How To Create Workplace Health & Wellness Strategies For Effective Leadership

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Written in collaboration with Dr. Stella Muloongo

In light of the recent outbreak of a coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China, now officially known as COVID-19, we’ve collaborated with Stella Muloongo, a medical doctor who graduated from Fudan University in Shanghai, China to share insights on how medical pandemics can be innovatively managed through effective workplace wellness strategies. With medical experience spanning various countries, Stella has spent most of her time in China, mainly at Zhongshan Hospital and Huashan Hospital, in addition to rotations in Sydney, Auckland and Johannesburg.

The Situation

The novel coronavirus is a new health challenge for our time. As a physician, Dr Muloongo understands the price paid on the frontlines of the healthcare battlefield. Former colleagues at the epicentre of COVID-19 in Wuhan and many more in her former city, Shanghai are fighting so that those infected with COVID-19 have the best chance of recovery. While there are still deaths on both sides and reports flood in about the spread of the virus across EMEA and the USA, there is hope in recent news of the decrease in new cases within Asia and increased patient recoveries starting to outpace new cases.

Lessons have been learnt from COVID-19’s genetic cousins SARS and MERS, and in such crises, we’ve learnt that decisive action early on is our best defence. As we continue to learn from each case of medical pandemics, steps in containment and treatment usually require great sacrifice and a unified front from the scientific community, governments and the general population.

The Background

There are hundreds of coronaviruses but only seven are known to cause humans illness, of which only three have been known to cause serious harm; SARS (2002), MERS (2012) and now COVID-19 (2019). Our history of fighting these strains of the virus has generated mass amounts of data and resources. However, due to the infrequent nature of these threats, frontline healthcare workers usually have to sift through outdated materials, learning as they go, changing and adapting to on-the-spot information as each strain’s unique identifiers are discovered and eventually treated. Despite knowing the importance of sharing information freely amongst the world’s health communities, statistics, successes and failures are manipulated on the global publicity stage to better reflect a country’s response, approach and effectiveness.

The Future

So how useful is a country’s public response in creating the necessary results in public health, primary care and preventive education? What kind of workplace wellness strategies can support governmental efforts in containing the spread of a virus? How can public service announcements effectively help combat the fear that an outbreak causes?

Dr Muloongo believes the answers at the core of all these questions lies in science, technology and the digital transformation of the healthcare system; in actionable knowledge and education that are made accessible to all. She asks, “can technology, care-based approaches and preventive measures be combined to form a healthcare system of the future so that the news is no longer the source of our healthcare education in a crisis?”

New problems require new solutions, and amid the current COVID-19 outbreak we reflect on the world’s response to the most recent fight for the healthcare of tomorrow.

What has worked well in China

  • Insurers have created mini-sites on COVID-19 for their policyholders, with links to information and appropriate healthcare facilities to contact for health checks.
  • Corporate businesses are investing in telemedicine providers, generating the largest-scale adoption and integration of telemedicine technology since its inception. This is particularly prevalent in the healthcare industry, an industry renowned for being overly traditional, process-heavy and slow to digitally transform. Newly-built hospitals in Wuhan, like Huoshenshan Mountain Hospital (note of which was constructed in only ten days), telemedicine is playing a major part in patient monitoring in isolation wards, as in other Wuhan hospitals, progressing China rapidly towards a value-based healthcare system.
  • The government used popular social media platforms AliPay and WeChat with a green, yellow and red traffic-light system on people’s mobile phones helping officials determine if the user should be allowed past guards at checkpoints.

What has worked well in Singapore

  • Singapore’s Ministry Of Health website has the most up-to-date, concise and relevant information available to the population on COVID-19. The real-time, accurate resources and intuitive site design has even garnered praise from the WHO. Publishing geographic clusters where increased numbers of infections occur, and baseline details on confirmed cases, this educational tool allows the general public to avoid higher risk areas around the island and encourages the sharing of information on affected cases of COVID-19. By empowering the average person and dispelling fears of the medical situation, the population responds effectively, containing and reducing infection. What is happening in Singapore is an example of value-based preventive healthcare in action.
  • DBS, Singapore’s largest bank is offering all their customers and their immediate family complimentary COVID-19 relief insurance coverage to further cushion affected patients’ expenses. The COVID-19 Hospital Cash policy is a 30-day free coverage that provides a daily cash benefit for hospital confinement and a lump sum payout for ICU confinement in relation to the virus. It also provides worldwide coverage for policyholders who must travel during this period.
  • In order to uncover COVID-19 infections that may have otherwise evaded detection, Singapore’s health authorities decided early on to test all influenza-like and pneumonia cases, implementing a rigorous detection and quarantine schedule free of charge for all its citizens. The government also offers SGD100 per day for self-employed citizens in quarantine, and prevents corporate employers from subtracting quarantine days from an employees holiday leave. Singapore still maintains zero deaths from COVID-19, despite being the first country with the second most infections outside of China in the initial stages of the outbreak.

What has worked well across Asia

  • Several new medical training courses on COVID-19, such as a recent one by MDBriefcase, are now available for medical professionals. These courses are a good start for basic knowledge on the virus itself and sharing of new treatment information including new medications and vaccinations as and when they become available.
  • By February 1st, aggressive travel restrictions early on in countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore contravened WHO’s initial insistence that travel bans were not necessary. The precautions came at a significant economic cost to these international hubs, which all rely on mainland China as their biggest trading partner and source of tourists. Looking retrospectively just 6 weeks later these countries’ low reported cases prove that decisive action early on wins.
  • Following SARS in 2003, Taiwan established a central command center for epidemics. By Jan. 20, it was coordinating the government’s response to the coronavirus. It quickly compiled a list of 124 “action items,” including border controls, school and work policies, public communication plans and resource assessments of hospitals, according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Taiwan, just 81 miles from mainland China, was expected to have among the highest number of imported cases, but it has now tallied just 50 cases—fewer than Slovenia.

