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Wellsteps accomplished the impossible: they got stupider.


Readers of Why Nobody Believes the Numbers may recall that you can’t reduce a number by more than 100%. This is true no matter how hard you try. And just in case our friends Down Under were wondering, this is not one of those things that’s the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere.

Wellsteps is giving that assertion a run for its money.

Following that headline above (from a full-page spread in the Boston Globe) they’ve doubled down on stupidity to win the wellness industry’s race to the bottom, and, with the demise of Interactive Health, Wellsteps is easily the dumbest vendor in all of wellness.

Still, you have to admire their commitment to stupidity. I and others have pointed out maybe a dozen times that their entire business doesn’t accomplish anything other than harming employees, but they refuse to budge.

Calling them the dumbest vendor in all of wellness is quite a compliment. That’s because the alternative would be to call them the most dishonest vendor in all of wellness. Besides insulting their integrity, that’s not an easy feat to accomplish in this industry. It would be like calling out a specific entitled zillionaire as the most dishonest parent in the entire Varsity Blues scandal.

Perhaps disheartened by their loss of the uncoveted Deplorables Award to Angioscreen after having won or shared two of the last three, they have decided to take stupidity to a new plateau.


Their “Updated ROI Calculator”

The reason they’ve made the news today is that they’ve just published an “updated ROI calculator.” And a big thank you to Jon Robison for forwarding it to me, as Wellsteps has banned me from their linkedin group and everything else.

There are a few things you might want to know about their updated ROI calculator. As you’ll see once you expose it to light, this updated ROi calculator:

  1. is not “updated
  2. doesn’t show an ROI
  3. doesn’t calculate.

Three lies in three words. That breaks Ron Goetzel’s record of 14 lies in 45 minutes.

No need to take our word for any of this. Here’s the only thing that is updated:  the font. This makes it easier to see what happens if you actually try to enter data into this model. Sort of like actually trying to drive a Yugo


Start by zeroing out inflation as a confounder (“0”). Then, for simplicity and consistency, enter “1” into number of employees, as below. I entered $1000 into annual healthcare costs, just to use a round number.

Then let the games begin.

Let’s see how much they save in the best-case scenario. Enter 100% into the two fields “% Employees that [sic] are obese” and “% Employees that [sic] are smokers.”

As an aside, normally one would use “who” in this situation, but they don’t, for two reasons. First, One of Wellsteps’ signature moves is creative sentence structure, spelling, and mixed metaphors. The CEO, Dr. Steve Aldana, called the late award-winning journalist Sharon Begley a “lier.” He once accused me of violating the Law of Conservation of Matter, saying that I am “great at creating BS out of thin air.”

Second, perhaps the reason they preferred “employees that” to “employees who” is because another of their signature moves is to dehumanize employees. Their exact words, subsequently deleted after criticism, were: “It’s fun to get fat. It’s fun to be lazy.”


Back to the Calculator

Let’s see what happens if you do a fantastic job, and reduce the number of “employees that are obese” and “employees that are smokers” from 100% to 0%. So enter those two figures:

Then go to the right — directly on top of this “hockey stick” graph as you can see, and hit “savings from wellness programs.”

Congratulations. You’ve reduced the $1000 spend by $1379, which is a reduction of more than 100%. While I merely allegedly violated the Law of Conservation of Matter, they’ve just clearly violated a basic law of arithmetic, and those are strictly enforced.

You might say: “That’s not fair. Let’s use a more realistic risk reduction figure, like 0%, which is what all the literature says is achieved:

In the immortal words of the great philosopher Gomer Pyle: “Surprise, surprise, surprise.” You still show mathematicaly impossible savings.


You still show savings even if employees get worse. This is Wellsteps’ signature move in real life, as they harmed the employees at the Boise School district…and still fabricated massive savings:

The actual savings they fabricated — along with their inadvertent admission that costs actually increased — can be found here. Costs can’t go up and down at the same time. Yet another rule of math that is strictly enforced.


What if you don’t have any employees on your health plan, so you spend $0 to begin with? Turns out you can still save a bundle if you have no costs to begin with, even without reducing smoking or obesity.

Before you start fiddling with it, be aware that the very stable geniuses at Wellsteps who came up with this calculator once accused me of “entering false data” into it. So make sure your “data” isn’t “false.” To avoid that:

  1. use only arabic numerals…
  2. …in base ten.

Turns out no matter what data you enter, you save money. Don’t take my word for it–see it with your own eyes.

Stupid?  Well, let’s just put it this way. NASA engineers need not worry about their job security on account of Wellsteps, because these people are not rocket scientists.


Or Wellsteps’ CEO, Steve Aldana, actually dishonest?

Let’s examine the evidence both ways. Here are the three best arguments for stupid:

  1. He says he needed 11 years to get through college. (p. 7) That’s 4 more years than Bluto Blutarski.
  2. He thinks “even one more bite of a banana” will improve your health.
  3. He is friends with Ron Goetzel.


Here are the the three best arguments for dishonest:

  1. He admitted that his alleged savings at the Boise School District was just regression to the mean. (Scroll down.)
  2. He knows this “model” is fabricated and has criticized me for pointing that out.
  3. He is friends with Ron Goetzel.

And let’s not forget that Wellsteps’ claim to fame is actually bragging about harming employees. To this day, they are the only vendor willing to publish data admitting that employees got worse on their watch. And that puts them in a category all their own. Like Juan Garcia, whose espionage work won him the highest military awards from both Germany and Britain, this performance earned them both a Koop Award (see #3 above) and a Deplorables Award.

Does that mean they are dishonest, stupid, or both?  To slightly paraphrase the immortal words of the great philosopher Clarice Starling, there isn’t a word for what they are.


