We recently attended the 2017 Employer Healthcare & Benefit Congress in LA and the Self Insured Institute of America in Arizona. We sat down with one of our advisory board members, Bryan Noar. Along with lending his expertise to Predictive Health, Noar is the vice president of marketing and general manager of SelfHelpWorks, one of the leading cognitive behavioral therapy experts in the country. We talked about the biggest opportunity to save money and improve employee health – improved self care.
With the advent of technology, many employer-based wellness programs have incorporated health portals and online technology. But, according to Noar, even the best technology will never be able to solve our nation’s health problems. That because it misses the key piece to the puzzle – the combination of a person’s motivation to change and the cognitive therapy necessary to change harmful thought processes.
“People think that technology in wellness helps improve situations, but there are other things going on underneath the surface,” said Noar. “There’s no doubt that apps and online services are easier to use – and there are many benefits to using technology to influence health – but there’s another side to the coin.”
According to Noar, the “human factor” is much more important to health and wellbeing than many would imagine. While technology can offer connection, it cannot replace personal connection and a strategy to improve.
“Unless there is a high-level, personal involvement in an online connection, it will never have the efficacy that individual connections have at the deeper, emotional levels,” Noar said.
Take a look at the transtheoretical model of change. You might be surprised to see that t’s not linear – it’s cyclical. How someone proceeds through the stages of change depends on their situation, and often life events.
Think of someone who is a hopelessly addicted smoker. They wake up every morning, look at their cigarettes and can’t wait to have their first of many that day, not caring about the harm they are doing to their body. Then they get a call that changes everything. A good friend of theirs has died of emphysema and pulmonary obstruction caused by heavy smoking. Suddenly, quitting smoking is a much larger priority for that person. They have suddenly progressed from a pre-contemplation stage to an action stage.
It’s a critical issue we need to face as health risk managers. Change is tough and addictive behaviors are the number one killer of younger adults according to the September issue of National Geographic. Tobacco isn’t the only addictive behavior to be worried about. In a study released last year by the the US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, more people use prescription opioids than use tobacco. There are more people with substance abuse disorders than people with cancer. One in five Americans binge drink. And substance abuse disorders cost the U.S. more than $420 billion a year. The problem is almost unimaginably large, and technology alone cannot solve it. It can, however, make a significant impact when employed correctly.
Noar explains that by continuously dripping messaging into a population, especially when targeted using predictive analytics, you’re going to eventually hit someone with the right message at the right time.
“Offering a smoking cessation course to someone who is not interested in quitting smoking isn’t effective,” said Noar. “They won’t read it and they don’t care. But if they just got that call about their friend, things change. By putting that solution in front of them at the right time, they will take action and you can create a positive change.”
Like to learn more? Let us demonstrate how we find the missing pieces to the puzzle to change behaviors and save lives.