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HERO meets Trading Places: Wellness Saves One Dollar

This is the fourth installment of the series on interpreting the Health Enhancement Research Organization’s Outlines Guidelines report.  It covers page 23. The full series can be found here


One Dollar.

23 pages into their report, HERO has finally benefitted from the law of averages and gotten an analysis right…and it shows savings of: one dollar.

HERO conducted a “wellness-sensitive event rate analysis,” otherwise known as a plausibility test.  It’s the only valid way of measuring outcomes. Not coincidentally, I invented it.  There is no ambiguity about this.  It’s in all my old presentations and my first book, Why Nobody Believes the Numbers.  No one else has even pretended to claim credit. Nor is this one of those situations where the usual invention cliches apply.  The Chinese did not invent it in 1000 BC. 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. Nope, mine and mine alone.

Of course there is no attribution of that (or of any of my contributions to this field, anywhere, in their 88 pages).  I find this “oversight” quite flattering.

Here it is.

hero page 23 total

Note a few things.

First, this methodology counts all the admissions, whether or not the patients/employees participated or didn’t participate in a program, or whether the admitted patients were even known to have the condition in the first place.  This is how it should be.  This eliminates the participation bias, one of the two biases (not including lying) that the wellness industry utilizes to sustain the fiction that it saves money.  It also eliminates regression to the mean (the other bias).

Second, this exercise generates 99 cents PMPM in gross savings.  Yep, basically one dollar, like the bet in Trading Places.  The “problem” with measuring validly is that your savings essentially dwindle to nothing.

One dollar.  The Duke brothers turned the lives of Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy upside down over a one-dollar bet, and the wellness industry wants you to turn your entire employee relations strategy upside down — in their own words, damaging morale and your corporate reputation — in order to save: one dollar.  (That of course is one dollar before costs, which are $1.50.)


Quizzify…where there is no need to fake results

Third, believe it or not, even that $1 in savings is grossly overstated.  Focus on ischemic vascular disease or IVD (heart attacks, strokes etc.)   They show a decline of 7 admissions, or 23%, from 32 to 25 admissions — easily the largest component of the 9 avoided admissions they are attributing to wellness and disease management.  This decline took place over a 3-year period, as they averaged the two pre-program years and compared that to Program Year 2.

The problem is that, according to US Government data below, this set of IVD events declined everywhere over the same 3-year period by– as luck would have it– that very same 23%.  Don’t believe us?  Here is the data.  The comparable group on the display below is the “privately insured” cohort, underlined in red, now that we have figured out how to do underlines on screenshots. (Even Medicare, where there is no workplace wellness and where the population grew almost 10% and aged quite a bit, showed a decline in IVD of almost 10%.)

hcup cvd 2009 and 2012

Despite the fact that all their savings from IVD got eliminated by the simple step of seeing how much savings would have accrued even without a program, I don’t think this particular oversight was purposeful on HERO’s part. I’d give them the benefit of the doubt and say the abject failure to compare their performance to the obvious benchmark was a rookie mistake.  The lesson is, before they write reports on outcomes analysis, someone should teach them how to actually do outcomes analysis.  I’m just sayin’…

By the way, a similar secular decline transpired in asthma nationwide.  The 2009-2012 decline was 21%, meaning that 2 of the 4 admissions HERO says wellness “avoided” over that period would have gone away on their own.

So when you take out the IVD decline of 7 admissions and 2 of the avoided asthma admissions, you are left with: no decline at all.  Essentially HERO just proved that – even before taking costs into account –  their vaunted “pry, poke, prod and punish” wellness programs are worthless.




Johnson & Johnson accepts our analysis that wellness loses money

Newsflash:  Someone from Johnson & Johnson named Michael Schmidt responded to our posting that the HERO Report shows wellness loses money.  This is the first time anyone associated with HERO has strayed from the tried-and-true Wellness Ignorati strategy of ignoring us.  We were concerned that he might have found a mistake in our math, which no one has ever done.

Fortunately, our math is OK with Mr. Schmidt, and — by implication, since he is writing on their URL — J&J itself. His point is different. He argues that we write these columns to do the following:  generate business.  Touche!

He also says that the headline is inflammatory and that we will turn off more people than we turn on.  That is probably accurate. However, the people we would turn off — traditional “pry, poke, prod and punish” wellness vendors such as Johnson & Johnson — have had and would have no interest in paying us to find out that wellness is worthless.

In any event the headline “The Wellness Wars Are Over. Wellness Lost” captures exactly what the HERO report says — and was edited by the ITL editor.  Headlines, as Mitt Romney found out when his New York Times op-ed was entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” are the purview of the editor, not the author.

The curious thing is, Johnson & Johnson is listed as one of the “endorsers” of the HERO report.  So as an endorser of the report, Johnson & Johnson is tacitly nonetheless acknowledging that the report is right–wellness loses money.


In case there is some ambiguity, here is the screenshot of the first set of comments

johnson and johnson

We Concede the HERO Report is right–wellness does lose money

The HERO Report concludes that wellness loses money.  We agree.  We also think it loses much more money than they will admit to, but the news here is not about us.  The news is that more than 3 dozen self-described experts and industry leaders representing more than 2 dozen companies have reached consensus that their industry loses moneySlide1

Count us more shocked now than we were by the report’s admission that wellness adversely impacts morale, (This is covered in Installment 1.)

