurance and retirement programs. But since the pandemic, employer needs have gone well beyond just insurance. In the last few years, many brokers have begun offering workplace wellness programs and depend on wellness management software to power them.
For brokers who are considering offering wellness benefits, the Worksite Wellness 101 Wellness Guide for Benefits Brokers blog provides helpful insight. Learn how a brokerage firm can guide and support clients with effective corporate wellness programs. Gain a competitive advantage, share the value of wellness, and decide how to best help clients achieve high ROI.
Human Resources consulting firms
It’s common for large HR consulting firms to offer wellness programs to clients as a value-add service. However, it’s becoming more commonplace for small and medium-sized HR consulting firms to do so as well. As with all the organizations noted above, the more clients, the greater the need for wellness technology.
In recent years, businesses are asking for more preventative health programs for their employees and are looking to their local health community for help. There has been significant interest from health systems looking to expand their health and wellness programs beyond their own workforce and health facilities to include local business. As a result, health systems need wellness technology to power their in-house employee wellness programs and the wellness programs they deliver to corporate clients. For Community Health Systems just starting out, download this checklist: Get Started Providing Employee Wellness Programs to Local Business.
Whether an organization delivers programs to its own workforce or to a client, effective wellness management technology keeps it running smoothly.
There’s no set rule for when it’s time to buy technology, but here are some considerations:
Searching for the right wellness vendor can feel overwhelming. This resource can help make the process easier: Tools to find the Best Wellness Portal
Many managers aren't aware that there are different types of technology providers. As the wellness industry and related technology continues to evolve, there has been an increase in new technology options, which can be confusing to navigate. In addition to researching online, ask for references. Colleagues in the wellness space can be a wealth of information and a great source for unbiased feedback.
A decade ago, when there were limited technology options available, it wasn’t uncommon for companies to build their own technology. Today, it’s often more cost-effective and efficient to partner with a wellness technology company.
Top technology vendors have years of experience developing and implementing wellness with clients. Too often, companies invest in developing in-house to only discover it takes significantly more time, money and energy than if they’d partnered with a wellness vendor.
Much more information here: Employee Wellness Technology: Build or Buy?
Wellness technology is constantly evolving. This is especially true post-pandemic when the work and wellness environment is so different than it was just a few years ago. Technology vendors that are leading the way in innovation are regularly releasing new features and functionality to improve administration, security and user experience.
Some platforms focus on specific topics such as health coaching or content management, but an all-in-one platform that consolidates all components into one place should consist of the following features and functionality:
Wellness challenges are a fun way to encourage healthy habits within a workforce, and are a common entry point for organizations beginning to offer a wellness program. Challenges can take many forms and cover many topics including physical activity, nutrition, weight management, sleep or financial wellness.
Challenges are normally 2-6 weeks long and focus on a single aspect of health. They’re structured around completing daily and/or weekly activities to earn points, and can also feature educational content, and a social aspect, like a leaderboard. They can be done in teams, with a buddy, or individually.
Most platform vendors will have out-of-the box challenge templates that can be used as-is. Platforms with advanced flexibility allow customers to customize out-of-the box challenges or create fully customized challenges.
There are four common types of challenges:
Wellness technology can drive challenge engagement through a variety of methods including gamification techniques, incentives, goal tracking, activity tracking, points accumulation for achievement of milestones, badges, or incentive awards (gift cards, merchandise, charitable donation) plus the following:
Employers that effectively use engagement strategies and tailored communications can drive higher wellness engagement rates. When communications appeal to an employee’s unique intrinsic motivations it can help them understand the personal benefits of participating in a wellness program. In order to appeal to an individual employee, it’s vital that communication methods can be customized.
A wellness platform should be equipped with a wide variety of communication capabilities such as:
When it comes to communication, it helps to communicate regularly (but not so often that users tune out) and to use a variety of methods.
An important part of health and wellness programs is education. If participants are better informed about why and how they should improve their health, they'll be empowered to make better decisions and positive changes.
