Tapping into workplace wellness technology trends

Rebecca Vesely

About Rebecca Vesely

Rebecca Vesely is AHCJ's topic leader on health information technology and a freelance writer. She has written about health, science and medicine for AFP, the Bay Area News Group, Modern Healthcare, Wired, Scientific American online and many other news outlets.

telemedicine-kioskNow that Americans are back to work after the July 4 holiday, it’s worth remembering that about 175 million people nationwide get their health coverage through an employer.

Americans spend 44.5 hours per week working, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s more than we spend doing anything else – even sleeping. And 92 percent of employers offer a workplace wellness program, according to a recent survey of HR professionals.

Yet workplace health trends typically receive little media attention. For decades, employers have been attempting to guide their workers to make better health decisions, with various degrees of success. Today, technology is invading workplace health programs through wearables, apps, computer dashboards and other innovations – offering journalists new spark to an old topic.

Phil Galewitz of Kaiser Health News explored employer adoption of telemedicine kiosks in his article “Your doctor will see you now – in this telemedicine kiosk.”

In a new “How I Did It“ article, Galewitz writes he was intrigued when he heard that employers were trying out telemedicine kiosks. He adds that he was fortunate to be able to demo a work-based telemedicine kiosk in his hometown.

The story is a good example of how reporters can approach an old topic – workplace wellness – with a fresh technology angle.

Employers do offer technology-based wellness benefits, according to the survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, and first reported by Rachel Emma Silverman in the Wall Street Journal. The survey included nearly 3,500 human resource professionals nationwide.

“Regardless of the type of plan offered, technology is affecting many aspects of health care, from administration and treatment to delivery of care,“ according to the survey report. Results of the HR survey show:

  • 23 percent of employers offer diagnoses, treatments or prescriptions available by phone or video;
  • 12 percent offer genetic testing for diseases such as cancer;
  • 10 percent provide fitness/activity trackers, down from 13 percent in 2015.

Questions for journalists

  • Are employers in your coverage region shifting strategy on workplace wellness?
  • Is technology playing a more or less prominent role in motivating workers to achieve their wellness goals?
  • What are the expectations about technology and worker health?
  • How are these goals being tracked?

Resources on workplace wellness trends include:

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