📱Technologies’ Impact on Corporate Wellness and Population Health
With all the advancements in corporate wellness technology, is today’s workforce healthier than, say, 30 years ago?
It was 30 years ago that the corporate wellness adoption rate took off primarily among larger employers. I started my first
company, Corporate Fitness Services in 1985. By 1990, our programs were being delivered to over 100,000 employees in a
variety of industry categories. Back then, everything was paper-based. We had some basic computer programs for recording-
keeping and a computerized health risk assessment tool. But we did not have the technology or internet reach as we do
today. Employers who could afford the cost, spent millions constructing fitness centers and hiring staff with advanced degrees
in health/fitness and nutrition. Facilitator-led education, one-on-one engagement, team challenges, and personalized
exercise programs that evolved along with a participant’s progress, all formed a multi-layered support structure.
Over the years, corporate wellness platforms became predominantly digital and the adoption rate among employers
continues to rise as program costs went down. Today, a person can organize their health information, complete self-
assessments, track activity and participation, and access useful educational content, all through interactions with their smart
phone apps. Gamification features integrated into the platforms add a competitive spin onto the exercise component. Some
apps display the locations and details of local fitness centers and spas, particularly helpful when traveling.
In our corporate wellness programs in the 80s and 90s, we documented employee retention rates at 45% after 2 years. After
3 years, we recorded retention at 31%. Many of the employees who kept up with their exercise plans had prior histories of
one or more health risk factors and were not been previously active. We documented improvements in blood pressure,
percent body fat, cholesterol, functional work capacity, absenteeism, reduced prevalence of job-related injuries, mental
health, and health care cost avoidances.
In contrast, and despite the advantages of technology, the drop-out rate among employees with today’s wellness offerings is
stunning. Only 3% of people maintain consistent healthy lifestyle habits over an extended period. In fact, in the 80s and 90s,
the obesity rate in North America was 22%. Today, the obesity rate is 44% and climbing.
So, what happened?
Our growing reliance on technology and virtual communities, rather than face-to-face interactions and relationships, has been
making us feel more isolated and less motivated. At the dawn of corporate wellness, exercise trainers, nutrition coaches, and
instructors worked hand-in-hand with employees in customizing plans and supervising their activity. This resulted in strong
retention rates and evidence-based improvements. Today’s digitally connected wellness programs have all but replaced the
‘human-connection’. We are increasingly feeling less connected to others and our relationships are becoming more
superficial and less rewarding. Modern life has made us lonelier, and recent research indicates that this may be the next
biggest public health issue on par with obesity and substance abuse.
Changing one’s lifestyle patterns, even for something as vitally important as health improvement, is no easy task. It takes 2
years of continuous physical, mental and behavioral effort for healthy habits and lifestyle changes to take permanent hold.
More than 85% of individuals need a support network. This can include family and friends, coaches, instructors, exercise
partners, and co-workers to stay motivated and engaged. Support networks comprised of interpersonal relationships are
essential when busy schedules, family, job, and a myriad of distractions continuously sidetrack focus and progress. People
need each other, not virtual communities, to get through life’s challenges. And working toward new lifestyle habits and
healthy practices is a challenging, though highly rewarding, endeavor that is a forever work in progress.
EP Health’s why.
EP Health’s ‘Better Health through Better Engagement’ platform integrates the best of the original human-centered corporate
wellness model with the advantages of today’s technology. People are social animals who need to feel a belonging to others.
We do better when connected to one another, supporting shared goals of better health and well-being. EP Health’s
technology is not as much SaaS, as it is a Software-as-a-People-Service. Technology needs to drive people-connections and
relationships, while maximizing efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Equally important is customization. Every person is unique in their own way. The EP Health wellness experience begins with a
review of each participating employee’s profile, which includes a health risk analysis for 135 job types and categories. Generic, one-size-fits-all exercise activities do not stimulate long-term motivation and retention, so EP Health’s person centered wellness plans are developed, supported, monitored, and updated by a team of live coaches. EP Health’s Engagement-360 platform comprises a personal coaching team, friends and family memberships, online support groups, mental/behavioral (cognitive therapy) coaching, and participation in workplace team challenges.
The path of well-being is a personal lifelong journey, often requiring guidance, motivation, and reinforcement. The workplace
is an important and effective setting for creating and maintaining a multi-layered support structure that makes achieving
personal health improvement possible. The evidence shows that today’s heavy reliance on digitally connected wellness
programs fails to advance population health and workforce engagement. Utilizing lessons-learned dating back 30 years, EP
Health synthesizes the best of human-connected and digital-connected models. This forms a wellness ecosystem that will
achieve both advances in population health through individual achievements, and workforce engagement through an
organically grown support structure.
“EP Health is the next generation in corporate wellness”.
EP Health President