Delivering digital health content and resources is typically accomplished in one of the following ways:
Most technology vendors provide some sort of content out-of-the-box which could include simple health tips through to comprehensive articles and resources. This out-of-the-box content may be developed by the vendor’s in-house writers, via a third-party writer or a third-party content provider.
It’s a good idea to ask the vendor who writes their content.
Oftentimes, out-of-the-box content is shared with all participants, whether it’s relevant to them or not (e.g. diabetes articles are being shared with people who don’t have diabetes). While it’s better than nothing, this can work against you with engagement. If participants receive content that isn’t relevant to their specific health needs, it may be a barrier to engagement.
In-House Content Development
To deliver content that is specific to a workforce (e.g. Christian, disabled persons, common health issues for office or manufacturing workers, etc.) some organizations create their own content in-house that is highly relevant. To distribute it to a workforce, it’s important to work with a technology vendor that enables you to develop and deliver your own content to participants – not all vendors offer
Third-Party Content ProviderWhen there aren’t internal resources to produce content in-house, working with a third-party content provider may help. Depending on the technology vendor, they may have content partners to work with (usually because they have an established integration) or they may offer the flexibility to use a preferred provider. When going this route, it’s essential that the content can be seamlessly accessible in the app or portal to provide a seamless user experience.
This option provides excellent flexibility to work with a content provider that is most suitable for a specific audience; especially if it’s a priority to deliver micro-targeted content very specific to a health risk or topic of interest.
The importance of identifying at-risk employees early can’t be overstated. Health assessments present an opportunity to equip the employees who need it most with actionable information for improving their health. Aggregate data collected from health assessments can inform managers about which health topics will be most helpful to address, and ultimately helps employers achieve reduced healthcare costs and a greater VOI from their wellness program.
Wellness platforms offer toolsets that allow site administrators to schedule one-on-one events such as biometric screenings or total health assessments, which delve into many aspects of health, including mental and emotional well-being, financial health, chronic disease risk and prevalence, and more.
A thorough health assessment package will include a suite of total health assessments that use a scientific, evidence-based approach to gain a deeper understanding of employees’ health status, risk levels, and readiness to change. There are many topics that assessments can cover, each contributing to total health.
Although flexible wellness technology allows organizations to create, modify and distribute any type of health assessment or questionnaire, the three most common types of health assessments are:
Data gathered from biometric testing can be crucial for creating results-oriented wellness programs and have become a staple in corporate wellness programs. Wellness platforms that support biometrics will include the scheduling and storing of any type of biometric data from a variety of sources including:
Platforms that include file-feed capabilities can receive large file-feeds from other vendors in the event that a third-party vendor is facilitating a biometric screening event and is unable to directly plug data into the platform as the event is going on.
One of the most effective wellness programs is health and wellness coaching! It's typically delivered in-person, virtually, or self-directed.
Tools for Health Coaches
For health coaches to effectively implement their wellness strategies they must have the right tools. A robust wellness platform will typically include tools and functionality to support coaching programs throughout their entire lifecycle. Health coaches can create and administer their own programs and use platform communication methods such as telephonic, video or in-person communications to administrative tasks such as scheduling of appointments, providing content and managing notes and tasks.
Using technology health coaches can create and administer their own programs using platform tools such as:
Essentially, technology facilitates all the administrative components for a health coach so they can focus on doing what they do best – coaching their clients to achieve improved health.
Tools for Self-Directed Health Coaching
Technology can also help you develop self-directed coaching programs that focus on key areas or topics (e.g. smoking, sleeping, stress, etc.) and typically focus on education and goal setting.
Depending on the platform, self-directed programs can be sequential and could involve completing tasks such as reading articles, completing forms, watching videos, setting tasks (e.g. getting a physical) and personal goals. Completing specific steps in a self-directed coaching program and/or through to completion can also be linked to incentives (e.g. participants that complete self-directed coaching programs receive points or rewards) which should all be facilitated through the wellness technology for a seamless user experience.