Lessons from the healthcare industry

  • Further improvements have been made in the field regarding nosocomial mismanagement, addressing the large scale infection of healthcare workers, although there is still a way to go.
  • Measures have been taken to change the way COVID-19 is diagnosed including the necessary time gap required before positive results are given. Improvements in clinical diagnostic criteria has led to better management of patients with pneumonia symptoms and are treated as potential COVID-19 cases until cleared.
  • Public health is about collaboration; only in unity can things progress forward. Public health efforts in China meant the sharing of COVID-19’s DNA structure with the world allowing rapid research into medications, vaccines and the creation of test kits.
  • Continued development of medical and public health courses including the latest data and research to support current treatment protocols, quickest diagnostic methods and the most effective vaccinations and medications to prescribe, creating a dynamic learning environment.

Implications for businesses

A recent executive study by McKinsey & Company “COVID-19: Implications for business” (authored by Matt Craven, Linda Liu, Mihir Mysore, and Matt Wilson) looks at the growing impact of COVID-19 on the global economy. Providing business leaders with a perspective on the evolving situation and implications for their companies, Table 1 outlines three possible economic situations.

Protecting your employees

Looking specifically at a short-term contingency plan to manage an outbreak like COVID-19, senior business leaders should look to:

  • Follow the most stringent guidelines from leading global healthcare organisations such as WHO, CDC and local health authorities.
  • Communicate frequently with your employees and through the right channels, making sure employees that are affected directly receive more targeted support.
  • Benchmark your efforts with others in your industry for example; limiting non-essential travel, ensuring a work from home rotation schedule to reduce the number of employees at one site.
  • Support your CEO with setting up a cross-functional response team of senior leaders that guarantees decisive action and a stable line of communication to reduce workforce anxiety.
  • Consider scenarios of 30, 90, 180 and 365 days and model out workforce management plans.

Develop a 4E’s workplace wellness strategy

Once short-term business continuity planning is complete, next look at a more robust workplace wellness strategy that can weather all manner of workforce crises:

Evaluate

– Evaluate your current situation including previously run employee programs, employee net promoter scores, budgets, current initiatives and leadership buy-in. Look at the current employee handbook on flexible and remote working practices, on-site protocols and office-based policies. Ideally, interview a range of employees and ask the tough questions about how they feel about their current work environment and working options.

Employ

– Whether this be investing in a new technology, the creation of a wellness committee, setting up a mini-site in the employees’ portal or the identification of wellness champions, look to create a culture of wellness through each and every employee. New digital platforms offer value to all staff, and encourage the use of innovation to find workarounds that may create longer-term efficiencies in the way the company runs. Be sure to align everyone’s vision on what a healthy workplace looks like, and correlate that with the data you’ve collected in your evaluation stage.

Engage

– The key to engaging employees is consistency; whether that be in frequency and tone of communications, resources provided, new technologies you invest in or who you target first, creating sustained behavioural change stems from healthy habits from the core of your wellness strategy. Remember that one size doesn’t fit all and a culture of mass personalisation will ensure your workforce feel the company has provided a range of solutions that suit them.

Expand

– After the first 30, 60, 90 and 180 days, evaluate, adjust and start to expand across the organisation. This could be to regional offices that weren’t previously included, or centralised global headquarters. The importance of this stage is to ensure lessons have been learnt from previous situations and the company is better prepared for what might come next by rolling out the strategy into every area of the company culture. This means collaboration from all departments to ensure everyone is pulling together for success.

In Conclusion

The modern challenges that HR business leaders face provide a volatile, unpredictable new work environment that needs to be expertly navigated to ensure human capital strategies support public health and local government efforts. The global workforce needs to be given flexible, practical and relevant measures to follow to maintain corporate productivity while also protecting employees’ health and wellbeing. If you want more information or would like to talk to one of our consultants you can contact us here.

References

– Current studies on key risk factors of COVID-19: Coronavirus: Largest study suggests elderly and sick are most at risk. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-51540981

– MOH Singapore COVID-19: https://www.moh.gov.sg/covid-19 (Current updates) https://www.moh.gov.sg/covid-19/past-updates (Past updates)

– ARV use treating COVID-19: https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-01-26/Beijing-confirms-use-of-anti-HIV-drugs-to-treat-novel-coronavirus-NyWfDcmeZi/index.html

– https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/06/health/coronavirus-treatments.html

– Cured COVID-19 patient plasma for treating severe cases of COVID19: Coronavirus Outbreak: Plasma from recovered patients used as treatment https://news.cgtn.com/news/77416a4e354d4464776c6d636a4e6e62684a4856/index.html

– https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/coronavirus-china-asks-recovered-patients-to-donate-blood-for-plasma-treatment

– Previously used for H1N5 (swine flu) &H1N1 (bird flu) as well as in SARS https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15616839

– MDbriefcase COVID-19 course: https://www.mdbriefcase.net/resources/coronavirus/content/index.html#/

– https://www.mdbriefcase.com/course/a-canadian-healthcare-providers-guide-to-the-novel-coron

– https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/coronaviruses

– https://time.com/5802293/coronavirus-covid19-singapore-hong-kong-taiwan/

– https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/20200312-sitrep-52-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=e2bfc9c0_2 facts true as of 12 March 2020

– https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/risk/our-insights/covid-19-implications-for-business

– https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html

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Is Your Workplace Well?

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Written by Victoria Gilbert, Associate Director, Workplace Advisory Corporate Solutions Asia, Colliers International

Wellness is becoming a strategic priority for companies across the globe. Over the past few years in there has been a significant uptake and rapid growth of wellness building projects in Asia Pacific – which looks set to continue.

Business leaders have identified the ‘war for talent’ as their number one challenge in the region. Millennials – set to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025 – are more focused on their own well-being, changing expectations of the ‘employee experience’. And, research shows that shows failing to take wellness into consideration has serious consequences for productivity and the bottom line. 

It is therefore vital for companies to consider how they can embed wellness into the built environment, develop effective organisational policies, and positively influence employee behaviour.

