Posts Tagged ‘health engagement’

The Healthy Mobilization of Mobile

Last February, we wrote a blog piece about the diminishment of the digital divide – the former separation of the web enabled have and have-nots. One year later, the divide isn’t just diminished – it’s practically invisible.

Consider the newly released web traffic study cited by Walker Sands:

  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of web visits are generated by mobile devices (a one year increase of 84% and a 283% increase in less than two years.)

1.15.13The study concludes: “Mobile is no longer an option, but a necessity. Companies must develop a user-friendly mobile site to keep pace with traffic that consistently doubles year-over-year.”

The ever-increasing trend of a mobile-connected public was the impetus behind RedBrick Health’s mobilization development across our platform and our healthy behavior solutions. We realized, early on,  helping individuals make lasting healthy behavior changes requires the availability of our solution at the consumer’s fingertips in the places they make the majority of health behavior decisions – at the gym, at the grocery store and restaurant, on the road, in their homes, neighborhoods and back yards.  This focus remains in the forefront of our ongoing design development – connecting with people where they are.

Employers should no longer assume employee populations who do not have web access at work also lack it outside of work.  Thanks, mostly, to the continued avalanche of affordable smart phone and tablet options, the barrier to web access is significantly reduced. Whereas the more expensive home computer options are lagging in sales, the comparative “bargain bin” options of web-enabled hand-held devices are soaring.  And soaring around the globe. As Bill Clinton noted at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show, smart phones are providing an inexpensive alternative, even in the most impoverished countries, for individuals to gain access to the information super highway and all it entails – banking services, communications, social media and the rest.

The groundswell of web connectivity across socio-economic levels provides significant new opportunity to connect individuals with information and helpful solutions within their daily lives. And the fact more and more consumers aren’t just securing access to the world-wide web but can also access it away from their desk chairs and couches – all the better. More access, more movement – two trends we highly endorse.

The High Price of Unhealthy Behavior

DobroHIBOne fourth of the dollars and cents employers and their employees are spending on healthcare is tied to unhealthy behavior.  That’s the conclusion an exhaustive study published in the November issue of Health Affairs concludes – ten modifiable behaviors consume 22% of all employer/employee costs. Obesity and inactivity, by themselves, lead the bad behavior pack and drive 13% of all costs.

The study, conducted from 2005-2009, was comprised of over 90,000 workers from a variety of industries, regions and wage scales. Using data from health risk assessments (HRAs), it classified study participants into either ‘high-risk’ or ‘low-risk’ categories and then compared the associated healthcare costs for each risk factor between the two groups.

The study’s summation of the financial impact by risk type includes:


When factoring in the 5-7% annual healthcare cost inflation since 2009, total cost burden across all ten risk factors in 2013 would rise from $887 to $1,131 per person per year.

The findings from this study demonstrate the significant opportunity employers can realize to lower their health care expenditures. While certain risk factors have a greater individual affect on health care expenditures (i.e. depression and high blood glucose), the high relative prevalence of obesity and physical inactivity create an even wider opportunity for improvement and resulting financial rewards. (Note: In this study, those classified as high risk in obesity had a BMI over 30 and those classified as high risk in physical inactivity reported exercising less than three days a week.)

For years, employers have focused on addressing chronic conditions as the shortest, most viable path to healthcare cost control.  This study illuminates a divergent reality and emerging trend – helping employees shed pounds and hit the gym may provide an even greater net effect on the bottom line.  It’s also the one shot we may have of avoiding the even higher prevalence chronic condition rates on the other side of these morphing (and costly) lifestyle risks.

- Jeff Dobro, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, RedBrick Health

Reduced Healthcare Trend. Energy Drinks & Illness? Dangers of Being Comfortable with Weight Gain

Dollar SignPositive News for Healthcare Cost Trend
Employee Benefit News highlights the National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, a survey conducted annually by Mercer, which notes that healthcare inflation has hit a 15-year low nationwide. The trend is due, in large part, to companies adopting consumer-directed health plans and further embracing the benefits of wellness programs like those offered by RedBrick Health.

ForkPay Attention, Energy Drink Consumer
The Los Angeles Times highlights a Food and Drug Administration report possibly linking popular energy drinks to an increasing number of acute illnesses and deaths. While the beverages themselves have not been conclusively linked to illness and death, a growing list of similar reports suggests caution when using energy shots or energy drinks.