Behavior change can be difficult to accomplish without appropriate help. Unless intrinsically motivated, some employees will have a hard time making healthy lifestyle changes. This is where incentives can help.
The difference an incentive program can make on a wellness program’s success can be significant. Most successful wellness programs provide some type of incentive program and there are numerous ways of going about designing one. Properly structured incentive programs built using the right tools can have a large impact on specific actions or behaviors from users.
Wellness technology will often include options to earn points that represent progress or dollars earned. Users can be rewarded points for any actionable item on the platform as well as for off-site events. When certain levels of points are reached, users can redeem them through a third-party incentive fulfillment vendor when their services are integrated into the platform.
For example, technology offers the flexibility to determine how to track and award points through a variety of options such as:
Essentially, incentives are about encouraging healthy habits on an ongoing basis, so participants eventually transition from being extrinsically motivated to intrinsic which is the foundation for creating long-term, permanent change. Some governments provide legislation around what can and can’t be offered as incentives so be sure to check local regulations.
Incentive Fulfilment Options
Tracking incentives is just one part of an incentive program - you also need provide rewards to participants to acknowledge all their hard work!
Some organizations handle this in-house by buying a supply of gift cards or merchandise to give to participants. This works well for smaller groups but can quickly become heavy with administration and isn’t very personalized.
Organizations willing to invest more in their wellness program and incentives tend to partner with a third-party fulfillment companies that remove the administrative burden while giving participants the freedom to pick and choose how they want to be rewarded in a more personalized manner.
Reporting and metric functionality are crucial to understanding how your wellness program is performing and how user health is progressing at a member, group, geographic level or any preferred data segregation method. This allows for improved decision making and rapid feedback on what’s working and what needs attention.
A comprehensive reporting engine should provide an endless range of measurable data points to help you define exactly what it is you want to track and how you want to report it. There are numerous options for reporting such as:
Given a platform’s ability to pull data from within and via third-party integrations, there should be limitless opportunities to analyze data on anything from illness and absentee costs to reducing workplace accidents or trends in employee engagement. A platform will offer a chance to examine how long-term trends influence effectiveness within the workplace and demonstrates where changes can be made.
Once the team has determined specific metrics, it's time to examine long-term trends that influence the workplace and make decisions on what changes should be made. Reporting the results of wellness programs is an important part of designing future programming and gaining leadership support.
Beyond the core features and functionality in wellness technology, here are some other noteworthy features:
White-Labeling and Branding Capabilities
Wellness technology should have logs and auditing capabilities to track site changes, including modifications and deletions, with details about what was changed and by who.
Restrictions/Limits/ScalabilityFor wellness providers planning on growth, scalability and system restrictions/limitations is essential to know in advance.
Ask the vendor what kinds of limitations they have? Can they scale as you grow? Can you maintain multiple database instances to track each client? Can you logically segregate each instance so you can deliver a customizable view for each client? Ask for proof and examples.
This is important because if you can’t segregate each client site, then you may have reporting limitations. For example, you won’t be able to segment your reports for each client site – you will only be able to report on the platform which isn’t conducive to determining ROI for each client.
New services are constantly entering the marketplace offering ‘the next best thing’ and include everything from financial wellness and stress management to incentive fulfillment and wearable devices. One of the biggest issues for wellness platforms today is the number of inter-related solutions that go into delivering successfully integrated wellness programs that can offer wide-ranging services.
Platforms can use several tools to share real-time data through third-party integrations such as single sign on (SSO), Application Programming Interface (API’s), web services, and flat file import/export solutions. There are also data aggregators such as Validic that can provide additional integrations to popular devices and apps and their data for an additional cost.
An advanced platform will typically have a few options for integrations including a:
Extensive development work among various services is required to contribute to a seamless user experience and provide cohesive data analytics. It’s important to understand what the capabilities and limitations are of a platform when it comes to integrations.
