Collect Data on Multiple Outcomes over Time

collect-dataOutcome measures are what people often think of when it comes to evaluation: they show whether the program was effective at making changes in the target population.2,3 Outcomes can be divided into short-, intermediate- and long-term measures. Long-term outcomes are related to the overall goal(s) of the program and take years to observe (e.g., reductions in disease or healthcare costs).2 Short- and intermediate-term outcomes are often the stepping stones to achieving long-term outcomes, like individual behavior changes or the introduction of new policies and benefits.2 When deciding what outcomes to measure, you should set SMART objectives, focusing on outcomes that are: specific, measurable, attainable (realistic for the program and organization), relevant (as an answer to the problem being addressed) and time-oriented. Once you have SMART objectives set, decide how often outcomes will be measured and assign the tasks of collecting data and providing regular reports to a specific individual or group to ensure accountability.2

There are four broad outcomes of interest to most employers: health outcomes, worker productivity, healthcare costs and organizational change.2 These categories can be broken down in a variety of ways, and the choice of what to measure and how to measure it should be informed by the overall program’s goals. For example, you might measure productivity by changes in absenteeism or health outcomes by uptake of desired behavior changes or changes in biometric health measures.