In a recent video that we urge everyone to watch, Steve Aldana of Wellsteps (proud recipient of the 2016 Deplorables Award) recently admitted that “wellness is the most researched topic in healthcare.”
He is absolutely right about that. There are dozens of studies showing that wellness loses money and often harms employees.
And he would know because he has produced a ream of research showing that Wellsteps’ very own program is arguably the worst program on the planet. I say “arguably” because Wellsteps’ Boise program may not be the worst program on the planet. It is only the worst program on the planet according to its own documented findings. I never thought I would say this, but I applaud Mr. Aldana! His willingness to tell the truth is admirable.
Funny thing about the wellness industry. Every other industry’s “research” always make their product look good. For years, cigarettes were safe–according to the tobacco industry. The oil and gas industry often publishes research showing there is no global warming. And Monsanto executives are probably the only people on earth who think Agent Orange is harmless.
Sure, critics can and do “challenge the data” those other trade groups publish, but to the credit of those organizations, at least they don’t accidentally disprove their own message in their own “findings.”
Quite the opposite in wellness. About 40 seconds in, Mr. Aldana says: “Critics of the wellness industry say that the studies are flawed.” No, Mr. Aldana, we are not accusing you of being “flawed,” or even of lying. We are accusing you of telling the truth, for once. The wellness industry is unique in that its own data is its own worst enemy. Remember the saying: “In wellness, you don’t have to challenge the data to invalidate it. You merely have to read the data. It will invalidate itself.”
While he showed great integrity by reporting the Boise outcomes accurately (and even exposed his results to a wider audience, albeit under duress), that display of integrity turns out to be out of character. Alternative fact-tellers need to have long memories, and his is apparently quite short. When he first reported the financial results, he made the impossible claim that Boise’s healthcare costs fell by a third, due to his forced wellness program even though flouting clinical guidelines and giving out questionable advice also caused a 20% increase in risk factors:
But his report was so long that by the time he got to the end of it, he had completely forgotten this alleged savings claim…and accidentally admitted costs actually increased. (He later suppressed the latter finding, but I always anticipate cover-ups by wellness vendors so I take screenshots before posting anything. It’s been said that the beginning of the end of “pry, poke and prod” was the day a millennial taught me how to capture a screenshot.)
Yes, you might note, the participants did marginally better than the non-participants (though the latter seem to have the momentum). And that brings us to his next claim in the video, where he laments the lack of randomized clinical trials. Actually, there have been two, the most recent one highlighted in the New York Times recently. And, yes, of course, they show “pry, poke and prod” has no impact. The NYT article specifically demonstrated that participants-vs-non-participants is an invalid methodology that will always show savings even if nothing happens. A vendor called Newtopia also did an RCT…and showed the same thing. 100% of savings was caused by the act of separating the two groups based on motivation…and when you re-combined them, there was no savings.
The wellness trade magazine had also previously admitted this, though as noted Mr. Aldana has a short memory.
Mr. Aldana closes by claiming that if I am right about wellness losing money, then all these CEOs and CFOs who still think it saves money are “idiots.” Well, if he says so. And this is not the first time he has dissed his own clients. When he was caught flouting clinical guidelines, he claimed his customer made him do it.
This statement — that “we must be right or else we would have been outed before” — is akin to Paul Manafort’s original defense to tax fraud charges: “If he was committing such large-scale fraud, why didn’t the IRS audit him?” Manafort’s attorney quickly backed off that defense. Like Paul Manafort and the IRS, the only thing that a company still using one of these vendors in the “Axis of Genius” proves is that the wellness industry excels in snookering them.
Please feel free to email a colleague about Mr Aldana. Not because we are asking you to, but because he is: