top of page
  • Paula Wilbourne, PhD

How AI can boost wellness ROI

The World Health Organization defines health as the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease. One of the challenges with wellness programs is capturing the return on investment in hard dollars and measurable outcomes. There are multiple different ways that organizations can look at their return on investment (ROI), both at the individual program level and at the organizational strategy level. The traditional ways organizations are currently analyzing their return on investment for these programs are through health outcomes, lifestyle management and employee productivity.

Health outcomes

The most common ROI measurement by far are the outcomes and cost containment measures connected with physical health. While the ROI will vary based on the program, overall on average one study found that medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs. Another wellness program analysis completed by Johnson and Johnson showed an overall positive ROI between $1.88 and $3.92 for each dollar invested. For benefits teams, the ability to get to that solid black and white number to validate the investment an organization puts into these wellbeing programs is the easiest way to show progress.

While having a solid number is an ideal way to show ROI, it often does not capture the full breadth of positive impact and the full ROI associated with implemented programs, as those more indirect impacts are seen through lifestyle management changes and employee productivity.

Lifestyle management

Everyone knows at least some of the steps they could take to improve their health. Despite this knowledge, most of us find it difficult to make or stick with changes - eating more fruits and vegetables, increasing physical activity, getting more sleep, and other lifestyle changes that have been suggested by a health provider. Quality wellness programs take science-based behavior change techniques, like motivational interviewing used by Sibly, and implement them throughout their processes and solutions. These techniques help members take the steps they have not been able to make on their own and make progress towards their goals. Additionally, programs with these techniques are able to reach people no matter where they are in the process of change. This ability to meet people where they are and clearly identify motivations are the mental keys to engagement and program completion.

According to the US Chamber of Commerce’s Winning with Wellness report, if an individual engages in just 5 specific healthy behaviors, they typically spend 33% to 50% less on health care costs compared with people who have health risks. These healthy habits include walking 30 minutes a day, eating healthy, not smoking, having a waist size that is less than half of your height and drinking alcohol only in moderation – all things that most people would recognize as healthy habits, but may need some extra coaching to get moving in the right direction. This is where Sibly’s ability to help members connect personal goals to personal values and motivators is a game changer, making all the difference for Sibly coaches who ensure that the full potential ROI is achieved.


Benefits of wellbeing programs extend far beyond what we consider to be health and wellness, such as increased job performance, overall wellbeing and happiness. In fact, employees who are happier more actively contribute to business and community success. According to one study, absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent on wellness programs. Harvard Business Review reports one organization showed that within just six years, lost work days declined by 80% and modified-duty days by 64%. Cost savings, calculated by multiplying the reduction in lost work days by average pay rates, totaled $1.5 million; workers’ compensation insurance premiums declined by 50%.

Sibly has found similar results through our coaching and benefits navigation model, with coaches helping with more than just traditional health and wellness. Members working with a Sibly coach have reported more energy, feel more engaged, have improved concentration and are better team members at work. Outcome measures also show that these members get more done, make fewer mistakes and are less irritable at work. Wellness programs can carry a significant positive impact to an organization's benefits strategy, in health outcomes and cost containment, as well as effectiveness and retention on the job.

How AI boosts ROI

Leveraging sophisticated data science and machine learning (ML) strategies, Sibly evaluates the impact the service has for both members and their employers. This in depth evaluation covers measures of health, work performance, topic data and sentiment analysis – things that traditional wellness programs and platforms are not able to measure.

Our unique approach to coaching and navigation provides the ability to effectively examine how sentiment – expressed emotions and attitudes – changes during the course of a single conversation, as well as throughout a coaching relationship. The conversation techniques used by Sibly’s coaches have a proven track record to encourage back-and-forth dialogue that drive behavior change and improve employee sentiment about their work.

Member sentiment is tracked as it relates to projects at work, taking leave, career advancement and so much more. At Sibly, the majority of members show a consistent, trackable increase in positive sentiment throughout coach touchpoints, regardless of the issue or situation they are facing. Data insights are then able to be translated into actionable steps to provide HR teams and leaderships with targeted strategies specific to their workforces, further extending ROI through the ability to address employee challenges in real time.

People face multiple weighty concerns, not just one

Traditionally, wellness programs have members enroll in the program that best fits their goal and boxing a member into a step-by-step program that guides generally, as opposed to addressing the many things that one person can have running through their mind. Sibly’s AI-assisted coaching process underscores the complexity most people are navigating every day. For example, in one recent client analysis, we saw that only 13% of members were coming to Sibly for help with just one issue, while our typical member raises more than five coaching concerns in the first conversation. The combination of an AI-assisted platform and human coaching based in motivational interviewing builds a care plan that is not only personalized for the member to address what matters most to them, but also increases ROI of the wellness program through the increased success driven by that member’s motivation to succeed.

Data driven-insights like these help optimize the coaching experience, increase ROI and provide actionable insights to clients to understand and proactively address the needs of their employees.

Dr. Paula Willbourne is co-founder, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Product Officer at Sibly. You can connect with her here.


Subscribe to our blog! 

Thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page