Podcast: Delivering a Successful Wellness Program with Scott Weden at HealthTrust
In this episode of the Well-Being Experts podcast, we’re discussing the challenges and successes that employers face in delivering a successful wellness program. We sat down with Scott Weden, Benefits and Wellness Manager at HealthTrust, talk about his background and story in this industry, his experience and viewpoints from working at HealthTrust, and also a bit about his perspective of working with Onlife. He also shares what we have to look forward to in the future of wellness.
“What I really enjoy is watching folks engage in the program, find success, and knowing that it’s easy. It’s easy to do. It’s at your fingertips. All you have to do is engage.”
Interested in learning more about HealthTrust's success in wellness? Click to read the Case Study or watch the video where Scott talks about working with Onlife Health over the past decade.
Want to dive deeper into this Well-Being Experts podcast? Here's the full transcript from our discussion with Scott Weden, Benefits and Wellness Manager at HealthTrust.
Scott Weden: What I really enjoy is watching folks engage in the program, find success, and knowing that it’s easy. It’s easy to do. It’s at your fingertips. All you have to do is engage.
Host: This is the Well-Being Experts podcast and you just heard from Scott Weden, Benefits and Wellness Manager at HealthTrust. We had the chance to sit down and talk about his background and story in this industry, his experience and viewpoints from working at HealthTrust, and also a bit about his perspective of working with Onlife. He also shares what we have to look forward to in the future of wellness.
For more content like this, go to onlifehealth.com/resources. Enjoy the conversation!
Scott: Hello, my name is Scott Weden, I am the Benefits and Wellness Manager for HealthTrust, located in Concord, New Hampshire.
Host: Excellent. Thank you so much for sharing a bit about your story, your passions in this industry, your expertise. It’s an exciting opportunity, because HealthTrust – you’ve been working with Onlife Health for ten years now.
Scott: Absolutely. Ten great years.
Host: So let’s start off first with just a quick background on the work that you’re finding yourself doing every day, your passions in this industry, and then we’ll walk through what it’s been like over the past years.
Scott: I think some of the most important pieces about HealthTrust are – our board has taken a very positive approach to our wellness program. That meaning, the board has developed our mission and our vision of the organization truly around our wellness efforts. That being said, we just recently updated our strategic planning project, and our number one goal is regards to product and services. And most importantly, the number one objective is providing programming to our members, to engage them in wellness, in living healthier lifestyles.
Host: So you’re responsible for the benefits and wellness of HealthTrust’s members. So I’d love to ask you this in three parts: how important is wellness to HealthTrust, your members, and then to you specifically?
Scott: I think with regards to HealthTrust, wellness is our number one aspect of our program. We do offer the health plans, but wellness component is number one. And from a perspective of running the Wellness and Benefits department, we have several advisors that are on the road, and they’re working with each of our groups on a daily basis. So with regards to our department, number one is that we’re out there, we’re trying to provide opportunities, engagement and implementation of wellness programs for our groups.
Host: How would you talk about your members as far as the importance of wellness?
Scott: I think it has always been on the forefront. But I think more importantly, over the last five years, we’ve implemented what we call the Wellness Coordinator Academy. And what that does is it puts peers in the different groups that we serve as wellness coordinators that work in conjunction with the wellness advisors. So giving them an on-site person to be able to implement and engage that population in different wellness activities, that has proven to be truly successful for us. Our numbers are increasingly becoming more prominent with people engaging in challenges, in programs, in the health assessment, in health coaching. So I think that’s one of the thing, from a group perspective, is the Wellness Coordinator Academy.
Host: So that’s been going on for five years now?
Scott: That is correct.
Host: Anything that has maybe surprised you about, “Wow, this actually worked a lot better in this particular way” than maybe you thought it would? What did that look like?
