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We are pleased to present a free wellness ROI estimation model, as we promised about 3 months ago. This is the only tool of its kind in the industry. (Wellsteps has one, but let’s just say the good news is that NASA employees don’t have to worry about job security, because these people aren’t rocket scientists. If you zero out inflation, no matter what other variables you enter, the Wellsteps model always shows savings of $1359.)
You can also use this to compare two wellness programs, to determine whether your vendor is lying (they are — and we are happy to help you get your money back from them), and to pressure-test Quizzify.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) not too long ago sued major employers over their wellness programs. This annoyed the large business groups that traded their support of the Affordable Care Act for the right to stick it to their workers (literally) with oppressive, punitive, intrusive, and, ultimately, worthless wellness programs. So, the business groups, such as the Business Roundtable, pressured the White House and the Congress, who, in turn, hammered the EEOC for, well, fulfilling its statutory responsibilities. So, now, the EEOC is proposing regs that will give businesses the cover they need to continue poking, prodding, punishing and prying (into) their workers.
You can, however, help to make the case that this over-the-top bureaucratic protectionism of a failed industry and failed strategy is the wrong direction for the country to take. Al and I have submitted our comment this morning.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC” or “Commission”) is issuing a proposed rule that would amend the regulations and interpretive guidance implementing Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as they relate to employer wellness programs.
Please visit Michael Prager’s blog. Ironically, I don’t think we would take issue at all with his main point which appears to be that wellness should be done for employees instead of to them. (He is in the business of doing wellness for employees, not to them.) And, in fact, if he were actually thinking clearly about his own business success, he’d be pointing that out and trying to figure out ways to work together.
Second, note that our math and facts are never, ever criticized, even by our most virulent critics. What he criticizes is that we “mock critics who say that calling people ignorant is bullying.” Well, we call them the “ignorati,” not ignorant. “Ignorati” means they ignore facts, which is a brilliant strategy.
Third, he is breaking ranks with the ignorati, by not ignoring us. This creates a problem because he doesn’t actually point out a single thing we say that is wrong. Indecorous, perhaps, but wrong, no.
Michael, have at it: find a mistake in our math or a lie that we told about your integrity-challenged colleagues and we’ll apologize to it and link people to it. Go ahead, make our day. Because right now the fact that you, having shown that you are willing to criticize us, can’t find anything to actually criticize us about (other than our “bullying” observations that people who can’t do arithmetic shouldn’t be doing arithmetic), makes our case much better than we ever could.
Addendum: his is actually a very interesting blog on its own merits. He does do wellness for employees instead of to them ∞
Talk about “burying the lead.”
Ron Goetzel just reported on a company called Graco, where employees were subjected to a “pry-poke-prod-and-punish” wellness program. These are line employees in an “old economy” company–exactly the type of company where healthcare spending would be high. And it is high. According to the article, Graco spent $29,000,000 on healthcare for 2600 employees. That’s about $11,100 apiece, roughly what you’d expect. This estimate is with or without a wellness program, since as Ron’s recent HERO report noted, wellness programs have no positive impact on spending.
Yet later on in the article he writes:
In the immortal words of the great philosopher Rick Perry, oops.
$190 per member per month (and we assume that he meant just for employees, not members) is $2280/year/employee. Here are the possibilities:
(1) Graco has the country’s mot expensive spouses, costing about $18,000/year (to bring the average spend to $11,000 per employee contractholder per year) but hasn’t noticed
(2) Graco has some magical special sauce that kept costs way below average even before the wellness program started that Ron failed to tell us about (hence “buried the lead”)
(3) Ron Goetzel made yet another rookie mistake in his math, thus invalidating the entire study, just like most of his Koop Awards.
You can rule out that this $190 had anything to do with the wellness program. Smoking rates (the only thing that really affects spending) remained unchanged, and obesity only fell a few points. And a company can’t save money by overscreening people, paying for their drugs, and making them get unnecessary checkups. In any event, it wasn’t $190/month. It was $11,100/year.
$2280 vs. $11,100… We look forward to Mr. Goetzel’s explanation of how both these figures could be true, since it appears they are completely at odds with each other. In the immortal words of the great philosophers Dire Straits, if two men say they’re Jesus, one of them must be wrong.
And once again, the mantra of Surviving Workplace Wellness holds true: In wellness, you don’t have to challenge the data to invalidate it. You simply have to read the data. It will invalidate itself.
We will no doubt be accused of “bullying” him for invalidating this study, which he obviously spent a lot of well-compensated time on. So just to show our good intentions, we will offer him our course and certification in Critical Outcomes Report Analysis gratis. It seems he could learn a lot from it and we look forward to announcing his successful completion.
Update: Ron apparently “forgot” to include the actual data in his writeup, which showed that, um, how to put this tactfully, his entire conclusion is wrong. Looks like kids (who had no access to wellness) trended better than the adults who did have access. We added this as the second installment.
The eighth in the series deconstructing the HERO Outcomes Guidelines, covering Page 14. The full series can be found here. This installment in particular should be read in conjunction with installment #4 This Grand Finale will be presented in 3 parts…with a downloadable tool to help you calculated your wellness program savings as part 3.
PART ONE: HERO ACCEPTS OUR METHODOLOGY
In the stock market, no one is as valuable as the person who’s always right, except the person who’s always wrong. Therefore, until now we have greatly appreciated the opportunity HERO’s report has created for us to explain how to measure outcomes correctly.
