They Said What?

Home » Uncategorized » Wellness Stars of 2016, part 2

Wellness Stars of 2016, part 2

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

Last week I highlighted the first cavalcade of Wellness Stars of 2016, deftly juxtaposed with the popular Wellness Deplorables Award annual countdown. (The actual countdown has to be done in three parts, with #1 still to come. So many candidates, so few numbers between 1 and 10.)

Today we again switch back from the Deplorables to the Stars, in nonprofits, government, and the private sector. We’ll end with shout-outs to some individuals.

Nonprofit Advocacy and Government Groups

A number of organizations have distinguished themselves in 2016.  AARP is right out in front, advocating for employee rights. AARP is right out in front, advocating for employee rights. They see involuntary wellness poking and prodding as highly disproportionately discriminatory against older employees (which we would observe is just one of wellness’s many charming features). Since older people are more likely to weight more, have higher blood pressure, diabetes, and more trouble losing weight, etc., they are more likely to want to withhold health  information from their employers for fear of discrimination, but instead will be penalized by these programs into surrendering it, with wellness promoters advocating even more penalties.

Next is NIOSH, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Withstanding the pressure from their CDC overlords who have gotten completely drunk on wellness Kool-Aid, NIOSH wrote an amazingly thoughtful vision for the next 10 years of “Total Worker Health“…without even mentioning the word wellness.  Why? For the simple reason that hiring a vendor to pry, poke and prod employees in excess of US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines has virtually nothing to do with real occupational health and safety — except, as in the case of crash-dieting contests and/or Wellsteps, to damage it.

And speaking of USPSTF, hats off to them. They have withstood the pressure from various specialty societies and the National Business Group on Health (NBGH is now the leading wellness vendor shill in Washington) demanding more screenings, and threatening to oppose their funding if they don’t deliver. The actual science always favors USPSTF in these debates, but the whiners have plenty of money to support their very specific agenda: overscreening today, overscreening tomorrow, overscreening forever. (Those with long memories recall when USPSTF revised its mammogram recommendations to be consistent with the evidence…and almost lost their funding as a result.)

Also on the nonprofit scene would be the former National Business Coalition on Health, now renamed the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, in order not to be confused with NBGH, and hence not be accidentally sullied by the latter’s reputation. The regional coalitions that comprise the national group also take their roles defending employers seriously.

In particular, the Midwest, Philadelphia, Northeast, Pittsburgh and South Carolina coalitions deserve extra plaudits.  I’ve participated in each of those regional events and consistently have found them to be among the best of the employee health conference genre. The speakers are well-vetted, and it’s not a vendorfest. And the food is consistently good too. One was even covered by the local media.

And if there were an advocacy organization hall of fame, Leapfrog Group would be the first inductee. For years they’ve been getting hollered at by hospitals for ranking them objectively, and lobbying for more transparency in medical error reporting. Since “pry, poke and prod” overscreening is one humongous medical error, needless to say Leapfrog has been visibly opposed to it, and highly supportive of our efforts…and also can be as funny as we are on that subject.

The Private Sector

First is Medencentive.  Whereas most employee health vendors generate tons of comments demanding the program’s removal (Penn State received about 2000 employee signatures demanding the removal of their Goetzel-inspired debacle before they finally caved), Medencentive generated over 3,000 users signatures in support of their program…out of only 21,000 eligible people, over a brief 45-day period.  You might say: “Oh, well, their program must be tied to some huge incentive.” Actually, it’s only $15 per office visit.

A list of other companies worth of mention would include, as always, Quantum Health. When Cooperstown builds the Employee Health Program Hall of Fame, Quantum will be the first inductee. While what they do is most important, what they don’t do is also notable: they don’t chase down healthy employees to pry, poke and prod them. They focus only on employees who can benefit from their assistance. That shouldn’t be rocket science, and yet focusing only on employees in need who want help is the opposite of the typical wellness vendor “hyperdiagnosis” model.

I would also like to give a shout-out to Welltok, which received validation from the Validation Institute, for creating some of the best analysis I’ve ever seen to show noticeable and completely valid impact of their program.

Wellable, right here in Boston, publishes a newsletter that is a must-read, due to its sensible and literate takes on the wellness scene and speaking of sensible and literate, that brings us to…


…the industry’s drop-everything-and-read blog, when he actually gets around to writing it, is Bob Merberg’s In tEWn.  To say Bob’s smackdown of Ron Goetzel’s Graco fiction was Al-worthy is an insult to Bob. He even found obvious lies missed by even the guy Mr. Goetzel calls “sharp-eyed Al Lewis.” (That explains it. All this time I thought Ron’s analysis was wrong all the time because he was dishonest. Turns out it’s only because he didn’t get LASIK and I did.)

To be sure, Mr. Goetzel’s reports in general — and Graco in particular — are a target-rich environment but even so, Bob’s was an impressive piece of peer review. Though to call this “peer review” is also an insult to Bob.

I am also a big fan of postings by Fred GoldsteinBill McPeck and Dean Witherspoon even if I don’t always agree with them, and am pleased to add them to the Stars list despite the occasional disagreement. I am not interested in conformity but rather just in basing a debate on facts.