Scott: Well, I think through the Wellness Coordinator Academy, one thing that has shown is that other groups are looking at it, that they hear of it through word-of-mouth, and that has inspired other groups to participate. Out of 300 groups right now, we’ve got about 70% of the groups that have a Wellness Coordinator Academy. In fact, the Wellness Coordinator Academy will be the highlight of the HealthTrust Summit that’s taking place in September.
Host: I love that focus on – you said word-of-mouth, very people-driven.
Host: How is that important, the people-driven focus, for the fabric of that approach?
Scott: They see that it’s easy to do, it’s not as difficult as some may say, that the program is brought to them, we provide them resources, tools and opportunity through the wellness advisers at the coordinator level.
Host: Finally for this question, I would love to hear your thoughts on how important wellness is, because I know this is something you have tremendous passion on. Whenever you talk to individuals about the benefits of a wellness program, how do you respond to that?
Scott: From my family’s perspective, is that my family itself has had a huge success with our wellness program. My wife two years ago participated in the program and has continuously participated in it. She’s lost 82 pounds. We walk six miles a day and we’re healthier based on the programming that HealthTrust provides to its members because we’re covered through that.
Not only from my wife and I, but my daughter and my son have been very active in the wellness program, who both benefit from it because they both are employed by one of our towns, cities, schools or counties. So it’s been kind of family-driven from my perspective of making sure that our family is healthy, but what I really enjoy is watching folks engage in the program, find success and knowing that it’s easy. It’s easy to do. It’s at your fingertips. All you have to do is engage.
Host: I love to hear how different individuals are motivated. And for you, it comes down to the family. That’s great. What made HealthTrust decide that it needed to invest in the health and wellness of its members beyond health insurance?
Scott: It really goes back to the early ’90s of when we were looking at wellness, and then coming into the early 2000s, where it was about consumerism, about the cost of care, about the cost of medical plans. And we really looked at it from a different perspective of, “What can we do without taking away the benefit that our members have?” Because we are the state of New Hampshire. Our state motto is Live Free or Die and it’s hard to initially engage folks into our program.
So from a medical consumerism perspective is that we allow them to continue with their rich benefits. They still had indemnity plans. They have $1 co-pays on prescription drugs. But how could we cut the cost by getting them engaged in wellness programs through health management?
And at first it was simply doing flu vaccinations; it was doing biometrics screenings. And then we looked and we said, “We really need to take a different approach to this. We need to open it up to an overall health management program where there are several resources and opportunities to engage folks, such as taking the health assessment, getting engaged in health coaching, having the biometric screenings regionally at our wellness coordinator sites, as well as the flu vaccination program.”
Host: Why did HealthTrust decide to entrust their wellness program to Onlife? Because it’s been ten years now. Was this HealthTrust’s first wellness program? Were you working with someone else before that?
Scott: We were working with a vendor prior to engaging Onlife. That vendor’s contract had expired, so we went out to request for proposal, and we interviewed several wellness vendors. And at the end of the day, through several interviews and program design, we chose Onlife. And I think through the years what is been important to us is that Onlife doesn’t have a corporate mentality. It has a mentality of being innovative, being creative, and having great service.
Host: So you’ve talked a bit about the board and how there is great backing there with the belief in this. Tell me a little bit about maybe something that helps illustrate that.
Scott: Well, it’s very interesting that you ask that. A couple of weeks ago we were sitting in a strategic planning meeting and in that meeting is three of our board members. One of our board members came from an IT background and eventually got into School Business Administration. And we were sitting in the meeting and he said to me, he said, “I thought Onlife had a mobile app.” He said, “I can’t find the Onlife app.” I said, “Well, you’re correct, Adam. The app is AlwaysOn app.” And by the end of that meeting, he had not only downloaded the app, he had chatted with the health coach, he had put in his tracking for physical activity because he is a soccer referee. And he was going to be refereeing this upcoming weekend and knew that he’d have close to 40,000 steps over the weekend in the tournament that he was going to be refereeing.
So from a board member perspective, he saw that not only did he have it at his fingertips, he found that it was very easy to use, he noted that our partner Onlife was able to provide the information to him in a very timely fashion so that he could get on the road to success. And then, at the end of the meeting, he was up and running with his AlwaysOn app.