GraphIf At First You Don’t Succeed…Well…Just Change the Definition of Success
According to this Gallup poll Americans are getting comfortable with their heavier weights. So much so that the definition of our perceived “ideal weight” has increased about 10% since 1991. Unfortunately, weight-related illness and disease tends to disagree.

High Returns for Wellness Investment – Employers, Take Note

The bottom line.  It’s what we all want to know.  And the evaluation of a successful health and wellness program is no exception.  Employers want to know – how much is it going to cost and how much of our investment will we get back?

Realizing the significance of the bottom line, RedBrick Health is thrilled at the results of a just completed Financial Impact Study proving our program delivers a 3.8 to 1 return on investment for our clients in just two years.  In hard dollars, our solution generates $612 in total per participant savings per year ($325 health care cost reductions and $287 in workplace productivity savings) – a 3.8 dollar return for every one dollar invested.  And this is only the financial picture of having a healthier, more productive, more engaged workforce.

The study results are noteworthy in two respects:

1)   The study was conducted across the company’s book-of-business, representing a wide range of industries, program designs and incentive structures.

2)    The data shows results achieved in two years, which is faster than many published ROI studies in the health and wellness category.

The effect of RedBrick Health program participation on health care expenditures is quantified through pre-post participant versus comparison group design using individual level data on health care expenditures. The effect of RedBrick Health program participation on health related productivity loss (HRPL) is estimated using the aggregate health index score from the health assessment and its correlation with HRPL.

To download the complete Financial Impact of RedBrick Health Study, go to

Water Conservation Lessons for Healthcare

A friend of mine was telling me all about his new water bill. He lives in a township that historically assessed each household a uniform, cross-community water utility charge. The size of your house, yard, family, whether or not you owned a swimming pool or an exotic fish collection – none of it factored into the assessment. The entire community water tab was divvied evenly residence by residence.

Now things are different. The township spent the winter installing water meters into every residence. They can now bill individual home owners for the actual amount of water their household consumes. A common practice elsewhere and no different from the construct for how they pay for their other utilities, but this community initially reacted to the change with concern. Many were worried their new water bills would spike. And many did.

Within a week of mailing out the new metered water bills, those with hefty increases staggered into the township office to complain. These conversations began, of course, with a fair amount of hyperbole, statements of aquatic-tempered financial ruin and the prospect of housing un-bathed family members to avoid it. But the individuals complaining the loudest were also the ones who confessed they were running eight zone yard irrigation systems to keep their sod emerald green enough to match the gates of Oz – inflating their neighbors’ previous water tolls with as much vigor as they were dousing the sewer grates with run-off.

The next result was easier to swallow…for everyone – consumption changes resulting in a 20% aquifer draw reduction in the first 6 months alone. Consumers now armed with their actual usage information began using (and most likely wasting) less and less water. This was welcome relief to a community grappling with aquifer-reliant lake levels at record lows and the related recreation, tourism and property value declines. Lake levels are gradually moving toward their normal levels, despite even a slight period of area drought.

I offer up this scintillating tale of community water consumption because it provides an immediate parallel to the same perennial challenge employers face reigning in their healthcare overspending. Until we tether each individual’s health behavior pattern to their overall cost of care, the financial aquifer of the employer and health status of the employee remain imperiled.

When provided with personalized information and support to make healthier choices, individuals react positively. They also become appreciative of the opportunity to reduce their own healthcare costs and satisfied with resulting health improvements. The “all you can eat healthcare buffet” of employer sponsored health is an archaic framework that leaves our workers bloated and budgets belly up. A healthier approach is a behavior-based finance model – one that marries health engagement to the individual cost of care, and rewards employees for making healthier choices all of us benefit by.

The proverbial spigot of health care overspend is within reach. It’s up to us to turn it.