Wellness platforms are being asked to ‘talk’ with a myriad of systems such as:
Integrations with these services is a key strategy for platforms that don’t offer a comprehensive solution. Through API’s, platforms can directly integrate with additional services in the marketplace and continue to provide a seamless user experience while meeting ever changing user demands for services.
If transferring data to/from a laboratory or health system, a Health Level Seven or HL7 interface is essential to ensure that the integration is following the international standards for data transfer.
Each integration tends to have unique requirements, but once it’s understood how two systems need to interact with one another, a solution can be found. Anything is possible with wellness technology when the right puzzle pieces are there.
Given that wellness platforms manage personal health information, privacy and security is of the utmost importance. Read 4 Reasons Why Wellness Portal Security Should Be Your Top Priority to help identify what to look out for.
There are various ways that wellness platforms can ensure privacy and security, including:
For more detailed information on this important but complicated subject, read Best Practices for Wellness Technology Security. For global organizations, more detailed compliance practices are necessary. Our White Paper: Global Privacy, written with the help of global information privacy experts, can help.
In preparation to discuss privacy and security requirements, it’s helpful to know the reality of data security, for those wondering How Safe is my Data? Really?
HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, sets the standard for protecting sensitive patient data in the United States. Any company that deals with protected health information (PHI) in the US must ensure that all required physical, network, and process security measures are in place and followed.
A platform itself cannot be a HIPAA-compliant entity, but can be configured to be 100% HIPAA compliant, and the company that creates the platform can be a covered entity. However, platform providers are not typically covered entities under HIPAA as it’s up to customers and their programs to be HIPAA compliant. Platforms support HIPAA compliance by providing privacy and security components that follow national requirements. CoreHealth helps dozens of companies meet their compliance requirements and stay as secure as possible.
As with everything in business, ROI matters - workplace health and wellness programs are no different. And there’s a formula for achieving it. However, with wellness programs, it can be difficult to determine exactly what to measure and how to report the results. Some wellness experts even have a fear of reporting wellness program ROI (What if you don’t get the results you expect?)
Many health and wellness professionals find themselves selling wellness to c-suite; however, what about wellness technology? What’s the best way to measure the ROI and investment in technology? Is that something people even give much thought to? If they don’t, they should.
The right wellness technology is proven to boost ROI and increase participation.
Like things wellness-related, measuring can be tricky; however, this is what we suggest companies do to quantify the value of an employee wellness portal investment.
User Experience (UX)User participation is the ‘make or break’ measurement of technology. If there is an increase in user complaints and technical issues which seem to coincide with program participation decreasing, this is a red flag. If technology is painful to use and does little to engage, there can be little ROI.
A relatively easy way to measure UX is by surveying participants about their portal experience. The results will serve as a starting benchmark to measure against in the future, whether with improvements in current software or a new system altogether. The before/after results can be indicative of ROI.
Program & Service Limitations
As a provider, it's unfortunate to limit programs and services because the technology doesn't enable effective delivery. The cost of 'missed opportunities' impacts ROI.
Pricing varies between wellness vendors (see Costs below), and there are potential savings from switching to a different vendor. For example, Hamilton Health Care System saw a savings of $83K per year in annual licensing costs after switching to CoreHealth. Carefully compare the hard costs, like licensing and implementation.
If simple tasks are becoming a constant headache, it’s important to consider these as a measurement of ROI. The frustration factor is hard to quantify but is important to note. One way to quantify this aspect of wellness management is by creating a 1-5 rating scale for regular tasks and rank 1 (no headache) to 5 (BIG headache). You may be surprised how many ‘headache tasks’ you do in a day, and how many may be easily outsourced to free up time for more important projects.
For providers looking to grow a client-base, scalability is essential. If technology cannot easily scale (and thereby prevents growth), it could be preventing additional revenue.
A company should be able to say, “I created the coolest new [XYZ] program with XX% employee participation.” Of course, this is all dependent on how much the company’s reputation for being an innovator matters. But typically innovation = competitive advantage = increased growth = increase revenue.