Host: I know you have a really uniqueness of your program, just who you cover, and why you covered. So could you tell me a little more about that?
Scott: Our program is rather unique in who we engage in our program. We engage not only enrollee and the subscriber, but also the retiree population and dependents over the age of 18. Is that we know that our retiree population is probably more of our medical spend than what we see from an enrollee and subscriber perspective, so we want to engage them in the program with specific programming that’s available to them through our Slice of Life wellness program. Dependents over the age of 18 – we know that a number of those dependents over the age of 18 are going to follow in their parents’ footsteps and probably serve in public entity, whether it’s police, fire, public works, or teaching.
Host: When you talk little about measuring ROI, what do you tell the skeptics? I guess we can call them the skeptics. Those who say, “You can’t measure ROI” or, “There’s too much difficulty, it’s not possible.” What are some of your thoughts around that?
Scott: With regards to measuring ROI on a program, I think in the past that this maybe been too high of expectations set on what the return on investment is going to be in the program. And I think it really plays out to, “Are you a multi-employer or are you a single employer?” If you’re a single employer, the wellness program is most likely going to be tied to your benefit. And if you don’t participate in the wellness programs, you’re going to be a higher copay, there’s going to be higher cost-share for you, with regards to your medical plan.
We’re a multi-employer. We have over 300 groups that participate in our program and we don’t tie their hands with regards to, “You’re going to pay more for your benefit if you don’t participate in wellness.” Our program is truly voluntary. And we have over 38% of those eligible for the program participating in the Onlife wellness platform. 38% may not talk. It may not be a great percentage in some people’s eyes, but when you’re looking at over 300 groups and over 44,000 individuals served, that number is very high.
And as I’ve said in the past, and I’ll say again, is that it’s not one size of the program that fits all. There has to be other resources, there has to be other elements in the program that folks want to engage in. There may be people, and I know there’s people in our pool, that don’t want to talk to a health coach, but they’re more than willing to go to the local hospital and participate in a weight-management program. So that’s when I say one size doesn’t fit all, is there has to be resources, programs, and services that are available to your pool.
Host: And meeting them where they’re at.
Host: How has Onlife helped you improve member health overall?
Scott: Through several different ways. It’s helped us through the credibility that the Onlife program has. It has through assuring that confidentiality is in place and that their information will not be leaked back to their employer or to the health pool – is that it’s absolutely confidential. Once we achieved those two areas of credibility and confidentiality, the program has taken off. And when I say that, is that folks are not hesitant to engage a health coach, to engage the health assessment, because they know their information is safe and secure.
Host: Is there an aspect of your wellness program that’s having the biggest impact on the lives of your employees?
Scott: I think there’s two pieces. There’s the LiveOn portal that Onlife provides to our membership as well as our biometric screenings. Is that when we’re looking at biometric screenings in metabolic syndrome, is we’re really looking to have the folks identify and know their numbers. And once they know their numbers, we are seeing that they’re engaging with different parts of the program to live a healthier lifestyle.
I think that with our wellness program we really look at three different aspects of the program when we’re evaluating the success of that. One of them is the return on investment. The second part is is what’s the value of investment that our membership sees. And the third is working with our medical provider, Anthem, to see what our yearly trend is doing. Because if I can take all three of those aspects and measure those and their success at the end of the day, then the program is working.
For example, our overall return on investment with Onlife over a ten-year period is every dollar we’ve spent, we’ve seen $1.32 in return. The value of investment, and one thing I will always preach is one size doesn’t fit all, is that there’s several different resources that our members can take advantage of. There’s Onlife. There’s a health awareness program. In totality, there’s the Slice of Life program of what there’s several different areas that folks can take advantage of to create healthier lifestyles.