So imagine our disappointment when one of their methodologies, the sixth of the seven listed, turned out to actually be valid. No surprise — this is the methodology I invented. Also no surprise given the industry’s standards for integrity, they didn’t acknowledge that particular factoid anywhere in their 88 pages. (And yet they accuse us of being impolite.) Here is the screen shot.
The philosophy of #6 is quite straightforward. If you were introducing a flu vaccine program, you’d measure the reduction in number of people who got the flu. If you offered a new program for conservative treatment of meniscal tears, you’d measure the reduction in the number of people who had meniscal surgery. That’s the way experimentation works. You hypothesize an outcome that the intervention should create…and then you measure that outcome to see if the experiment worked.
Except, of course, in population health, where any improvement in anything (cost, trend, utilzation) gets attributed to any wellness program that happened to be in place. The masters of this would be Mercer. Mercer once “found” massive, mathematically impossible, savings for North Carolina Medicaid’s medical home in a cohort that, as luck would have it, wasn’t even eligible for the medical home. And one wellness industry stalwart, Larry Chapman, says the simple act of completing a health risk assessment can reduce total healthcare spending by 50%, even when the information in the HRA is wrong, as is often the case.
And did you ever notice that when a company switches to a high-deductible health plan and adds some needle-poking, they attribute the reduction in spending to the needle-poking, not the fact that everyone in their company suddenly gets socked with a bigger annual deductible?
Enter wellness-sensitive medical event rates (WSMEs). This is the only methodology that tallies hospitalizations for conditions targeted by a wellness program – statistically avoided heart attacks etc. This is the only one of the seven HERO methodologies that would be acceptable to legitimate researchers. Hence, its use both in Health Affairs and by the GE-Intel Validation Institute. The former is the most respected health policy publication and the latter is the most (the only) respected outcomes evaluation organization. Further evidence of its validity is that there is no mention of it in the leading wellness promotional publication, the American Journal of Health Promotion, perhaps because – as HERO has attested – it doesn’t show savings.
History of event rate-based plausibility testing
Even though it isn’t attributed to me in the HERO guidebook, I invented this methodology in 2007. This is incontrovertible. No one else had anything remotely close to it. Unlike the automobile, TV, the computer, etc., this was not one of a series of incremental improvements to or the amalgamation of existing technologies.
And none of the other invention clichés apply either. The Chinese didn’t invent it in 1000 BC. Leonardo DaVinci didn’t sketch it in 1541. The Germans and the Allies weren’t racing to develop it at the end of World War II. By contrast, I’ve been presenting on it and using it for validation since then (meaning 2007). It figured prominently in Why Nobody Believes the Numbers too, before being highlighted in Health Affairs and the Validation Institute. For a modest fee, the detailed how-to can be downloaded from our website, though a Reader’s Digest version appears below.
While a number of employers and health plans use it now, several health plans – more than coincidentally three of the highest-rated in the country (Harvard Pilgrim, Blue Cross of Massachusetts, and Providence Health Plans) – have been measuring hospitalizations for conditions targeted by wellness/DM programs since the methodology’s inception.
So needless to say I was surprised and totally flattered that the 88-page HERO Report contained no attribution to me as the inventor of the WSME plausibility test. As mentioned previously, the strategy of the Wellness Ignorati is to ignore facts (hence their moniker), especially including my very existence. That strategy reduces the likelihood that one of their customers might click through to the site. They aren’t much for our recommending that companies learn our helpful insights, which they call “bullying.”
The wellness industry has had a love-hate flip-flopping relationship with WSME measurement.
First, until 2013, the entire Wellness Ignorati, quite in character, ignored this methodology, which is a powerful testament to its validity.
Then, in 2013, that strategy took a body blow: the exact methodology was used in Health Affairs. You may recall the same thing happened with another epiphany of ours — the expose of the invalid Koop Award-winning Health Fitness Corporation fabricated results. The Wellness Ignorati completely ignored our whistle-blowing expose until it appeared in Health Affairs, when they were forced to admit we were right and the whole thing was made up, or to use Ron Goetzel’s phrase in the passive voice, “was unfortunately mislabeled” for four years.
Just as Ron Goetzel — the leader of the Wellness Ignorati — caved when the Health Affairs light was shined on the Koop-HFC debacle, he caved on WSMEs when the Health Affairs light was shined on them. In this case, “caving” was acknowledging the fact that this methodology existed. He reviewed the aforementioned Health Affairs article that specifically analyzed WSMEs — hospitalizations for conditions targeted by the wellness program. In September 2014, he wrote:
But then he un-caved. Once the Health Affairs storm had passed, he invoked the Sergeant Schultz defense. In December 2014 he said: ,
He may have just forgotten in December that he reviewed them in September. But in March he and his colleagues re-remembered wellness-sensitive event rates, and put them right in the HERO report, for which we are immensely grateful.
Hopefully they won’t re-forget in June. (Their memory appears to be correspond with the change of seasons.) Hopefully instead, to paraphrase the immortal words of the great philosopher George Gershwin, our methodology is here to stay.
How do I feel about HERO rewriting history so that I am no longer the inventor of this methodology? Honestly, having firmly staked out a niche in the small but growing “integrity segment” of the wellness industry, I prefer them staying out of that niche as long as possible. So I’m glad they show no interest in facts.
In part two, which we will post in a few days, we will explain how we do WSME plausibility testing and why it’s the essential method for assessing the impact of your wellness and disease management efforts.