Industry needs to address the pain points of these companies – by developing services to improve well-being at scale, leveraging new technologies to facilitate the journey, and providing ways to measure the impacts. For many, the focus is shifting from ‘what’ wellness is and ‘why’ it’s important, and asking ‘how’ to build effective wellness programmes, and quantify the benefits to employee and corporate performance. As the wellness industry develops more tools to answer these questions, companies will be more willing to commit time and resources to implementing them.

Given that we spend 90 per cent of our time inside, especially in urban environments like Hong Kong, and that indoor air can be more polluted than outside it is essential to ensure the air we are breathing is high quality. Poor air quality, including high carbon dioxide levels, is linked to increased risk of disease and decreased productivity. Providing clean air not only has a clear health benefit but also gives a psychological edge – it’s peace of mind. Leveraging big data and apps to consistently monitor and communicate this to employees is extremely effective.

We were born to move. Some companies are addressing this through office design by creating circulation routes to ensure people are moving throughout the day. Some have fewer printers or a centralised area for bins so people are naturally compelled to walk and socialise. You’ll also find height-adjustable desks or standing desks that team members use for a break from sitting all day. All of this helps to increase movement and step count – making for healthy internal competitions! Using a digital platform or wearable can be a great driver for healthy habits across the business and a great way to see improvements over time.

Efforts to enhance wellness can encounter multiple challenges, from budget limitations to a lack of staff or management buy-in. It’s crucial for corporates to create a wellness strategy that’s core to a business and its employees, and not just an add-on. This will help practitioners narrow the gap between the growing understanding of the field of wellness and effectively engaging with industry experts to execute it.

How Do You Bring Wellness Into Your Workplace?

Here are ten top tips to improve the work environment for you and your employees.

  • Improve air quality – air pollution kills 7 million people every year.
  • Ensure you’re drinking enough water – dehydration reduces cognitive performance and energy levels by up to 20%.
  • Reduce sound distractions – exposure to unwanted sound reduces concentration by 66%.
  • Get comfortable – 85% of people in Asia suffer one or more musculoskeletal conditions annually
  • Make the most of natural light – employees seated within 10 feet of a window reported an 84% decrease in eyestrain, headaches, and blurred vision symptoms.
  • Focus on your mind and wellbeing – 25% of people report work as the number one stressor in their lives.
  • Embrace nature and green materials – adding plants to the workplace can result in a 58% reduction in depression, 44% in hostility and 37% in anxiety and fatigue.
  • Get moving – physical inactivity is the 4th highest risk factor in global mortality.
  • Be more conscious about nourishment – 1 in 5 deaths are linked to band diets globally.
  • Build a sense of community – the average human requires 6 hours of social interaction per day to maintain overall wellbeing.

To read the article in full, find out more about Colliers International Corporate Workplace Advisory Solutions or contact Victoria Gilbert click here.

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WellteQ Talks: Garmin Health

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Have you ever thought about how wearable technology can support workplace wellness initiatives? COO, Jeames Gillet speaks to our preferred wearable partner Garmin, on the components and benefits of the WellteQ mobile platform and the critical role Garmin Health plays in the delivery of this invaluable service.

To discuss how our digital wellness solution combined with Garmin Health can benefit your workforce, contact the WellteQ team.

To find out more about Garmin Health click here.

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EAP: The Baby Boomer Of Corporate Wellness

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The strategy behind WellteQ’s mental health partnerships

Over the last few months WellteQ have orchestrated two new partners – Medibio and Lysn. But why and what does this mean for the user and our clients?  Is it a ‘me too’ capability or is it something different in the industry?

These are questions worth answering and to do so I want to share insight into the thinking behind our strategy. Our partnerships are the basis for what we will be building towards in the years ahead. Through introducing our improved system of personalised health management, we will provide what has historically been an unrealised value from EAP and corporate wellness programs.

In essence, the partners extend value to a WellteQ user in two ways;

  1. Objective mental health screening 
  2. 1:1 tele-psychology consultations.

Independently these are very powerful capabilities, and when added to our digital health platform, introduce a long overdue innovation to bring proactive risk-based interventions to health coaching.

Who Really Needs It?

Meet 46-year-old Dave. A father of two pre-teenage children who has been a loyal mid-level manager for the last twelve years at the same company. He’s guilty of some middle-aged spread (who isn’t?), he drinks but has three alcohol-free days per week, and his new year’s resolution of running around the block three times a week died over winter, again. Dave is also more stressed at work this year, in fact over the last few years found he’s not sleeping as well as he used to. School fees are not getting cheaper and neither are family holidays, Dave’s boss, unfortunately, has had to hold off the promotion again and his wife wants him to upgrade the bathroom. 

  • Is Dave stressed? Certainly. 
  • Does Dave have a mental illness? Unlikely, but unsure. 
  • Could Dave be helped with knowing a bit more about his mental health? Absolutely. 

Dave’s story isn’t unique to just Dave. He could be 26 or 56 years old. Dave could be a Melissa or Tony, May or Tom. He could be any one of us. Dave could be you.

Like most of us in today’s hectic world, Dave’s problem is not singular and there are a few factors at play. No one problem is urgent enough to do anything about immediately, but collectively they build up and over a period of time, Dave moves past quick fixes and easy solves that require days and weeks, and moves into needing ongoing help and support that can last for months and years.

Health today is not just about a run around the block and saying ‘no’ to the second helping of dessert. Mental health challenges, and most notably, the lack of fundamental education or regular screening, are central to some of the fastest rises in medical costs, accidents and comorbidities. The prevalence of mental illness is sky-rocketing and we’re not sure how to get ahead of it. 

“Mental health challenges, and most notably, the lack of fundamental education or regular screening, are central to some of the fastest rises in medical costs, accidents and comorbidities.”

The OECD cites “mental disorders account for one of the largest and fastest growing categories of the burden of disease worldwide.. with one in every two people experiencing a mental illness in their lifetime”. Statistics from workplace mental health studies are consistent with the global trends, and a recent study evaluating global case data over 3 years uncovered that combined, employee depression, stress and anxiety accounted for 82.6% of all emotional health cases.


