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Interactive Health fails fact-check by…college intern

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

Quizzify knows. Click to learn more.

A long-since forgotten essay on the history of hospitals by Lewis Thomas includes the story of a doctor who claimed he could diagnose typhus by examining inpatients’ tongues. He would examine their tongue…and a few days later they would indeed develop typhus. Turned out the doctor was spreading the typhus pathogen by feeling all the patients’ tongues without washing his hands.

Keep this anecdote in mind as you read the following.


Seems like I’m not the only one to show that Interactive Health’s numbers never, ever, ever, ever add up. And it looks like you don’t have to have taught economics at Harvard to do it, or even be old enough to rent a car. Rather, a triple-digit IQ is all it takes. Tom Rosenbaum, a “data analytics intern” at AP Benefit Advisors in Maryland, completely invalidated one of Interactive Health’s more headscratching claims.


By way of background, Interactive Health’s strategy is to convince HR departments that their company is simply overrun with ridiculously unhealthy employees whose medical spending will explode at some point in the future…and send almost half of the employee population to the doctor to allegedly prevent that from happening. That, of course, requires screening the stuffing out of them today, at considerable expense.

I’ve asked them repeatedly on Linkedin to please explain:

  1. how the US Preventive Services Task Force can be so misinformed about so many Interactive Health screens being so inappropriate and
  2. how their own panel of 43(!) tests is clinically proven to somehow save money by increasing (not a misprint) the number of employees who think they are sick, and the corresponding number of doctor visits.

Their “response” is invariably to delete my comments. Here is one example:

Quite the contrary to “the impact of heart disease growing by the minute,” heart health is actually, shockingly, one of the major public health/medicine success stories of our generation.  Deaths due to heart disease, and heart attacks themselves, are down by about 2/3 since 1969. I merely tried to inform their posting with a fact, but by the time you see their posting, facts will have been deleted. [Update: they already are deleted, along with many supportive comments I received on this posting. Usually they delete my comments within minutes, so I’ve started posting them at night so they can stay up for a few hours.]


Enter Tom Rosenbaum

Their new revenue-maximization strategy is to tell employers it’s not just older employees they need to worry about. It’s younger employees too.  And it’s not just medical issues that plague the younger workforce. It’s also mental health issues. Their specific language:

Workers under 35 are more likely to struggle with mental health issues, such as stress, depression and anxiety.

Tom decided to fact-check this particular item using actual data. It turned out:

  • 5.39% of older workers had claims for these mental health items, vs. 5.33% of younger workers
  • Older workers spent 32% more on antidepressants than younger workers

This insight got him into Employee Benefit Adviser as likely the youngest person ever to author a column for them. And the second-youngest person ever to get mentioned in They Said What.

Of course, it is possible that Interactive Health’s data is different than everyone else’s, and here’s why. According to their White Paper:

Here’s perhaps the reason why their customers’ employee stress levels are so much higher than average. If someone tells you that you have a “condition” and you “should be directed to a doctor,” you’d be stressed out too.

Something very similar happened to me when I let Interactive Health fiddle with my calves and tell me they were tight and could cause problems — one went into spasm shortly afterwards.

Luckily I didn’t let them anywhere near my tongue.

 

 


2 Comments

  1. Sam Lippe says:

    I just read their White Paper on your suggestion — the mental health misstatement was only one of many pieces of fake news. The entire report is a joke.

    Like

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