Wellness Program ROI MeasurementCompanies need to effectively measure ROI, and clearly communicate it to clients, to reinforce the value they bring to the table. In addition to proving ROI, technology should help explain the VOI (Value on Investment) with a tool such as an Executive Dashboard that tells the organization’s health and engagement story, too.
Plus, the ability to accurately integrate wellness program data with claims experience and other employer information, in one unified view, is the holy grail of wellness. Formulating all this business intelligence into one platform is hugely valuable for employers looking to prove program ROI and influence future program decisions.
Technical support for wellness software should be quick and easy. If wellness managers are spending hours on the phone with the software vendor’s technical support team, it’s a waste of time and money. Estimate how much time is spent and, more importantly, whether you’re getting solutions. This could reduce ROI and be a headache at the same time.
These are just some of the ways to quantify the ROI of wellness technology. When considering other pain points not mentioned here, simply note them and determine how to best measure the before and after results.
Tip: Ideally, decide and track which measurements will be the benchmark BEFORE researching and evaluating new technology vendors. This will help to determine ROI AFTER.
Similar to ROI, the Value on Investment (VOI) is a common form of measurement in the corporate wellness space. It applies to wellness technology too.
The VOI concept was first introduced by Gartner, the leading information technology research and advisory company, and is defined as: “intangible assets that contribute heavily to an organization’s performance. These intangible assets include knowledge, processes, the organizational structure, and the ability to collaborate. Where ROI is the measure of the tangible benefits of a project or activity, VOI is the measure of the intangible benefits of a project or an activity. VOI includes ROI.”
VOI measures ‘soft’ initiatives that aren’t easily measurable with dollars or time savings. Here are some ways to measure the VOI of wellness technology:
Company Culture / Employee Engagement
Technology that boosts employee engagement and comradery, and enables people to better connect with each other (e.g. teaming up on a health challenge, encouraging office ‘walks’, sharing success stories, etc.), and improving their health ultimately influences company culture in a positive way.
Interactions Between All Levels
It’s commonly known that the most successful wellness programs include leadership support and involvement. If your technology better enables interaction between all levels of employees (e.g. sweating next to the CEO), it helps to remove company hierarchy and facilitates social connection.
When employees are working towards common personal goals (e.g. losing weight, quitting smoking, etc.) friendships tend to develop when they may not have otherwise happened. Technology can help facilitate these connections.
These are just a few examples but demonstrate how wellness software (and the people using them) can facilitate improved health, engagement and friendships.
Once new wellness technology is established as a priority, what are the next steps? First is to find a wellness technology provider.
Finding the perfect wellness portal can be overwhelming. There are so many points to consider and vendors to evaluate, that it can be difficult to figure out where to start.
Get started with our in-depth Toolkit for Researching and Evaluating Wellness Tech Vendors.
The toolkit goes into detail on these topics and more:
If an internal project manager hasn’t been determined already, this is a good time to decide as he/she will keep the process on track. Here are some things to consider when selecting a project manager.
A great project manager is:
Once the project manager has been identified, the project can get started. The playbook outlines the process in more detail and includes the following stages.
Understand, at a high-level, what problem the organization wants to overcome and what goals it wants to achieve. with this new wellness portal. Sometimes, it’s a leader (sponsor) that determines what the overarching goal is. Typically, the process starts from a pain point.
Identify the internal project team from a cross-section of resources including Project Manager, Sponsor and the core project team of subject matter experts (SMEs) familiar with various departmental and/or functional needs and wants.
Ideally, the project team has meet with key stakeholders (end-users, site administrators, decision makers, etc.) that can act as department or functional representatives. This will help them understand and develop the business case (the problem they’re trying to solve) and dig deep into pain points and expectations.
This phase can be quite time consuming and in-depth. This is a time to review existing processes, procedures and ask questions, and document everything! (You never know when you’ll need to reference past notes and discussions.) This phase helps formulate functional requirements, priorities and define project objectives.
