This the title of an excellent article published in Health Affairs. The authors are Al Lewis, coauthor of Cracking Health Costs-the book and author of Why Nobody Believes the Numbers, and Vic Khanna. They take a critical look at contemporary corporate-sponsored wellness programs.
Corporate wellness programs are no longer novel in any sense. Some have around for 20 years and have track records that can be measured objectively. Alas the actual records don’t look so hot.
Lewis and Khanna write, “…the implausible, disproven, and often mathematically impossible claims of success underlying the “get well quick” programs promoted by the wellness industry raise many questions about the wisdom of these decisions and policies.”
The authors point out deep flaws in wellness measurement methods, ones that defy sensible biostatistical measurements. For example, “Some [wellness] vendors even show results that specifically require two years of repeat participation…, all but ensuring that only the volunteers most dedicated to improvement will persevere long enough to be counted.” In that situation they are really only comparing outcomes of motived employees to non-motivated ones, a deeply flawed measurement.” Click here to read the full article.
They also point to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that slams the reported results of the now (in)famous Safeway wellness programs. Click here for a link to the NEMJ article.
Al Lewis says, and I agree, wellness is valuable for many other reasons — like recruitment/retention and morale — but not to reduce health spending.
Why do I keep writing articles critical of corporate wellness programs? The answer is simple. Companies are facing huge health cost increases. Benefit managers need to focus on ways to actually control costs, and not spend so much time promoting things that do not.
Tom Emerick is the President of Emerick Consulting, LLC, and Partner and Chief Strategy Officer with Laurus Strategies, a Chicago-based consulting firm. Prior to starting his consulting career, Tom was with Walmart Stores, where his last position was Vice President, Global Benefit Design, which involved designing and managing benefits for over 1.3 million employees in the U.S., and 300,000 plus in international. For about six years, Tom also headed up Walmart’s Six Sigma and process improvement initiatives. Prior to Walmart, Tom had positions with Burger King Corporation, British Petroleum, and American Fidelity Assurance Company. In 2009, Tom was named by Healthspottr as one of the top 100 innovators in healthcare the US for his work on medical ethics. In December 2012, Tom was listed in Forbes.com as one of 13 unsung heroes changing healthcare forever.