The up-and-comer on the scene among individuals?  That would have to be Dave Chase. Dave is putting together The Big Heist, a documentary series on ripoffs in healthcare, naturally featuring wellness.  You can look at his master list to find other “Good Guys.”  Big Bang Health is such a Good Guy, also an up-and-comer. Phia Group, also a charter Good Guy, enjoys a well-deserved top-flight reputation in designing benefits plans incorporating state of the art cost and risk reduction techniques — and is also certain to be featured in Dave Chase’s magnum opus.

And three cheers for the industry’s #1 podcasters, James Kelley and Michael Prager.  No one has ever found a material inaccuracy in this blog and I don’t want to start now so just for the record, Michael’s is on video. Speaking of which, Michael hasn’t found “inaccuracies” but he has made observations that helped me tighten or tweak my language, on two occasions, so thank you for that. Rachel Druckenmiller and Michelle Spehr have also contributed very insightful comments and postings and I look forward to highlighting them separately.

Meanwhile, more astute commenters on TSW worthy of mention: Dell Dorn and Doug Dame (I don’t think those are the same person, but then again, has anyone ever seen them in a room together?), and a big shout-out to Robert Dawkins for finding a fallacy in McKesson’s stillborn overvendored, underperforming, program that, as with Bob’s Graco analysis, even sharp-eyed Al Lewis missed.  While McKesson’s program basically accomplished nothing, I did give them credit for a 1% reduction in tobacco use. Mr. Dawkins pointed out that over that same period, US tobacco use in general fell by that very same 1%.  Frank Pennachio also has our backs and pushes out much of our material to the workers comp community.

Now that you are all done puking, rest assured that for my last post of the year, next week,  I will step back into character and name the Winner of the 2016 Wellness Deplorables Award.

Until then, in the spirit of the season, we graciously offer all the Wellness Ignorati, Ron “the Pretzel” Goetzel, and all the Deplorables a very




  1. So proud of the Wellable Monthly Newsletter making the list. If anyone wants to start receiving the newsletter in their inbox, feel free to email with your name and email.


  2. Robert Roswell, MD says:

    Finally somebody understands that today’s healthcare is a team sport that must involve patient and physician to achieve an optimal outcome. Congratulations to Medencentive for the alignment of these dynamics to make healthcare work while reducing overall cost!


  3. Bill Roberts says:

    Medencentive is a great company, a wonderful program led by extremely talented individuals. Common sense wellness oversight – should be a staple of any health care reform proposed.


  4. Jane Braden says:

    The MedEncentive model for educating patients and incentivizing both physicians and their patients for adopting and complying with best practices is a brilliant solution to increase health outcomes while lowering costs. Thrilled Mr. Lewis is shining a spotlight on this outstanding company.


  5. Chas Kimbro says:

    Med Incentive has been a valued learning tool for me and my family. $15 is chump change compared to the information received. I am flabbergasted that the State of Oklahoma is discontinuing our participation.


  6. whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

    Nice comments on Medencentive. Usually people use this space to complain loudly about the harms and dishonesty of vendors.


  7. Susan Chambers says:

    Huge fan of Medencentive!!!!! It is the most innovative and successful program that engages physician and patient in health literacy!


  8. William Bondurant says:

    Hats off to Medencentive!
    They continue to be the innovator and leader in the clearly effective function of connecting and supporting the exchange of health information between patient and physician. Both parties in this union benefit, and the clear winners are improved health outcomes at a lower cost.
    Well done!!!


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      wow…I have never received so many positive comments about a single vendor. Come to think of it, I have never received a positive comment about any vendor.


  9. I believe Medencetive’s numbers and they are impressive!


  10. David Brumbaugh says:

    What an honor for Medencentive to be voted first among private sector Wellness Stars for 2016. In an industry that is desperate for ways to control costs it’s a true blessing that Medencentive are pioneers in healthcare containment.


  11. E. H. Lamkin, Jr., M.D., FACP says:

    As an endocrinologist who has spent the last 20 years trying to help employers address their healthcare issues, I want to lend my support to MedEncentive. I am convinced that it is both effective and has a real ROI. It should be a part of any comprehensive approach to health care reform, along with population health and assuring that patients are seeing the highest quality, efficient physicians and other providers.


  12. Josh Viel says:

    Glad to see MedEncentive receiving the deserved recognition for the outstanding work they’ve done in this space. Great company, and great talent on their team!


  13. Harold Haralson says:

    I believe the mission of MedEncentive is an important one. We are working to incorporate MedEncentive into the Cleveland County Oklahoma Wellness Program and Insurance Program.
    Harold Haralson, Commissioner


  14. Lawrence Loh says:

    Have had the pleasure of being acquainted with the MedEncentive team and very impressed with the model that they have developed. Hopeful that we will be able to pilot their program in Canada some day! Keep up the great work.


  15. Ken Schuerman says:

    Medencentive is a wonderful program. Incents participants to understand doctor’s diagnosis, understand doctor’s treatment regimen and follow treatment guidelines. Is it any wonder that better health follows?


In the immortal words of the great philosopher Pat Benatar, hit me with your best shot.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: