Gamification helps hospital improve workers' healthNews added by Benefits Pro on December 5, 2013

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By Dan Cook

The medical community is being challenged as never before to find ways to address the obesity crisis in the U.S. Employers, in particular, are putting pressure on the industry to combat workplace obesity.

But what do you do when you’re a medical care provider, and two-thirds of your own staff is dangerously overweight?

That’s the problem Mountain View, Calif.-based El Camino Hospital faced as 2013 began. Employees charged with safeguarding the health of hospital patients were themselves at risk. Previous attempts to incorporate wellness plan options designed to help staffers lose weight had fallen short.

"Previous efforts did not sufficiently keep our employees motivated," said Barbara Love, Director of Employee Wellness and Health Services at El Camino Hospital.

But Love wasn’t ready to give up. Instead, she tried something new.

With her guidance, El Camino adopted a corporate health plan built around social sharing and gamification, the use of game-like features in typically nongame situations. These include quizzes and other games, contests and raffles.

El Camino Hospital chose a platform to implement the program designed by Keas, specialists in providing employee engagement programs.

The approach, according to the hospital, “provides interactive and fun ways for employees to change their overall health and lifestyle.”

Wellness plans are the hot ticket right now in benefits packages, with employers increasingly looking to them to cut health care costs and improve worker health. Wellness plans got some heavy support with the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which makes premium discounts available to those who lose weight, take part in health risk appraisal programs or stop smoking.

Social sharing wellness plan designs are becoming a popular subset of wellness plans as they show signs of engaging more employees than did previous programs. While Keas has been at the forefront of this trend, others have seen the potential for increasing employee participation and are offering such options to employers.

Gamification, meanwhile, has quickly entered the corporate lexicon, helping employers help their employees address weight-loss, smoking and other health issues in ways that employees find more engaging than traditional means of tracking progress on a health issue.
Keas’s options go far beyond the game format, introducing contests among employees that are only partially played online. In the case of El Camino, the entire staff got involved in counting the pounds that were melting away.

By late August, the social wellness activities were getting real results. Employees had collectively shed more than 1,000 pounds — and were actively engaged in the program and wanted to do more, Love said.

“The platform provides interactive and fun ways to engage employees in making changes to their overall health and lifestyle,” she said.

Positive feedback continues to roll in, Love said. “Employees feel motivated and supported to become healthier. This is evident by the comments we see posted. The sense of community has deepened as participants are motivated to set and conquer goals,” she said.

Now the program has picked up steam, and the hospital has rolled out a second challenge to its staff, expecting 80 percent participation in the “Maintain, Don’t Gain” themed Part Two.

Keas says it has seen similar success at other clients hoping to meet wellness plan objectives.

One, Troy Design and Manufacturing, converted to a Keas social platform in 2012 that included incentives for achieving goals by using newsfeeds, quizzes, brain games and even online food fights.

Nearly a third of TDM employees have lost weight since then, and 93 percent of employees said they’d continue to use the Keas platform to maintain and improve their health.

Getting employees to participate is key, however. Wellness plan providers like Keas promise greater participation in their social platforms; Keas even offers a money-back-guaranteed engagement rate.

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