By Lindsay Steckler

Remember the old days when companies offered every employee a $50 subsidy for a gym membership? It was a great way to encourage people to get in shape and shed a few pounds.  

Except maybe it wasn’t so great for those who were too busy raising children, taking care of aging relatives, or working a second job. In a lot of respects, it potentially wasted a benefit and spotlighted the fact that one-size wellness programs don’t work for all. 

A better approach that aligns with today’s employee demands is to tailor benefits to meet individual needs. The good news is that delivering them is increasingly easy because of technology. Advances in artificial intelligence enable predictive capabilities that elevate the whole idea of personalized wellness to entirely new levels. 

Between wearables like fitness monitors and other mobile devices like cell phones and tablets, people are better able to track their health and are increasingly investing in doing so. The global number of connected wearable devices is expected to nearly triple to 830 million by 2020. Meanwhile, some 97,000 mHealth apps can be found in major app stores today.  

It all leads to more than just greater awareness of our health. It opens the door to “predictive personalization.” Technology can now help improve our lives more directly by predicting issues before they happen and offering ways to adjust, all on a one-to-one basis. Our wearables and tablets collect meaningful data that can be translated, thanks to artificial intelligence, into individualized, actionable steps so we can change our behaviors and take charge of our own health.  

Predictive personalization goes beyond just tracking a user’s biometrics to offering personalized coaching, whether to manage chronic conditions or to better manage issues like sleep, fitness or nutrition. 

And while Millennials are most likely to tap into mobile health, that doesn’t mean that other generations aren’t participating in this trend to use digital wellness  solutions to manage chronic conditions. 52 percent of all smartphone users gather health-related information on their phones.

The expanding possibilities presented by the digital health evolution are leading many employers to rethink their wellness programs and how they’re structured. And vendors are stepping up. 

Remember those $50 stipends for gym memberships? These days, many vendors are setting up wellness savings banks, acting as portals to various types of apps that are offered up in line with the individual user’s specific interests and needs. Employers can still allot each employee a $50 monthly stipend, but the employee gets to decide where to spend it – on a gym membership or an online financial advisor, a calorie counter and diet tracker or a stroke “riskometer.”

As employers reposition their wellness programs to better reflect these trends, they’ll need to keep these considerations in mind:

  • Offering access to the right tools is great, but it also takes supportive people, programs and policies for successful adoption. Personalize by engaging people where they want the support – physical, social, emotional or environmental – and how they want it provided.
  • Communicate and promote your digital wellness tools as part of your broader wellness strategy, so people are aware of their options for customizing health and wellness interventions.
  • Emphasize that, despite the autonomy and control that digital wellness tools give people over their health, their provider teams must be kept in the loop to pull the data points together and leverage them to enhance the quality of care being provided.

We’ve been talking about the trend toward tailoring benefits for individual needs for years now. But technology’s increasing sophistication is making it possible to take that trend to entirely new levels – making wellness programs better in the process. 

Learn more about the forces that are affecting the health and performance of your workforce by reading HUB’s 2018 Workplace Wellness Trends.

HUB International’s consultants are ready to work with you in evaluating how digital wellness solutions and mobile health apps, in particular, can improve the effectiveness of your wellness program as well as the user experience.