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Our forgetful wellness promoters, Part 1 (Ron Goetzel)

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

Quizzify knows. Click to learn more.

Ron Goetzel seems to have memory problems. How do we know this?  He has taken completely contradictory positions on 14 occasions, having apparently forgotten the second time what he said the first time.

I know what you’re thinking: “Only on 14 occasions?”

Of course not, silly. I’m talking about 14 occasions during a single 90-minute period.

That 90 minutes was the so-called “Great Debate” between him and me a couple of years ago. Who won? Well, you don’t see him posting this debate on his website, do you?  I didn’t post this until now because only recently has transcription software become sufficiently accurate. You can read/listen by clicking through on the time stamps in each section, any one of which also give you access to the entire thing.

These 14 snippets feature two sets of statements that would seem to be at complete variance with each other. While I’m not calling anyone a liar, it does seem that Ron is forgetful. Very very forgetful.


On his own willingness to correct his own mistakes

Minute 08:28 “Anytime we hear about things that are wrong, we look into them and try to correct them.”

Except when he forgets to do so, as in when he gives out awards to his friends who have publicly admitted lying and harming employees.


On the Penn State wellness program debacle

Minute 13:03 “I had nothing to do with Penn State.”

He might have forgotten that he participated in their press conference “taking the offensive in the wellness controversy.” 


On his concerns for informing the wellness debate with facts

Minute 29:54 “And by the way, in doing research, we look for limitations. We look for critiques….I welcome public peer review.”

Except when he forgets to welcome critiques and public peer review, as when he circulates letters to the media telling them not to publish my critiques.


On my misdeeds and lack of qualifications to do peer review

Minute 30:38  “Some of the stuff that Al talks about and points out is right on the money and I agree and I said so in the Health Affairs blog that I’ve written, but some of the stuff is really out there. It’s outlandish.”

Except that he can’t seem to recall even a single “outlandish” example. 

Al: “Ron, I appreciate your giving me credit for being qualified to do peer review. Would you say that I’m the most qualified person, in terms of number of mistakes found, to do peer review?”

Ron: “No.”

Except when he is about to admit that I am…

Al: “Well, who has found more mistakes than I have?”

Ron: [silence]

Audience: [Laughter]

This might explain why he and his cronies always “forget” to ask me to peer review.  Though for his most recent Health Affairs article, he did remember to list me as someone who he did not want to peer review his article. I reviewed it anyway — after publication…and, like most of his stuff, it spontaneously combusts upon exposure to any possessor of a triple-digit IQ.


On throwing his Wellsteps friend, Steve Aldana (proud recipient of the 2016 Deplorables Award), under the bus

Minute 34:03: “I’m not gonna answer for Steve Aldana.”

Hmm… he seems to have forgotten this bold statement when he “answered for” Steve Aldana after I blew the whistle on Mr. Aldana’s Wellsteps debacle in Boise. Ron defended him even though it meant acknowledging that Wellsteps is arguably the worst vendor in wellness history, as measured by self-admitted harms to employees, lies about outcomes, and misapplication of clinical guidelines. 


On applying for the million-dollar reward

Minute 34:33 A million dollars is a lot of money and I’ll take it.

Except he forgot to apply. Even when I raised the reward to $3 million.


On his failure to observe that his own guidebook showed wellness loses money

Minute 45:14 “I was not involved in the chapter that looks at healthcare costs.”

Oops! He forgot that he and the other HERO board members and other collaborators spent “two years and countless hours of research and discussions” on this, as the first paragraph of the guidebook claims, and as the chapter’s author gratefully acknowledged.  Also, Ron is considered HERO’s resident expert on study design and outcomes. He claims to have published 171 articles, mostly involving study design and outcomes. And yet, he says he simply passed on reviewing a chapter on study design and outcomes in his own organization’s seminal guidebook on this topic, because over two years he couldn’t find the time. Or maybe he just forgot.


On walking back his own guidebook

Minute 45:26 “Those numbers [in his guidebook] are wildly off…Every number in that chapter has nothing to do with reality.”

He must have forgotten this when he claimed the same thing in the Chicago Tribune: that wellness could achieve a 1-2% reduction in risk in 2-3 years. That works out, optimistically, to achieve almost the same $1 per employee per month gross savings “in reality” (before vendor and screening fees, of course) that his very same guidebook claims. 