And the third piece of that is when you look at it, is measuring what the trend is, and working with the medical provider, working with the medical directors, chronic-condition disease management, to see how you’re engaging in partnering all of your vendors together to work collaboratively towards the same goal. Our organization was able to hold our medical trend increase at a 0.8%, which isn’t heard of in the medical field today, when most group insurance plans are seeing 12 to 20% increases.
Well-Being Experts is supported by Onlife Health. Onlife Health is a comprehensive wellness provider serving health plans and large employers nationwide. With over 10 million members and 20 years of industry experience, Onlife takes a high-touch, high-tech approach to wellness that creates real results for your population. Find out more at onlifehealth.com.
Host: Do you find yourself, when you do this work – I know it’s all about the people, about the interaction. For you personally and for your team, what does the bottom line look like for the numbers and the analytics, and being able to visually see everything? When you think of that, how do you see that as a valuable part of what you do?
Scott: I know at the end of the day that if we have made a difference in one person’s life, and that we have been able to work with that person to see that – can I give you an example?
Host: Yeah, of course.
Scott: I’ll give an example. At a regional biometric screenings – obviously blood pressure is one of the major things that have been looked at – we have had folks that have come into regional biometric screenings with blood pressures up around 190 over 100. We’ve immediately had them transferred to emergency care, and they’ve gone under doctor’s care, and they’ve entered into the Onlife program. They’ve taken the health assessment. They’ve gotten their wellness report back. They’ve looked at that wellness report, they’ve taken it to their doctor, and the doctor’s made some suggestions with regards to how they can live a healthier lifestyle. At the end of the day, that’s what makes the difference.
Host: Wow. That’s really moving. And that, talk about an encourager for you to build the momentum, to continue doing that. It’s really neat.
Scott: And it’s through word-of-mouth again. Is that when those peers of those employees have seen the difference that it makes by just knowing their blood pressure. If we could get everybody in our pool to know their blood pressure, our program would be twice as successful as it is today. And that’s what we’re working towards, and really looking at metabolic syndrome, looking at every individual in our pool, knowing their numbers.
Host: When you talk a little bit about that and you combine it with word-of-mouth, change does not happen overnight. And that’s, I’m sure, a misconception that you’ve seen frequently. You’re an expert in this space, and when you talk to other people in the industry about the momentum, and change doesn’t happen overnight, what do you normally like to talk about to just keep reminding people that it’s all about the people, and it doesn’t happen overnight?
Scott: That’s one thing that our board has really looked at. Is that they don’t weigh a lot on the return on investment. Because return on investment doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. It takes three to five years to see behavioral change in someone who has engaged in programming.
When we look at our program, we evaluate our program. I said there’s really three things we look at. There’s a return on investment, there’s the value of investment, and there’s the trend. And if we can show that the return on investment is climbing year over year, and we can show that the value of investment – that we’re having more participating and programming, engaging in the resources that we have, and we know that our trend is staying either flat, or dropping, we’ve seen the success of our program. And it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s three to five years to see behavioral change in someone who enters into our program.
Host: That’s been a theme that we’ve talked about in the podcast too is behavioral change, because you’re getting someone to change a really significant part of their life, and it’s very possible that’s been something that has not changed before in their life, so I’m really glad you made that point.
Scott: And I think it’s something that, when we talk about behavioral change with someone who engages into the program, is that they’re having continual support through an Onlife Health coach. They’re having continual support through their peers at work, through the Wellness Coordinator Academy, and through the wellness adviser who’s working with that group on a daily basis to encourage them to live a healthier lifestyle, don’t give up, keep moving forward.
Host: You’ve seen the wellness industry grow and innovate over the past decade and beyond that. What do you think you’ve been the most excited about, from what you’ve seen so far? And then I would love to hear your thoughts on what you’re looking forward to the most next in wellness programs.
Scott: I think what I’ve seen is that the program has come from being a paper product moving into technology, and more specifically with the LiveOn portal, is that we need to put the wellness programs at someone’s fingertips. It has to be easy to use, it has to be understandable, and it has to give some reward. And when I say reward, it’s really looking at what are smart incentives to get people to engage in the program. That’s where I’ve seen wellness come in ten years.
