My extensive first-hand experience with workplace wellness was always disappointing. There were never any savings, participation was low, employees didn’t like it, and administration was complex. During my tenure at both British Petroleum and Walmart, I tried various forms of wellness but to no avail.
When I began to focus on high-cost cases, we had great successes in direct contracting with providers and setting up medical travel programs.
I’ve continued to follow the wellness industry but could never see any genuine success stories. The gratifying news is that I’m not the only one to notice any more. The LA Times called wellness a scam while Slate just recently called it a sham. And Al Lewis, my co-author on Cracking Health Costs, would say they’re being polite. Most recently, he has noted that the 2016 Koop Award is going to a vendor whose own data shows they made employees unhealthier.
Speaking of Al Lewis, he has now entered the employee health field directly with Quizzify, which transforms the boring but long-overdue task of educating employees about health, healthcare, and their health benefit into an entertaining trivia game. As a colleague and co-author, I do need to disclose the obvious conflict of interest as I describe my impressions below, but don’t take my word for any of this. Just go play the sample short game right on the website, and ask yourself if you’re learning anything useful, right off the bat. Click here for a link to Quizzify.
Do you think your employees already know this stuff? It’s doubtful. Americans vastly over consume healthcare; it’s almost free at the point of service once the deductible is satisfied, and they are being bombarded with ads and marketing, as are their doctors. Nothing can solve this massive problem, but Quizzify can help, and is about the only vendor even trying. Backed by doctors at Harvard Medical School and a 100% savings guarantee, Quizzify provides a plethora of shock-and-awe, fully linked “counter-detailing” questions-and-answers that will educate even the savviest consumers of healthcare, and entertain even the dourest CFO. Nexium? Prilosec? Prevacid? You wouldn’t believe the hazards of long-term use. Then there is the sheer waste and possible harm of annual checkups, well-woman visits, PSA tests, and so on.
Speaking of hazards, CT scans emit up to 1000 times the radiation of an x-ray. Uninformed people are going clinics that will give them a “preventive” CT scan. If a doctor suggested patients have a series of a thousand x-rays for “preventive” reasons there would be a stampede out of the office.
On the other hand, there are instances where people should go to the doctor but they don’t. Swollen ankles? Painless, perhaps, but you may have a circulation problem, possibly a serious one. Blood in your urine but it goes away before you even make an appointment? That could be a bladder tumor tearing and then re-attaching itself, especially if you smoke. And show me one health risk assessment that advises people over 55 or 60 to get a shingles vaccine if they had chicken pox as a kid.
Then there are the health hazards of everyday life. Those healthy-sounding granola bars are full of sugars cleverly hidden in the ingredients labels. And whoever says vaping is safer that smoking better not be pregnant, because for pregnant moms, incredibly, vaping could be worse for the unborn baby. Just as with the shingles vaccine, chances are your HRA is silent on the texting-while-driving (TWD) issue while obsessing about seat belts, but TWD is by far the more underappreciated hazard.
Your HRA is probably also silent on the health risks of loneliness, poor spending habits, boredom, and most of the other major health risks Robert Woods, PhD, and I describe in our book, An Illustrated Guide to Personal Health. Quizzify has many questions aimed at improving spending habits, but if I had one complaint, it would be that (at least in the questions I’ve seen) Quizzify doesn’t address these risks we’ve described in this book.
One of the largest health risks workers have is being in a job you hate. You won’t see that question on anyone’s HRA either, or in Quizzify. That could lead to mass resignations in some pressure cooker companies.
Further, scores and scores of people have told me they fudge answers on HRAs anyway. Interestingly, they feel they are on the ethical high ground to do that because of the goofy, nosey, and intrusive questions they are asked to answer, e.g., asking about your pregnancy plans in the future. Quizzify, on the other hand, encourages people to cheat. They want you to look up the answers because that’s how you learn. So instead of denying human nature, they channel it.
Conclusion: if you offer old-fashioned wellness, walk, don’t run, to the nearest exit. If you want to look at something that shows huge promise, check out Quizzify.