On the Nebraska scandal

Minute 53:54 “Yes, state of Nebraska did win the Koop award. They won the award because they had solid evidence. They improved the health risk profile of the population following a cohort population over time.”

His memory is playing tricks on him again. Their “solid evidence” quite conclusively demonstrates the opposite. Of 20,000 state employees, only 161 more reduced risk than increased it. 


On his ability to evaluate the Nebraska outcomes

Minute 53:59 “They also use excellent methods in doing economic evaluation.”

He forgot that these “excellent methods” contained so many rookie mistakes that the Validation Institute uses this “economic evaluation” as the issue-spotter for their Advanced Critical Outcomes Report Analysis Certification. The entirety of Chapter 8 of Surviving Workplace Wellness is devoted to all the hilarity in this program’s design and outcomes. Indeed this program would save a ton of money if laughter were the best medicine. Here is the Omaha World-Herald’s write-up


On programs that penalize employees with surcharges

Minute 01:00:55 “Health promotion programs that are evidence-based and that work are not surcharge programs that you [a questioner in the audience] described, and I agree.”

He forgot that he disagrees, and defends punitive surcharge programs (or at least to tries to)


On how programs don’t need to save money

Minute 01:15:57 “An ROI of one to one is good enough for me.”

He might have forgotten he told people to “expect a 3-to-1 ROI.”


On his commitment to improving population health

Minute 01:15:57  “You give me a dollar, you get a dollar back, but you have to document that you’ve improved population health… You have to show that you’ve improved population health. Not just one or two people, the entire population.”

He did seem to forget this principle when he gave an award to his friends at Wellsteps who harmed “not just one or two people but the entire population.”


On Medicare’s wellness program

Minute 01:25:43 “Randomized clinical trials show population participated in the program versus control had significantly improved health outcomes, did not cost Medicare a dime, cost neutral.”

He might have forgotten that the actual conclusion was: “Utilization and expenditures actually increased among participants, mirroring the experience in the corporate world.”


Conclusion

I’ve often recommended that Ron have his statements reviewed by a smart person before publishing them. I would now add, a smart person taking notes.



Special Bonus Feature: Ron “endorses” Quizzify…until he doesn’t.

Minute [42:57] “Did go on the [Quizzify] website. It was a lot of fun, very clever.”

See the punchline in the comments. Glad to know he thinks employee health literacy is worthless.


6 Comments

  1. Sam Lippe says:

    I’m retired now, and do very little work-related stuff (I used to follow this industry as a security analyst), but one thing I did not give up upon retirement was reading your postings. This one — using literally Ron Goetzel’s own words — tops them all.

    Like

  2. Ron goetzel says:

    Mr Lewis- please remove my name and image from your website. I have not given you permission to use my name or likeness on your commercial website and I certainly do not endorse your product or service.

    Like

    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      Ummm…

      That’s your take-away from all of this?

      Glad to see you are so opposed to health literacy!

      PS Your endorsement of Quizzify is on tape and the tape wasn’t exactly obtained surreptitiously.

      Like

      • Marissa says:

        That’s the only thing he finds objectionable? None of this column? Only helping employees improve their health literacy?

        Like

  3. drjonrobison says:

    Uh Oh! – Words on tape saying one thing and then denying it was ever said? Where have we heard that before? – Dr. Jon

    Like

  4. Al Lewis says:

    Ron, not to confuse the humor with technical legal issues but the image is staying up, for three reasons, any of which is sufficient. First, you are a public figure in wellness, something you take great pride in. Second, this is satire, rather than a misappropriation of your image. And third and most importantly, what did I get wrong? An objective observer would say you lied 14 times in 90 minutes, surely enough to earn a “pants on fire” rating.

    However, if it I got anything wrong, please let me know and I will take it down (or, in the case of the Quizzify endorsement, note that you didn’t intend to say that it was “A lot of fun, very clever” and that instead you believe educating employees is a waste of time.)

    Or, alternatively, provide a different explanation for how all theses contradictions could co-exist. Example: “I didn’t intend to lie. I just made a bunch of rookie mistakes in my analysis because I’ve never taken your course. ”

    Having said that, I will happily remove the image as soon as you publicly apologize for the defamatory letter about me that you circulated to the media. https://theysaidwhat.net/2016/04/12/hero-finally-forced-to-reveal-poison-pen-letter-they-circulated-to-the-media/

    Like

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