I think moving forward, another piece of wellness that is going to be very important is understanding the rules, the regulations and the laws. Because a director of a wellness program has to understand what has to be complied with with the Affordable Care Act, what has to be complied with with the EEOC, as well as the HIPAA Nondiscriminatory Wellness Act. So there’s really another phase of this that is becoming more prominent to a wellness program director. Is understanding the rules, the laws, the regulations that you have to work within, in order to create healthy lifestyles for those individuals engaged in your program.
Host: Overall, you feel pretty optimistic about the future?
Scott: I do feel optimistic about the future. I think there’s ways to incentivize and keep people engaged. But the two key concepts that are going to continue to come out in all of these phases are confidentiality and being transparent with the member who’s participating in the program.
Host: Why do you feel like those two are going to be so essential for the future?
Scott: Because of the different regulations with regards to GINA, and looking at the Genetics Information Act, and making sure that their information is secure, it’s confidential, as well as being transparent about what your program consists of, is making sure they understand what the confidentiality rules are, and what the policies of Onlife in our example has in the field. And those really are the two important concepts, because if you look into the ACA, you look into the HIPAA Nondiscriminatory Act, you look into the EEOC and the GINA, all those are about confidentiality and keeping important information secure and confidential.
Host: And that’s what makes it successful for all of this.
Scott: It makes it successful and it makes the program transparent and the member will trust.
Host: How do you support wellness internally? I know you’ve talked a little about the board being a key part of this. Is this something that senior management, they’re talking about regularly help, your members. How do you support wellness internally?
Scott: Our view of supporting wellness internally is that we have to practice what we preach. And our membership has to see that we’re implementing the same programs of what is available to them. So we have a wellness coordinator at HealthTrust. That wellness coordinator works with our HR department with regards to implementing program and challenges within HealthTrust. And that’s how our success has been seen is that out of our population of 62 employees, we have 98% that are participating in wellness activities.
Host: Do people flip out when you tell them that number?
Scott: They think it’s very high, but I think it comes from leadership supporting it. The employees see what our mission is, they see what our values are, they see what our vision is, and they buy into that. And I think that one of the most important pieces is that they know that our leadership cares about them, and that’s why they’re implementing these programs.
Host: So your wellness champions are called wellness coordinators, right?
Scott: That’s correct.
Host: How have you found to be most successful to leverage them internally to help you reach some of those numbers you just talked about?
Scott: It’s providing them the resources and being there for them to implement programs within their groups. What that’s done is a few different things. Onlife conducts a Participant Satisfactory Survey for HealthTrust. And on those surveys, some of the feedback that we get is individuals’ stories that have come from a wellness coordinator’s site. So not only are we able to show success from a group perspective, but we’re also able to show it from individuals’ perspective that are willing to talk about their engagement into the program, and what pieces of the program helped them and led them to a healthier lifestyle.
We have an upcoming healthcare summit, called the HealthTrust Summit, in September, and the highlight of that program is going to be the wellness coordinators. We have six coordinator sites that are coming in and are going to talk about the successful programs they’ve implemented within their group. But above and beyond that, we have six individuals that are going to come in and tell their story to CEOs of our group members, which will have some very high impact on getting those CEOs to go back to their groups and hopefully bringing in wellness coordinators in the resources that we have from our wellness program.
Host: Now, I know for you – I’m sure that you’re inundated with other wellness companies wanting to speak with you on a regular basis, maybe take you to lunch, just get to know you. And what has kept you as a partner with Onlife Health for ten years, even with all these distractions that have come along the way?
Scott: I have to say that longevity with a partner creates transparency and trust. And not only from a HealthTrust perspective, but from our members’ perspective, is they know who Onlife is. They know that if they have a question, they can call Participant Services and they’ll get a call back within that day. They know that if they have a problem with regards to information coming over, when they have questions with regards to the wellness report, they can call and they’re going to get a call back that day.