The facts are clearly there, and when multi-billion dollar life insurers are trying to get ahead of the problem it’s time to take notice. Munich Re shares “Mental disorders have not only become the second most common cause of sick leave– they are now also the most common cause of early retirement due to illness” Historically, mental health disorders have been a relatively difficult set of illnesses to detect, assess and treat. The increasing burden is not just felt by healthcare budgets, and insurers and employers who are bearing the brunt of escalating costs look for new solutions on how to better deal with this global critical situation.

The Problem Is Growing, But What Resources Do Employers Have?

For decades employers have had access to a solution called Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). EAP stems from the 1930’s where it was originally introduced to assist people with the effects of too much drinking on the job. True story. It has, of course, evolved significantly to what it is today; a stand-alone service where employees have access to psychological counselling to help deal with both work and out-of-work demands. It’s a powerful solution for certain use cases, but as with any deep expertise, it has its limitations in broader usage.

In the current EAP model, the onus is on the individual to seek a counsellor of their own volition or wait for a critical incident response. There’s little to no individual risk profiling or personalised recommendations, leaving the individual to self-assess and evaluate what they might need and when they might need it. There is little proactivity and when a user does try to seek help, the experience is often difficult to navigate and time-consuming, utilisation rates are low and companies investing in EAP are increasingly unsatisfied.

For the HR department, organisational reporting is commonly static, retrospective and extremely light on valuable insights other than month-to-month utilization figures. Employee surveys frequently highlight difficulties in navigating EAP portals, confusion in asking permission when booking sessions and general reluctance to share confidential personal information. 

Let’s revisit Dave’s case again. 

Dave’s company offers EAP. He’s seen posters and heard that there’s a number he can call but not looked any further because he’s got more important work to do, and besides after quick self-evaluation, he’s not depressed, he’s just a bit overworked. Dave decides to soldier on until his next holiday in a few months. And so the pattern continues. Dave’s HR department keep EAP because it has been offered to staff since long before current management was there, and even though utilisation of EAP globally is between 2-4% on average, no one gets fired for buying IBM. Why rock the boat? 

” The World Health Organisation recognises mental health as a major concern estimating depression and anxiety alone to cost the global economy over US $1 Trillion per year in lost productivity.”

But a shift is happening, and thankfully with rapid developments in technology, today’s capabilities are fast improving. Mental health is becoming a boardroom topic with consistent media coverage in many countries. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognise mental health as a major concern, identifying the workplace as a ripe opportunity for mitigation. WHO established the Mental Health Action Plan (2013-2030) outlining relevant principles, objectives and implementation strategies to promote good mental health in the workplace. They calculate depression and anxiety alone to cost the global economy over US $1 Trillion per year in lost productivity. Let that sink in $1 Trillion, that’s about enough to buy Apple – the most valuable company on earth.

Encouragingly, attitudes towards mental wellness have turned a corner in the last few years with initiatives like Movember, Beyond Blue, RUOK and Mental Health Month. Generally, more people are open to talking and learning more about mental health, and with awareness comes support on a grander scale. In 2013, Canada established a national standard in workplace psychological wellbeing, led by Dr Joti Samra which in time will become an International Standard. Mental health, however, is not an annual event. With our busy lives absorbing new and different stresses we need something proactive, automated and convenient to stay on top of things.

The Rise Of Technology’s Role In Wellness

Technology is perpetually enhancing incumbent practices that were seen as the height of innovation at the time of their discovery. For example, Body Mass Index (BMI), invented as a best available weight indication of its time in the 1970s has now been superseded by better science and new technology to provide more accurate outcomes. EAP has a similar story, existing long before IoT, mobile living and digital interconnectedness. But just as body measurements have progressed from height and weight ratios to present-day bioimpedance and AI assessments, so too must workplace wellbeing programs advance in identification and support of employee mental health challenges. 

Corporate wellness, like almost all other industries, is undergoing continued digital transformation. Until early 2000s our industry was almost exclusively offering wellness programs in-person – on-site fitness classes, face-to-face health assessments, lunchtime seminars, workplace massages; the list goes on. 

“Early trends in the digital transformation of the wellness industry tended to overcorrect on-site solutions with purely digital solutions, which also weren’t as effective as a hybrid offering.”

The trend was to then overcorrect towards more pure digital solutions – online platforms offering questionnaires and mass sharing of health articles.  While technology can certainly be more economical, dispersing information easily and scaling quickly, something was missing when it came to connecting with lowly engaged or high-risk individuals. We knew that the best results were usually derived from both personalised experiences and contact with other people, whether that be virtually or face-to-face. We’re now seeing that a hybrid approach gives the scale offered by technology combined with the outcomes offered by rapport and expert consultation.

Retrospectively, it’s not surprising a hybrid model is the best course of action. Technology is greatly superior to humans at many things, and for the wellness industry it’s the ability to calculate and automate:

  1. Speed: By analysing high volumes of health risk profiling data points, blood tests, surveys, granular wearable data etc, algorithms are able to screen people against a global databank and share recommendations personalised to each user. This processing takes a human exponentially longer than an algorithm. 
  2. Follow up: All too often life gets in the way of following up on mental wellbeing. Immediately after receiving results from a health assessment the individual usually understands the importance of taking action, but often the urgency of today’s calendar quickly de-prioritises the next steps they should take. Machine-driven intelli-nudges ensures the individual is reminded until an action has been completed, whether that’s reading an article, setting a goal, or booking an appointment. 
  3. Personalisation: The integration of face-to-face care with a skilled professional that closely matches the needs and personality of the individual ensures personalised care is given at the right time without a templated response, and is scheduled accordingly.

This hybrid approach offers a significantly stronger probability for successful intervention.

Why Are Corporate Wellness Programs So Important?

Wellness empowers people. Typically a workplace wellness program is for the persona that could and should do something about their health but never really get around to committing. If we’re honest with ourselves, this actually incorporates most of us. Wellness is often linked with incentives like rewards or prizes, gamification and challenges. It helps people overcome inertia and get back on the health bandwagon. Wellness programs are able to take serious, often confronting topics like diabetes or depression and make it digestible and more relatable. 