The toolkit includes an in-depth RFP template that can help get the process started. It can help identify specific needs and priorities. Clarity on what is necessary is helpful before starting to research vendors.
There are many wellness portal vendors on the market. Ask for referrals from colleagues and LinkedIn connections. Then, start to filter out non-suitable vendors quickly, by reviewing requirements and priorities set in the previous step.
Evaluate how the company’s program requirements compare to vendor capabilities.
1. Vendor Demos – Once a preliminary internal vendor evaluation is complete, it's time to see some demos. Provide vendors with a demo flow, or “script” with an agenda in advance of the demo. This gives time for vendors to appropriately prepare for the presentation and address key areas and requirements. For more information on this step, read 6 Steps to Successfully Host a Vendor Demo.
This is a very important stage and one that can quickly fall off the rails.
2. During-Demo Evaluations – After watching multiple demos, it’s easy to forget who showed what and the merits of each. It’s important for evaluators to be provided with guidelines on what they should be looking for with a method for evaluating and rating. This can be accomplished in a variety of formats, but one way is with an Evaluator Scorecard (feel free to distribute as necessary). It’s a helpful tool to guide internal stakeholders on what to look for, making an efficient discussion at internal debriefs.
3. Internal Debrief – After all vendor demos are complete, evaluators should reconvene to review and discuss the pros and cons of each vendor. There may be one or a few debrief meetings required. If evaluators completed their Evaluator Scorecard, this process will likely be smoother. Sometimes a clear winner is obvious. If not, be prepared for a friendly ‘debate.‘ It’s important to discuss all points and concerns to minimize stumbling points for the project going forward.
4. Vendor Short List – Once a short list of top vendors is decided upon, some ‘deeper dive’ demos might be necessary to ask any outstanding questions. It’s always wise to identify your top choice and a runner-up (in the event there are surprises).
5. Vendor Reference Checks – Be sure to check references for the top choice vendor. The project manager will likely brainstorm questions first, and then invite the project team to provide any additional feedback or questions.
Wow! It’s been a long process, but the end is in sight!
After debriefing meetings and reference checks, it’s time to decide. Hopefully reference discussions solidified a top choice, but if not, go back through the process again.
The toolkit provides a strong framework to support researching and evaluating wellness technology vendors.
The cost of wellness software varies depending on specific needs, and the technology vendor itself. For example, for a vendor to run the wellness program AND develop technology, the vendor will charge accordingly (and may work the cost of the technology into the overall program cost). However, for just the technology, the following is common in the industry:
An eligible participant (employee, spouse, manager, etc.) is anyone who is provided access to the system. They may be uploaded via an eligibility file or they may create accounts upon registration. Regardless of how many participants access the system, the organization pays for all who are eligible to register (e.g. organization has 1,000 employees – all of which are eligible. Customer pays monthly for 1,000 employees).
2. PEPY = Per Eligible Per Year
As above, an eligible participant (employee, spouse, manager, etc.) is anyone who is provided access to the system. This pricing model covers the entire year versus one month. The option to purchase for less than a year is not applicable.
3. PPPY = Per Participant Per Year (aka Per Engaged)
Engaged employees are those employees that access the system. Organizations must pay the minimum license fee (as per contract) and any users over that number will be billed upon reconciliation (typically quarterly).
Per Participant/Engaged pricing is always paid annually (no monthly option available).
It’s fairly common practice that vendors apply a minimum annual licensing fee so if your volumes are below a minimum threshold, you will be responsible for the minimum. It’s important to ask if a minimum fee applies. A quick calculation of your estimated participant population x license pricing will help you determine how many users you need to cover this fee.
Some vendors are more flexible with their pricing than others so it’s important to ask.
