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Response to my Posting on the Case Western Reserve Law-Medicine Journal Wellness Critique

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The following was proposed as a comment to my posting on the article The Outcomes, Economics and Ethics of the Workplace Wellness Industry.  This response needs to be anonymous because the person who posted it actually works for a large employer and can’t represent the employer. I thought it was important enough to merit its own posting.  


Very good summary of all the items you have “uncovered” from these vendors.  I have worked 28 years in healthcare cost control and it’s unfortunate that most employers believe what someone else tells them (so you have the blind leading the blind).  These points tell about the industry from your article and other items I have learned from you and my experience:

1) We all want to feel like there is an answer to cost control/help our employees and management looks to HR for the answers:

On its surface, who can argue with the concept of workplace wellness? How could there be anything wrong with corporations helping their employees reduce their risk of disease while saving money in the process?

2) As a culture, we have convinced ourselves “more is better”.  So vendors have an easy sell—let’s do more testing, more HRAs, more surveys…because it will give better results.

(Al) See this article on the Arkansas state program. Wellness isn’t working so the state benefits director wants to do more of it. It’s not “robust enough” now, he says.

3) People don’t ask questions, they don’t take the time to understand or study the facts as outlined in your overview of ACA/Safeway, Harvard Study, HERO, etc.

4) For years no new studies show savings that can be independently verified.  You’ve pointed this out before and no vendor is willing to attempt to claim your $2-million reward.  You also noted…For the last seven years, no peer-reviewed article in a major journal has found that wellness programs lead to substantial risk reduction.

(Al) If the situation were reversed — and I dare them — I would (under the same rules as my reward) claim it in a heartbeat.

5) No vendor ROI savings/metric methodology standard.  Vendors don’t want to be held accountable and most employers don’t care/don’t understand or just want to put a program in place to feel good.  Similar to your experiences with vendors, I have felt others view me as an obstructionist or negative because I ask too many questions or point out their program doesn’t/didn’t provide savings.  Unfortunately, I don’t see the industry changing because wellness is an easy product to sell to employers that don’t ask hard questions.  Maybe we’ll see some type of regulations to help in this area.

6) I hope the good vendors mentioned at the end of your article/Validation Institute members begin publishing their results that demonstrate an independent verified ROI that the industry will want to follow (become the standard).  I would suggest you explore more discussion on these vendors so employers might look to them for help.

(Al) Will do, though my positive postings don’t get remotely as many hits as my exposes. Also one reason they get validated is they don’t fabricate ROIs.

Al, I appreciate your insight and oversight in this industry.  Thanks for sharing your time and expertise.


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