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Cleveland Clinic’s Michael Roizen Shows How Wellness Impacts Performance

Do you know whether heartburn pills are safe for long-term use?

The April 15 “Is Wellness Hazardous to Your Well-Being?” conference at Case Western Reserve School of Law featured an excellent presentation by RAND’s Soeren Mattke on the futility of wellness programs.  As usual, he graciously bent over backwards to give wellness programs the benefit of the doubt, generously assuming that non-participants can be a control group for participants.  Even so, of course, lifestyle management (meaning “pry, poke and prod”) programs lose money, according to RAND research.

In addition to the prepared slides, he noted off the cuff that RAND’s own wellness program costs RAND $150/employee/year.  “Get rid of this silly program and give us the $150” is his advice to them.

Next, the Cleveland Clinic’s Michael Roizen defended wellness programs, based on Cleveland Clinic’s own allegedly incredible results.

He presented many data-driven slides, railing against, among other things, saturated fat.  Mostly, he talked about the great results they have seen in their own employees.  The 48,000 employees employees of Cleveland Clinic have lost 445,000 pounds. (He said that worked out to 2.5 pounds per employee.)  Most importantly, employees aren’t burned out any more.  Their stress levels are incredibly, massively, mind-bogglingly down.  Cleveland Clinic could literally have the best wellness program in the country.  So their employee performance must be spectacular.

Yes, their performance is spectacular enough that Leapfrog Group rates the flagship hospital a “C” — among the lowest scores in the region.

cleveland clinic

It may be just a coincidence. Or it may be that Cleveland Clinic stresses out their employees so much trying to get them to claim that they’ve reduced their stress that their job performance is impacted. Or perhaps their policy of not hiring smokers even if they are the best candidates plays a role.

Or maybe if they put half as much effort into error reduction as they put into wellness, they could increase their score to a “B” or an “A”.

Or maybe, to use a classic wellness vendor argument (employed by Optum’s Seth Serxner), if it hadn’t been for their wellness program, they would have gotten D’s.


Soon after I posted this, a Cleveland nurse (who identified herself to me but would probably prefer not to be named) says:

Oh they do way more than not hire smokers. They don’t hire nurses or other bedside caregivers if their BMI is above a certain point. Annnnd they’re currently in a huge nursing shortage.


Yet another employee has come forward, once again identifiable to me but preferring not to be identified. She says everyone in her department laughs at this program. “I loathe ShapeUp” she says, apparently having seen our expose of them.

Another (identified) person seems to have found this on Facebook and says she knows of two people fired after their physical for non-bedside positions.


  1. Mitch Collins says:



    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      Thx. Didn’t even have to break a sweat on this one. It just went up and I’ve already fielded 3 complaints about the Cleveland Clinic program, one of which I posted right on the blog. A classic wellness program.


  2. Nicole Ausmus says:

    I toured CC a few years back when contemplating implementing a COE program for a large employer I worked for. They touted their wellness initiatives to us, including, as you mention, not hiring smokers, removing the onsite McDonalds and pretty much any other food not considered “healthy” and various other big-brother type programs. I squirmed inside, thinking how glad I was not to be an employee there, but not daring to say anything given the biggest preacher of the message was Toby Cosgrove. It was the pinnacle of “wellness or else”.


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