Typically corporate wellness solutions around the globe see an average uptake of ~ 20-40% of employees within an organisation and help prevent some problems from happening, delay others from happening sooner and reduce the impact of those problems that do happen. Where corporate wellness solutions have come up short in some eyes is that they either don’t help those in a time of need like in consultation-based treatment, or its one-size-fits-all approach, which typically only work for the already healthy people within an organisation. 

Livongo Case Study

Livongo is a chronic illness management company based in the US and have recently listed on the NASDAQ. In October 2019 they announced a contract in the US to provide their diabetes solution to 5 million eligible members covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program under one health plan. Through a carefully planned strategic partnership with innovative telemedicine provider Teladoc, Livongo is able to offer telehealth services that give users access to behavioural health, dermatology care, minor acute care and counselling for substance abuse disorders all from their mobile phone. Livongo is a unicorn twice over whose expertise is amplified by partnering with complementary capabilities. 

Wellteq’s strategy to extend functionality with expert partners is not dissimilar. 

The Partnership Equation: 1+1=11

As an exercise physiologist, my peers and I have often been described as a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. Ingrained in our training is that while in general, we are valuable for many people, it’s imperative that we refer patients for specialist areas for optimum care. This concept has been central to our partnership strategy at WellteQ. We’ve identified mental health as an area that while we introduce some material value, we know that to really make a difference, we needed to partner with experts in the respective fields. 

We’ve sought out and partnered with two very complementary companies that can help us better detect and support mental health risks in our users.

Medibio analyses responses to a combination of globally validated psychological questionnaires and correlates passively collected sleep patterns via Garmin and Fitbit wearables. The algorithm indicates risks within major pillars of mental health. The power in this is two-fold; past subjective responses are now able to be assessed objectively; data can now be passively collected for ongoing monitoring presenting opportunities to educate the user on when risk increases and decreases. Armed with these invaluable insights, intervention is automated to provide personalised support and round-the-clock care. That’s a lot more powerful than waiting for someone in an overwhelmed state to take action for themselves. 

Lysn can match a person with a psychologist based on key need and personality traits. Offering face-to-face services and virtual consultation through telephone and video conferencing users can be paired with over 500 psychologists consulting in 11 languages in most countries around the world. Having a wide-reaching network ensures users have an enriched access to appointment times and locations that suit them rather than one that suits the physician.  Virtual consultations allows the call to be taken whenever and wherever is most convenient, improving the likelihood of utilisation, and proving especially helpful for remote and mobile workforces.


WellteQ seamlessly glues it all together by offering personalised employee wellness via a smartphone. A connected health coach in your pocket integrates wearables, behaviour prompts, team and individual programs, social content, rewards and now objective mental health screening that refers to telepsychology for the complete end-to-end solution. Intelli-nudges and smart monitors ensure an individual can be alerted in real-time during peak periods of high-risk, and telepsychology enabled for smartphones allows consultation with a health professional at a time that’s convenient for you, me and Dave.

Summary

WellteQ are a digital wellness company with a specialist offering in employee mental health.  For now, our immediate focus is to quickly deploy this fundamental wellbeing offering before we extend our coaching capabilities into nutrition, exercise and sleep.

We believe the majority of healthcare (or is ‘sickcare’ a more accurate term nowadays?) spend can be prevented, or at the very least reduced by improving lifestyle habits. We’re much more likely to achieve sustained healthy behaviour change if we first address our own mental wellbeing back to, or closer to an equilibrium. 

It’s an exciting time for our industry, come and join us.

Written by Scott Montgomery, CEO and Founder of WellteQ

Learn More

Press release for Wellteq and Medibio

Press release for Wellteq and Lysn 

www.wellteq.co 

www.medibio.com.au

www.welysn.com 

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WellteQ Introduces Tele-psychology In New Partnership With Mental Health Company Lysn

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WellteQ announces a partnership with Lysn, a mental health company whose technology offers personalised mental health coaching and consultations.

Highlights

  • Lysn offers over 500 psychologists on-demand capable of 11 languages with a global reach including triage, learning modules, workshops and presentations. 
  • The combined solution offers psychology with digital wellness and objective mental health screening to offer the most comprehensive mental health and wellbeing solution for enterprises across APAC.
  • The partnership will deploy immediately as a digital innovation to the Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and offers immediate consultation capability following risk detection.

Mental health has become a primary focus of large employers and insurers recently and WellteQ has responded by extending their capabilities to include objective screening and virtual consultation through partnerships. Incorporating counselling to specifically focus on mental health has been a strategic plan, and builds on the recently launched objective mental health screening capability.

New End-to-End Solution Helps Employers Get Ahead Of Risk

EAP utilization rates have traditionally lingered at 2-4%, whereas the corporate wellness industry average surges ahead at ~25%. By adding mental health screening and psychology to digital wellness capabilities, the WellteQ end-to-end solution extends the value chain of an HR investment. Leveraging WellteQ’s personalisation engine to triage employees earlier improves the current care model and helps employers get ahead of risk. 

By integrating Lysn’s virtual and face-to-face consultation capabilities into WellteQ’s digital wellness platform, WellteQ extends the use case and continuity of care.  Its suite of digital health assessment and wellbeing tools now extend past objective health risk assessment and preventative coaching into psychological consultation. This extended value proposition now strongly contends to disrupt the current Employee Assistance Program (EAP) market by offering broader value for higher workforce utilization and data-rich insights for more strategic workforce support compared to the status quo.


What Does This Mean For Employees?

For employers this collaboration offers an end-to-end solution from prevention programs and engagement to 1:1 consultation-based care, specific to mental health in the workplace:

  • New insights into employee mental wellbeing that can help with support programs such as return-to-work and more targeted workplace wellness interventions.
  • More accurate employee profiling allowing employees to get ahead of the risk before the situation becomes more serious and costly.
  • Safe and secure digital environment for employees ensures user anonymity as only aggregated information is reported back to the employer.

Dr Jonathan King, CEO and Founder of Lysn, said:

“Such an exciting partnership to announce with WellteQ, combining workplace physical data insights with Lysn’s wellbeing software and services provide a holistic wellbeing approach for employees and their workplaces.