Just like there is a variety of licensing costs and options, implementation may vary too. There is no ‘one’ implementation approach but here are a few options:
Tip: Once the team is trained on the platform, they are often ready to run with it. However, what happens if your site administrator leaves the company? This can result in a huge gap and risk with your technology investment. Your vendor should provide ad-hoc training if/as required and may apply a separate training fee at that time.
Third-party integration costs can vary greatly and will depend on the platform integration capabilities, the type of third-party service and the type of integration (one-way, bi-directional, etc.) required to share data. In many cases, the technology vendor has already implemented numerous types of integrations which can serve as a guideline or base, but typically custom development is still required with each new integration to provide the best solution. The more complicated the integration, the higher the cost. Some vendor charge $2,500 per integration, some $20,000 or more so it is key to understand this area.
Depending on the vendor, technical support may or may not be included during the implementation phase. It’s common to be assigned an implementation team that will handle all the initial onboarding and setup; therefore, technical support may not be engaged at this time.
Technical support is usually included in the annual licensing costs; however, there are still some vendors that charge you extra for technical support. It’s important to ask vendors if technical support is included in licensing fees or an additional cost.
If the technology vendor is a SaaS provider (Software as a Service), they should have a record of providing new software releases at least once per year (for comparison, CoreHealth typically provides 2-3 releases per year), as technology can quickly become out of date.
Depending on the vendor, they may or may not charge you extra for new releases.
One of the advantages of working with a technology-only company is that they continue to re-invest, innovate and strengthen to respond to the evolving market and the needs of the industry.
Once the team has decided on a wellness technology provider, it’s time to get the show on the road! The implementation stage is where the technology solution comes to life as the portal is developed and tailored to program specifications.
Before signing the contract, agree on the details of a statement of work (SOW) which breaks down the project objectives, scope and deliverables. Upon agreement and execution, a project plan is developed that provides a detailed breakdown of project tasks, timelines, resources and milestones.
The SOW and contracting phase is the time to discuss and determine preferred implementation approach with related costs.
Typically, there are two options:
1. Self-Guided Implementation & Training – This is where you receive user training first and then you configure the system to your specifications. Depending on the vendor, their involvement with the configuration and training process may be some or almost no involvement. This is typically less expensive as vendor involvement is minimal but may increase your risk. This is typically available with Application versus Platform software.
2. Vendor-Led Implementation & Training – This is where the vendor leads you through the implementation and configuration process (with the vendor doing the configurations in the system). There is typically a deeper discovery process and, if the implementer is skilled, they will help you work through any challenges you may have with transitioning from the ‘current way of doing things’ to the ‘new way of doing things’ to ensure you leverage all available features and functionality. This is typically more expensive as vendor involvement is extensive, but it can help decrease your risk.
But, depending on the vendor, an altogether different approach may apply. Just ask!
The team will likely be assigned one or many vendor resources that will provide support to the project team during the implementation process. This may include:
In addition to services provided by the wellness company, allocate sufficient human and financial resources to set the program up for success. If there are gaps within in-house resources, tell the technology vendor as early as possible (but hopefully it’s identified during the sales process), to identify what needs to be done and by who (like a vendor resource, a third-party contractor, temporary staff).
Ask the technology vendor what in-house resources are required to facilitate a successful implementation process.
Depending on the size and scope of the population, some or all of the following resources may be helpful:
Important Note: Should the only site administrator leave the organization without facilitating knowledge transfer to a replacement, it’s recommended you contact the vendor immediately so they can support you with effective user training and transition for a new site admin to ensure ROI investment continues to pay off.
Many vendors follow a similar implementation process, outlined below. However, your vendor should provide specifics during the sales process.
1. Signed Contract
After the contract is signed there may be a kick off call, project team introductions, configuration discussions and training plans.
The next two steps, site configuration and user training, may switch order depending on the chosen implementation approach.
2. Site Configuration
Gather specific information for site design, user registration requirements, type of program, program components, modules required, URL, etc. and an outline for how these will be implemented.
Depending on the chosen implementation approach (self-guided or vendor-provided), the site configuration may be done by your organization or by the vendor.