Update: Many of you know about the $3 million reward for showing wellness works. If Steve Aldana and his team of very stable geniuses with very good brains can show that their calculator is more accurate than Quizzify’s ROI calculator, I am doubling my $3 million reward and halving the $300,000 entry fee.  The rest of you can stop reading here. Steve, that would be a $6 million reward for a mere $150,000 entry fee.

“Overcoming Employee Vaccine Hesitancy” webinar now features CDC guru!

Until now, the word “emergency” has never been used to modify the word “webinar.” 

But this April 7th webinar is kinda sorta an emergency, by webinar standards.  COVID vaccine hesitancy could derail your entire return-to-work effort by polarizing your workforce. This topic is not just clickbait for Quizzify to get more business (though that too). It’s been widely reported in the last several weeks:

Employee Benefit News (“Vaccine misinformation is a hurdle”)
The New England Journal of Medicine (“Overcoming COVID vaccine hesitancy”)
The National Library of Medicine (“A Challenge the US must overcome”)

But the good news comes from a widely reported focus group of vaccine skeptics. 19 out of 20 of them changed their minds after learning more from objective sources. One said: “We want to be educated, not indoctrinated.”

And this simple 45-minute webinar —Wednesday, April 7 at 1 PM EDT — will show you how to do exactly that, starting now. Plus, you yourself can test your COVID vaccine IQ in real time with a few of our “Vaccine Mythbusters” questions.


The Expert Panel

We are featuring two Experts, with a capital “E,” to address your questions, Dr. Christa-Marie Singleton and Dr. Scott Conard. In any ordinary webinar, Scott would get top billing…but this is no ordinary webinar.

Dr. Singleton is the Associate Director for Science and Science Lead in the CDC’s COVID-19 Response Chief Health Equity Office. She is also the Senior Medical Advisor in the CDC’s Population Health and Healthcare Office where she serves as the senior medical advisor regarding planning with commercial insurer partners and physician providers. In terms of COVID and the COVID vaccine, she works with teams to include health equity principles in science-related projects and improve the impact of COVID in disproportionally affected populations.

She will be joined by Dr. Scott Conard. One of the country’s best-known practicing family physicians and Linkedin commentators, Dr. Conard also serves as Medical Director for corporations and regional benefit coalitions. As such, he will apply his unparalleled understanding of the intersection of corporate communications with employee/patient concerns to show attendees how to overcome vaccine hesitancy.

Register here.


Or you could just cut to the chase and contact us about getting started with the full set of questions posthaste.

Monday at 1 PM: a webinar featuring Dr. Marty Makary, Leah Binder, and Marshall Allen


Dear TSW nation,

So maybe this posting is not funny like last month’s, when Angioscreen won the uncoveted Deplorables Award.  But “funny” isn’t going to give you insights into how to perform more effectively — other than, of course, not using Angioscreen, a decision that will benefit your workforce immeasurably.

This posting has a bit more substance to it, announcing a webinar Monday, March 22nd at 1 PM EDT on “Hospital Financial Ethics.” It will feature a real price-gouging incident with a real bill — and a real patient with a real name (James Hamilton).

This bill will be deconstructed by an expert panel. I am humbled (which doesn’t happen often) by the talent we’ve been able to attract to this panel, none of whom even need an introduction:

  • Marty Makary
  • Leah Binder
  • Marshall Allen

You can register here.


And as long as you are signing up for our webinars, there are more on the docket (all at 1 PM EDT)

April 7: An “Emergency Webinar” on overcoming vaccine hesitancy in your workforce.

April 22: The best premature birth avoidance technology we have ever seen…and we never endorse vendors.  We’re making an exception here because they actually do something that employees love and saves money besides.

May 12: The Top Ten Easiest Employee Behavior Changes.  Turns out — who knew? — that employees can’t keep weight off, they don’t like broccoli, and they already buckle their seat belts. But there are ten behavior changes that either save money or improve health or both, that are so easy to make you don’t need to bribe or fine them.

June 15: Never Pay the First Bill.  A pre-publication look at Pro Publica uber-investigator Marshall Allen’s new book of the same name on how not to get snookered by a healthcare bill.

July 15: Featuring Dr. Eric Bricker (yes, the very same) on aligning incentives with your providers, your PBMs and your consultants.

You can stuff that colonoscopy! Here’s something better.

This is reprinted from Quizzify. I probably should have posted it here in the first place because, as someone has already noted, my particular style of writing works very well with this, uh, material.


As you can no doubt tell from all the store window displays and promotions, March is colorectal cancer awareness month. That’s only the start of the good news.

The other good news is that the colonoscopy guideline-writers, whom I suspect are all over 50 by now, don’t want a colonoscopy any more than you do. Hence, they now say a colonoscopy once every ten years is OK, up from every five.

The procedure itself is uncomfortable and carries a 1.7% chance of a complication. That means a company with 150 people getting screened will see two landing back in the doctor’s office, the ER or even the hospital. (The odds are actually a bit more favorable than 1.7%, because complications are more common in older patients.)

And that fluid they make you drink for 24 hours beforehand? I don’t know what’s in it but, in the immortal words of the great philosopher Dave Barry, it should never be allowed to fall into the hands of America’s enemies.

The better news is there are three non-invasive alternatives that can avoid both the discomfort and the complications of a routine colonoscopy screening. This blog post looks at each in turn. 



But before you click through to that page-turner, don’t forget to register for the March 22nd webinar featuring healthcare uberstars Marty Makary and Leah Binder, speaking on the oxymoronic topic of Hospital Financial Ethics.

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