Collaborating with WellteQ, we’ll provide better data-driven employee assistance programs. This will not only help employees but increase the return of investment for businesses. We make a really simple and transparent process for companies to see their return on investing in wellbeing. I am very excited to see how we can transform workplace health together.”

Scott Montgomery, CEO of WellteQ, said:

“Employers for a long time have been calling out for innovation to the incumbent EAP model. Due to its siloed and reactive nature, it was attracting underwhelming utilisation by waiting for employees to activate the solution rather than the solution activating the employee.

WellteQ now with our Lysn partnership can offer proactive wellness engagement via data-driven personalisation for employees, and when needed can seamlessly triage into private 1:1 coaching or consultations. Finally, we can link risk assessments, preventative wellness and specialist consults into one smartphone app. I’m incredibly excited by this partnership and the outcomes we’ll deliver in this next 12 months alone.”


About LYSN

Lysn is a mental health company, helping anyone find high-quality and tailored matching mental health support. Whether it’s by phone, online video call, or in person, Lysn provides help the way you want.

Lysn’s digital wellbeing platform provides a stepped care model for mental health support, allowing people to be escalated or de-escalated to the point of care that they require. This customization allows users to feel supported due to the personalization that Lysn brings for each user’s experience. 

Lysn’s platform is integrated across over 80+ GP clinics, and over 250+ psychology clinics. If you are looking for a personalized wellbeing platform, please contact Lysn.

For more information please contact stacey@wellteq.co

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Why Work-Related Mental Health Could Be The Biggest Cost In Your Business

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Work-related mental health issues affect everyone in their working lives at one point or another across the globe. In Australia, 58% of women and 42% of men in Australia made serious claims on average per year amounting to approximately USD372 million.

In the UK for the first time, work-related stress anxiety or depression accounted for over half of all working days lost due to ill health, resulting in a loss of approximately USD86 billion in 2017/18.

Work-related mental health conditions are estimated to cost the global economy USD1 trillion per year.

Annual costs associated with work-related mental health conditions in the USA are increasing twice as fast as all other medical expenses in recent years, according to data from Aetna Behavioral Health, costing US businesses up to USD193.2 billion in 2018.

Work-related mental health conditions take a huge toll on worker health and productivity, with the negative impact felt by individuals themselves, their families, and colleagues. Depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is USD1 trillion per year in lost productivity.

This infographic from Safe Work Australia looks at the rate, type and causes of work-related mental health conditions in the workplace, to help us focus on how to reduce these statistics.

Work-related mental health conditions (also known as psychological injuries) have become a major concern in Australian workplaces due to the negative impact on individual employees, and the costs associated with the long periods away from work that are typical of these claims. It’s reported that 60% of mental disorder claims are awarded to workers aged 40 and over.

But the situation is likely more grave than reported, as employees frequently call in sick with colds or upset stomachs to hide the fact they may be suffering from a workplace-related psychological issue. According to MIND in the UK, 95% of employees who took time off previously for stress named a physical illness at some stage to avoid difficult conversations with supervisors and managers they felt didn’t support them.

In the US, 71% of adults reported at least one symptom of stress, such as a headache or feeling overwhelmed or anxious, with nearly 1 in 5 working adults reporting mental illness in 2016.

Over the five-year period reviewed by SWA in Australia, the occupations with the highest rate of claims for mental health conditions were defence, transport drivers, support workers, prison and security officers and social and welfare professionals.

In the UK, the fastest-growing rates of work-related stress, anxiety or depression by industry were education, healthcare and social workers, defence, finance and insurance, with notable increases also found in science, technology, arts and entertainment, administration and automotive.

The picture is very different in the US, with manufacturing, retail and food & beverage industries ranking worst for workplace mental health, citing stress, lack of physical exercise, the potential for conflict and feelings of irrelevance as top reasons for poor mental health.

While no two cases are the same, there are some mechanisms that when present within a work environment increases the likelihood of employees developing work-related mental health issues. In Australia between 2010-2015 91% of workers’ compensation claims involving a mental health condition were linked to stress, with the majority of cases relating directly to increase work pressure (31% on average per year).

Increased work pressure is the most reported reason in the UK with 38% of cases, followed by 17.9% reported on financial concerns and 9.5% reported on workplace bullying. More than half (55.3%) of employees interviewed said that their job had become more stressful in the last five years.

Excessive workplace stress causes on average 120,000 deaths a year in the US and results in nearly USD190 billion in health care costs each year. This represents 5% to 8% of national health care spending, derived primarily from high demands at work (USD48 billion), lack of insurance (USD40 billion), and work-family conflict (USD24 billion).

Depression, anxiety and stress-related disorders are consistently reported in Australia, UK and the USA with regards to work-related mental health conditions.

This trend is seen on a global scale, with major depression ranking second (after low back pain) worldwide of work-related reported conditions, and anxiety disorders ranking ninth. Using more inclusive criteria to embrace other conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, insomnia and major depression, it is estimated that 164.8 million people of all ages in the European Union (38.2% of the population) suffer from a form of mental disorder each year; the commonest being anxiety (14.0%), insomnia (7.0%) and major depression (6.9%).

Employers must look to address mental health in the workplace as part of their physical health check-ups, due to numerous studies proving the relationship between mental and physical conditions. Depressed persons are twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease or stroke and more than four times as likely to die within 6 months from a heart attack. There is a strong linkage between depression and obesity, where those with depression had a 58% greater risk of developing obesity than non-depressed individuals, and people with obesity had a 55% increased risk of being depressed than non-obese individuals. An added concern is that people with depression also exhibit poor adherence with medication or other prescribed treatments.

“Depressed people are up to 4 times more likely to develop physical conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and obesity.”

Research also shows that there are more workers absent from work because of stress and anxiety than because of physical illness or injury. Furthermore, more days of work loss and work impairment are caused by mental illness than other chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and arthritis. Employees with depression report their productivity at 70% of their peak performance, and approximately 32 incremental workdays are lost to presenteeism for individuals with major depressive disorders.

With such compelling research and staggering statistics, what are you doing to address these issues within your organisation?

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Top 5 Tips: How To Integrate Your Corporate Mental Health Initiatives

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Over 90% of employees surveyed by Heads Up (2014) believed that supporting mental health is important, but only 52% of people believe it’s being addressed. Here are five ways you can help integrate mental health initiatives into your workplace to raise awareness and increase overall participation in a holistic health program.

1. Discuss What’s Happening In Morning Or Weekly Meetings

It’s one thing to run a program, but for good participation rates, you need to promote it and show managerial support. Tell employees what’s going on and potentially share a ‘people win of the week’.

2. Get Active During Lunch Breaks Or Go For Walking Meetings

Time and time again, exercise has been proven to help with depression and poor mental health. Exercise also helps with problem-solving. Get out into the fresh air either on your lunch breaks or organise walking meetings with others.

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3. Hold Healthy BBQs Or Friday Lunch

Organise an event based on a healthy meal. Use this opportunity to discuss food and mood. Too much processed food has been linked to poor mental health and ‘slumps’ in energy levels. Having foods with omega 3’s such as salmon and walnuts can help boost good mental health as well as regular fresh fruit and vegetables. 

4. Host Mindfulness Moments

Organise a 2-minute slot either on the back of a regular meeting or on a Monday morning after lunch where you and your team can pop on a meditation app or a timer and give just a couple of minutes to focusing on your breath.

5. Organise More Work Social Events

Socialising and feeling included is a critical part of good health. Creating different events at work like mini-challenges or group lunches or activities outside of office hours like lawn bowls or a family day is a great idea to create a supportive and inclusive culture.

It’s important to have a robust strategy with a series of different initiatives for a successful health and wellbeing program. Taking on some of the tips we’ve suggested here can help boost awareness and participation as well as showing the connection between mental and physical health.

Interested to find out more? Contact the team now to book a confidential discussion about how to support your workforce with an integrated wellbeing program.

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The Negative Impact of Stress

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Did you know that between 75%-90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints? For this reason, it is important to understand the many different ways in which stress impacts our health and wellbeing.

This infographic guide provided by Aris Grigoriou of Study Medicine Europe shows how stress affects the body and also offers some practical pointers on stress management.

The reality is that stress itself isn’t bad. No, you read that right, stress really isn’t. Humans have evolved to recognise a stressful situation that might put their survival in danger, thus producing the fight-or-flight response and releasing hormones to either fight off the threat or flee to safety.

Good stress, called eustress, can actually be beneficial to you. Unlike bad stress, or distress, good stress can help with motivation, focus, energy, and performance. For some people, it can even feel exciting.

Encountering one or two stressors can usually be dealt with easily by most people in a typical day, but when the stressors build-up and there’s not sufficient time to rest and recover, the repeated activation of our natural physiological response starts to take their toll on the body and mind.

Research suggests that chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits, and causes brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction. More preliminary research suggests that chronic stress may also contribute to obesity, both through direct mechanisms (causing people to eat more) or indirectly (decreasing sleep and exercise). Harvard Health

Chronic stress (the constant over-activation of the stress response) can be difficult to identify. Some of the more common signs include:

  • rapid heart rate
  • elevated blood pressure
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • fatigue
  • difficulty sleeping
  • poor problem-solving
  • persistent thoughts about one or more stressors
  • changes in behaviour, including social withdrawal, feelings of sadness, frustration, loss of emotional control, inability to rest, self-medication and increased alcohol usage

There are a number of techniques that can be used to combat stress including

Relaxation Response

Dr. Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, has devoted much of his career to learning how people can counter the stress response by using a combination of approaches that elicit the relaxation response. These include deep abdominal breathing, focus on a soothing word (such as peace or calm), visualization of tranquil scenes, repetitive prayer, yoga, and tai chi.

Physical Activity

People can use exercise to stifle the buildup of stress in several ways. Exercise, such as taking a brisk walk shortly after feeling stressed, not only deepens breathing but also helps relieve muscle tension. Movement therapies such as yoga, tai chi, and qi gong combine fluid movements with deep breathing and mental focus, all of which can induce calm.

Social Support

Confidants, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, relatives, spouses, and companions all provide a life-enhancing social net — and may increase longevity. It’s not clear why, but the buffering theory holds that people who enjoy close relationships with family and friends receive emotional support that indirectly helps to sustain them at times of chronic stress and crisis.

How are you managing stress within your workforce?

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The Rise of Mental Health Recognition in the Workplace

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WellteQ was recently asked to write an article for the United Nations on how we support mental health initiatives in the workplace. Zoe Cole explains how we deliver on Sustainable Development Goal #3 – Ensuring healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages.

Current State of Affairs

  • 1 out of 5 Australians take time off work every year due to poor mental health (ABS, 2018)
  • Average cost of mental health claim is $24k, 266% higher than all other claims. (SWA, 2018)
  • Workplace health programs have proven to reduce stress at home up to 37% (WellteQ, 2019)
  • Workplace health programs have increased perceived job performance by 54% (WellteQ, 2019)

The Global Rise of Depression

Understanding and investing in the health of employees is rapidly accelerating around the world. Companies are aware of the impact poor physical and mental health in their workplace and the influence they may have, good or bad, on the overall health and wellbeing of their staff. Globally, around 264 million people suffer from depression which is the leading cause of disability and many of these people also experience symptoms of anxiety (WHO, 2019).

All 17 sustainable development goals created by the UN


Poor mental health is costing Australian businesses approximately $11 billion annually (PwC, 2014). Within a 12 month period, one in every five Australians will experience a mental health condition requiring them to take time off work (ABS, 2018). The major mental health concerns vary across industries from substance abuse in FIFO industries to anxiety in IT, media and financial institutions. Mental health claims are approximately $24,000 each compared the average of $9,000 for all other claim types (Safe Work Australia, 2018). Australia isn’t the only country suffering, the World Health Organisation (2019) believes working environments unsupportive to mental health is costing the world economy $1 trillion annually.