Important Note: Based on the technology’s flexibility and ease of configuration, you may be able to make all future changes (and not require vendor involvement); however, not all platforms offer this. Find out if you can make systems changes or if the vendor must and, if so, what charges will apply for vendor-made changes.
3. User Training
If you will be doing your own site configuration, the vendor will provide training (either in-person, virtual training via conference call, on-demand videos, written training documents, help resources, etc.) This should happen as soon as possible to get the platform ready.
If the vendor is doing the initial configurations, the user training may happen during or after the configuration process. It’s important they explain how they configured the system so you can be self-sufficient after going live.
4. Site Testing
The vendor should conduct preliminary technical testing and then provide access to a test account with your configurations and customizations. This is your opportunity to request any additional configuration changes, identify any bugs and tweak the user experience (a user friendly and engaging user experience is a must!) before the site goes live.
Ideally, involve as many people as possible in the testing process. You may be inclined to speed through this step or skip it altogether but DON’T.
Initial rollout can make or break the launch of a new system.
If a new user logs on for the first time to discover the portal is difficult to navigate or boring, they probably won’t be back. Good luck convincing them to try again once all the fixes are made!
Note: The vendor may provide the opportunity to request one or several rounds of design changes (this is usually specified in the contract), so be aware of exactly how many site changes are included, and associated costs.
5. Program Launch – Going Live
Rollout of the new system to users is a critical stage of the program process. If you haven’t started on a communications and rollout strategy already, start now! Communicating to users is essential to implementation success. Make sure to get people excited and engaged BEFORE the launch date, and then maintain or increase the communications once it’s live.
Here are ways organizations communicate to their workforce to create hype:
Once the site is live, use the technology to communicate as well. In the CoreHealth platform, there are a variety of communications tools including message boards, emails, notifications, SMS (text) messaging and social collaboration tools – it’s ideal to use a combination of formats.
6. Program Review
Once the new system has been rolled out, what are the next steps? Remember, this is just the beginning.
The new platform is live and now you can breathe a little more easily!
After investing weeks (or months) in the implementation process, much of the hard work is over. But maintaining a wellness program is a continual process. Wellness technology has helped shape the wellness industry and will continue do so in coming years, meaning there will always be bigger and better features to include, and adaptations to be made.
Like all systems worth any value, this is just the beginning. Once you start feeling comfortable using the software, you will recognize the potential of implementing new processes, programs and ideas to continue to keep a competitive edge. Technology should never go stagnant.
It’s at this stage that a wellness technology vendor really proves their continued value.
The wellness technology vendor should:
Overall, the partnership between organization and technology vendor should continue to grow and evolve. This will improve your technology and business operations, so you can continue to focus on your strengths – delivering innovative and comprehensive wellness programs that get results.
Technology shouldn’t be a barrier –
it should be the catalyst to greater things.
CoreHealth by Carebook is a total well-being company trusted by global companies to power their health and wellness programs. Our wellness portals help maximize health, engagement, and productivity for over 3.5 million employees worldwide. We believe people are the driving force of organizations and supporting them to make behavior changes to improve employee health is in everyone’s best interest. With the most flexibility, customizations, and integrations of any software in its class, CoreHealth’s all-in-one wellness platform helps achieve great wellness outcomes.
From simple to sophisticated, it's up to you. For more information, visit the CoreHealth website.
We are able to deliver our unique content, motivational challenges, education and personalized programs without the cost of custom development. We can contract a client and have their tailored portal live within hours. I also have the support of the enthusiastic CoreHealth team whenever I need them. I am very pleased.
Amy Cohen, President Inspired Perspectives
From creative job titles, to the implementation team taking our incentive structure and making it so much more than what our last portal could do! Not to mention it saved us over $75,000 per year and allows for us to resell our program to the community. For us, CoreHealth is a win-win."
Emily Elrod, Wellness Coordinator Hamilton Healthcare Systems