I can tell you from HealthTrust perspective, any time that there’s been a bump in the road, and absolutely with any wellness vendor that you’re going to conduct business with, there’s going to be bumps in the road. But I can tell you that Onlife takes care of those bumps and the problems are resolved in a very timely fashion, so it doesn’t interrupt the service that our members are receiving.
Host: When you speak with your peers at other organizations, do you find that they’re investing in wellness as well? What’s been successful for them? What differences do you see?
Scott: I see that they’re investing in wellness, but I see that they’re jumping around from vendor to vendor because they haven’t found the right mix for them. And I think it’s really making sure that your expectations are known, that you have a client service manager that understands who your population is. And that’s a key component in the state of New Hampshire with HealthTrust. Is that our employees, our public employees, have very high entitlement, have an expectation of very rich benefits, and once you understand that and you make the accommodations to your program to make it attractive, then your program will be successful. And we’ve been able to work with Onlife through the innovation and creativity to develop that relationship and be able to provide that programming to our members.
Host: How’s your experience been? And as you talk a little about that, any specific ways you want to zoom in on Onlife’s account management team, or health coaches, or other client/member facing staff that you want to share here?
Scott: I think that once you have engaged with a vendor, and that you’ve set your expectations out of what you want from the program, is that then it’s HealthTrust’s responsibility to develop that relationship and develop that trust. Is that we never look at a partner as a vendor, we look it as a vendor as a partner, and that our partners have to work together.
Every year we hold an internal summit that brings all of our partners together. And there is not one partner that’s better than the other; they all bring unique pieces to the table, and we want them to be able to sit at the table and say which piece of theirs is the best, and implement that piece of the program into the HealthTrust wellness program. And I can tell you that Onlife has done that each and every year. Has brought what their strengths are to the table, we’ve discussed what the strengths are with our other partners, and those programs have been implemented. Is that it’s not a competition, it’s a longevity program that has to be understood by each partner, that not every piece of their program is going to be implemented. And again, I go back to the one size doesn’t fit all. Is that all of our partners have strengths that they bring to the program, and we utilize those strengths to provide the resources to our membership to live healthier lifestyles.
Host: That’s great. As we’re starting to wrap up here, are there any things that you want to share that are in your heart? Just final thoughts or things that you just feel the most passion about?
Scott: I think the thing that I feel most passionate about is my background comes from the public sector. I was a police chief. I was a fire chief. I’ve worked in municipal government for many, many years. And I know that some of the difficulties that they have is there is a lot of thought process in our membership – whether it’s a town, a city, a school or a county – that they don’t need to participate in the program; they can do it on their own. And I’ve heard that several times over and over again, and that doesn’t seem to be able to work. Is you need that champion in the back of you giving you a little nudge, giving your little push to get you engaged.
And I’ve seen many, many folks over the years that have become engaged and now are living healthier lifestyles. And that goes for firefighters, it goes for police officers, it goes for municipal DPW workers, as well as teachers in schools. Is that we’ve been able to successfully implement the program in schools to where the teachers now are implementing some of the things that we provide them to their students. Because we know from an organizational perspective, is that many of the children of our members are going to follow in their footsteps and are going to work in public entity. So it’s really full circle of making sure the program is provided, implemented, and engaged in all aspects of our membership.
Host: I love that. Man, that’s what it’s all about. I love the passion that you’ve shared today. I really love how you’ve also shared all the experiences that you’ve had across your career. So I’m really thankful that you took the time today to share this and I hope we can continue the conversation in the future.
Scott: Great. Thank you.
Host: Thank you to today’s guest. And a big thank you to you for listening along with us. Well-Being Experts is brought to you by Onlife Health, our comprehensive wellness solutions company that has spent years working with health plans and large employers nationwide.
Today’s podcast and additional perspectives from the Well-Being Experts can be found at onlifehealth.com/resources. We welcome your comments, questions, feedback, all of the above at firstname.lastname@example.org.