It seems that long hours and unpaid overtime are becoming more common in a range of industries. 91% of workers’ compensation claims for a mental health condition were linked to work-related stress or mental stress (Safe Work Australia, 2018). Burnout is a major factor for turn over of staff as they feel overworked and unrelenting pressures at work.

How Do We Fix This?

It’s important to approach health holistically. The most successful programs include physical health (exercise and nutrition), mental health, social health and financial health. More than 9 out of 10 employees believe that mental health in the workplace is important, yet only 52% of people feel like it’s being addressed (Heads Up, 2014).

Programs need to be fun, engaging and meaningful to the employee in order to see long term, sustainable behaviour change. The services involved should be strategic with specific KPI’s to achieve goals, however, leave these pieces of information in the boardroom and outwardly promote the personal benefits of being involved in a health program. Research has proven mentally healthy workplaces not only improve the mental condition of the employees but their families as well.

There are some great success stories and organisations already tackling mental health. In the blue-collar space, Mates in Mining play a huge role in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and normalise the ability to recognise and talk about it. In fact, just last year a study was published by the University of Newcastle assessing Mates in Mining’s impact.

Integrated Wellbeing Programs Have Better Success

Eight Australian mines engaged in the research with 1,275 miners participating in the program. It offered both general awareness and connector training to employees and a more in-depth training for supervisors to help them recognise and support someone experiencing poor mental health.  The findings supported peer-based programs tailored to the male-dominated workforce with participants feeling a lot more confident to talk and support their peers. Beyond Blue (non-profit organisation supporting mental health) has a workplace branch to their organisation, Head Ups, who are also spearheading support and research for mental health alongside the federal and state governments and RUOK.

WellteQ understands that good mental health is vital in the workplace.  It goes beyond providing an ROI, it generates a positive work culture through creating support systems, trust, staff retention and good morale. As companies mature in their understanding of health at work,  WellteQ provides digital health support focusing on team challenges, personal health journeys, increasing physical activity and understanding the mind and body connection. Results from WellteQ’s multifaceted programs have included

  • Overall health: 44% improvement
  • Energy levels: 29% improvement
  • Resilience: 15% improvement
  • Perceived job performance: 54% improvement
  • Stress at home: 37% reduction
  • Stress at work:  10% reduction

Nutrition And Exercise Play An Important Part In Mental Health

Research has proven that good nutrition and regular exercise improves mental health. Therefore encouraging employees to make better food decisions and move more significantly improves mood as well as approaching mental health head-on. Arming employees with tools to manage stress and increasing their health literacy is key to caring more for their health, recognising the signs and symptoms of stress or behaviour change and may become more resilient to certain situations.

Variety Is The Key To Success

Although there is still a long way to go to improve the wellbeing of workers, there is some fantastic research and current programs showing successful intervention. Remember that variety is key. Consider the demographics of your workforce and peers: gender, age, industry and cultural background to name a few. Tailor your program and ensure you capture data and track changes to best understand your workforce to provide the support they need.

What are you looking at for next year’s programs?

How does your company currently initiate mental health programs?

How have wellbeing programs worked for you?

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WellteQ Partners with Mental Health Tech Company Medibio

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APAC’s most progressive wellness engagement and analytics platform partners with pioneering mental health technology company Medibio (ASX: MEB) (OTCQB: MDBIF).

Highlights

  • WellteQ and Medibio will work together to implement a unique digital solution incorporating Medibio’s mental well-being assessment into Wellteq’s personalised and holistic wellness platform.
  • The initial geography will be specific to the rapidly growing APAC region.
  • WellteQ and Medibio will maintain ownership of all intellectual property in their respective platforms.

Under the partnership agreement, the parties will create an integrated solution by incorporating Medibio’s ilumenTM digital mental well-being assessment into WellteQ’s digital wellness platform. Medibio and WellteQ have identified that the integrated solution will offer a unique value proposition and enter into this partnership agreement to design, develop and implement a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Teams will begin work immediately on the integration in anticipation of the platform being available by the end of 2019.

The initial geography will be specific to the rapidly growing APAC Region with potential for additional geographical areas upon mutual agreement. Medibio and WellteQ will collaborate on all marketing and promotional activities to promote the integrated solution to prospective clients within this geography. Both parties will maintain Intellectual Property ownership in their respective platforms, including any modifications or improvements realized through the work of this partnership agreement.


What Does This Mean For Employees?

For employers this collaboration brings a new approach to employee mental wellness programs leveraged by technology:

  • An objective approach to mental health that looks at biometrics for early detection and screening of mental health conditions all from a mobile phone, linking physiological measures and mental health in sleeping patterns.
  • Meaningful outcomes integrated with ongoing programs to improve the quality of life for millions suffering from a mental wellbeing issue, from depression to stress.
  • Accelerated speed of diagnosis of mental illness to ensure the employee’s workload and role is correctly managed to minimise unplanned sick leave.

Scott Montgomery, CEO of WellteQ, said:

“It’s great to see the enthusiasm of both teams as we finalize this partnership agreement. Our current corporate client portfolio has expressed a strong need for more objective mental well-being to be integrated into a holistic data-driven health solution. This extensive capability is unique promising high growth potential, we are extremely excited to work with Medibio to bring mental well-being to employees and insurance policy holders across APAC.”

David B. Kaysen, Chairman, Managing Director and CEO of Medibio, said:

“We are excited to finalize this partnership agreement with WellteQ, a leader in employee health solutions. Both companies are in complete alignment on the significant need for a robust employee health solution that integrates mental well-being. This partnership is a big step forward in achieving our commercialisation objective to integrate ilumenTM into organisations with global distribution channels.”


Who Are Medibio?

Medibio (ASX: MEB) (OTCQB: MDBIF) is a health technology company pioneering the use of objective measures to aid in the early detection and screening of mental health conditions. Through their corporate health product, the company offers mental well-being solutions for businesses and are also developing products to serve the healthcare provider market.

The company was founded in Australia, with offices located in Melbourne (Vic) and U.S. offices in Minneapolis, MN. Medibio is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange Ltd and trades on the OTCQB Venture Market.

For more information please contact stacey@wellteq.co

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