- Gregg Waldon, CFO, RedBrick Health

Health Innovation Blog and Superstorm Sandy

Red Cross Disaster Responder Dave Glad

Our purpose at the Health Innovation Blog is to spread awareness of innovations that advance personal and population health and discuss new approaches to old problems for getting and keeping people healthy and productive. But perhaps nothing is more vital to personal and population health than the physical safety of ourselves, our families, and our communities, and our emotional well-being in the face of a disaster. Right now, millions of people are facing serious challenges – directly or indirectly – as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Millions of others are wondering what they can do to help. So we tapped the experiences of a RedBrick Health employee and Health Innovation Blog contributor, Dave Glad, who also serves in a leadership capacity in Red Cross Disaster Response and has helped respond to hundreds of disasters.

HIB: What can you tell us about the effects of disasters like Sandy?  

DG: Without a doubt, there are two things that people are thinking right now no matter how prepared they are for these situations.

“I know these things happen, but I never thought it would happen to me,” and “I want to help, but I don’t know how.”  I probably hear the first statement every single time I’m at a disaster response.

HIB: So what do you recommend to those people?

DG: The first thing I like to let people know is that help is available and the Red Cross is a great starting point. Ideally, you can locate your local Red Cross chapter phone number and start there. But anyone, at any time, can contact 1-800-RED-CROSS and get started. If they can, they should log onto where they can enter their specific Zip code and receive localized instructions.

Emotional well-being is also key. I always tell people, “This is a tremendous challenge, but you don’t need to solve everything immediately.”  You can comfort your friends and family by reminding them that recovery is a long-term process.

HIB: People who weren’t in the path of the storm are also feeling sort of helpless.

DG: Exactly! That’s how I got started with my Red Cross volunteering, when a local apartment building burned to the ground on Christmas Eve. I wanted so badly to help but didn’t know how.

The easy answer is volunteer for the next one. We need people, but I know that volunteering is a huge commitment.

Realistically, although it may not “feel as satisfying”, the biggest way to help is to log onto and make a monetary donation. Everything Red Cross does is made possible through the generosity of the public.

If you can’t contribute financially, consider donating blood which continues to be desperately needed. The Red Cross Blood Services can direct you to a local donation resource, or there are several other organizations in every local area.

HIB: What if neither is possible?

DG: It’s easy. Go to and click on “Prepare”

Spend 10 minutes reading how to prepare for a disaster. Think about what you would do if a fast-moving fire, tornado, or flood was about to claim your home. Think about what you need to have every day – prescriptions, glasses, ID, extra cash, cell phone charger, a copy of your car keys…and of course food, water, and extra clothes. If you have kids, talk to them about how to react.

Believe me, it makes all the difference in the world. I spend more time than I care to standing in the rain or snow, in the middle of the night, with a family that suddenly has nothing but the clothes they happened to be wearing at the time, and whatever they were able to grab on the way out of their burning home. Mentally put yourself in that position and go from there.

Having the knowledge that you’re prepared, or that you can help your neighbors is powerful and can help take the edge off what many of us are feeling – that we wish we could be lending a hand to the people affected by Sandy.

HIB: Thank you for this!

DG: My pleasure and I hope the people on the East Coast know we support them and are hoping they can get past this as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Exercise Over Brain Games in Keeping Minds Sharp. Advantages of Quitting Smoking. Active Workplace Design to Drive Exercise

Exercise Trumps Brain Games in Keeping Our Minds Intact
It turns out that musclehead who kicked sand in the nerd’s face was really just sending him a positive health message. Well…if you follow researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland  who find that exercise has more benefit than traditional “mental stimulating activities” on countering the effects of age on our brains.

Women Who Give Up Smoking Extend Lives by 10 Years
“Quitting smoking works. And the sooner, the better.”  It’s a theme that warrants repeating – this time by Rachel Huxley, a University of Minnesota professor, in reaction to a study of more than one million women smokers in the United Kingdom.

Smoking Bans Drive Down Heart Attack Rates
And speaking of smoking, the Los Angeles Times highlighted a recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association that shows a reduction in heart attacks in locations where public smoking bans have been enacted. Paired with employer support to quit in the form of incentives, supportive coaching and benefits, our communities are moving in the right direction.

Active Design in Offices Gets Workers to Move
The next weapon in the arsenal to defeat obesity may be….architecture??  Workplace configuration – from location of shared devices to prominently featuring stairs, outdoor spaces, and other physical features – increases an individual’s ability to form habits and equates to positive behavior change.


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