Together, the HERO findings — and our broad consensus with those findings — have serious Affordable Care Act policy implications.  The entire basis for the ACA “Safeway Amendment” allowing large fines for (among other things) failure to lose weight is that the cost savings from skinnier employees merits invading their privacy, dignity and automony through medicalizing the workplace (“companies playing doctor” as some have called it).  Senate committee hearings, proposed new legislation, and EEOC lawsuits around this provision have all been based on the assumption that wellness saves money.  The Senate committee never even lobbed a softball question about that assumption, and even the more hostile witnesses didn’t challenge it.

Recently there was even an eyeball-to-eyeball encounter between the Business Roundtable’s (BRT) Gary Loveman and President Obama.  Even though his company (Caesar’s) went bankrupt while embracing wellness as essential to their profitability, Mr. Loveman argued that corporations should be allowed to fine workers who don’t lose weight because the benefit to corporate bottom lines would trump both privacy concerns and the substantial health hazards of these programs.

gary loveman

Gary Loveman, Business Roundtable


Apparently, though, Mr. Loveman’s company went bankrupt slightly faster because of wellness.  Yes, along with employees, employers would be better off without forced (highly penalized or incentivized) workplace medicalization.  If you fire your wellness vendor, everyone benefits.

Everyone, that is, except the wellness industry denizens who make their money off this.  That’s why we think HERO spoke the truth unintentionally.  Very few people (I was one of them, having switched sides in 2007 when I saw that data failed to support wellness/disease management) willingly undermine their own incomes for integrity’s sake.  So this posting will proceed on the basis that is was a gaffe on their part.

Curiously, this is the second time in recent months wellness industry leaders have accidentally admitted wellness loses money, and the third time they’ve accidentally told the truth and had to walk it back.

Equally curiously, wellness economics information disseminates very slowly if at all — testament in large part to the absolutely brilliant and flawlessly executed strategy by the Wellness Ignorati of ensuring that facts get ignored (hence their name).  So even as the vendors are admitting that wellness loses money, benefits consultants and HR executives have once again pushed participation incentives/penalties to new highs, a whopping $693/employee/year, according to a new report.

As for the figures themselves, we are also attaching a spreadsheet so that you—as an employer—can figure this out on your own in your own population, rather than just take HERO’s word for it that wellness loses money.

The costs, according to the HERO report’s own screenshots

First, review the screenshot from the first installment, showing the costs of wellness.   The list of cost elements is fairly exhaustive –down to the level of a space allocation for a health fair — though the Committee conveniently left out consulting fees.   No surprise there, given that Mercer consultants sit on the committee.

HERO list of costs

Then, compare the list of costs in that screenshot to costs in this second screenshot, from Page 15 of the HERO Report.  That comparison won’t take long because only one program cost is listed:  “$1.50 — Cost of EHM [Employee Health Management] PMPM fees.”

HERO list of costs

The two lists of costs are totally inconsistent.  Suddenly, when it comes time to measure ROI on page 15, most of the costs on Page 10 have disappeared…

The reason for that?  The savings from wellness – in the HERO committee’s own words below – are so trivial that in order for wellness to produce savings, the second screenshot has to ignore most of the costs listed on the first one.  Whereas the first screenshot listed three categories of costs covering 12 different line items (13 if you count the AWOL consulting expenses), the second screenshot says you should only count one item:  vendor fees.

And by the way, the vendor fees themselves self-invalidate.  At about $40 per employee per year, biometric screening fees alone cost more than the stated $1.50 per person per month, or $18/year.  Yet $18/year is the total they list for all fees combined, including the $40 screenings.

Rather than point out the many cost elements on the first screenshot missing from the second, we’ll invite you to use our spreadsheet and enter your own data instead of theirs.  Simply fill in your own direct costs of wellness.

Whatever number you get will dramatically understate your true costs because there are three elements of cost that we aren’t counting on this spreadsheet:

  • What their spreadsheet call the “indirect” costs, which we have listed as “$0”,
  • What their spreadsheet calls the “tangential” costs of damaged reputations and employee morale—ask Honeywell whether they brag about their wellness fines and lawsuit in their recruiting (and, ironically, I just returned from a consult for Penn State itself, where the adverse morale impact still overhangs employee relations);
  • The massive costs of overscreening, overdiagnosis, and overtreatment generated by biometric screens – all of which are conducted far more often than the USPSTF recommends and most of which (as in the examples we occasionally post on this site) include screens that no one other than a wellness vendor or consultant would ever propose.

The financial benefits

Against those costs are the benefits. Page 15 lists some alleged benefits of wellness that leave us scratching our heads.

Generic substitution?  How does that have anything to do with wellness?  Quite the contrary, obsessing with wellness might take your eye off the generic substitution ball, and cause you to miss some tiering opportunities.  (The company that is best at tiering its pharmacy benefit, Procter & Gamble, is also known for its current employee-friendly wellness program, sort of the anti-Honeywell.)   And has anyone ever seen one health risk assessment (HRA) or participated in one health screen that even mentioned generic substitution?

Outpatient procedures?   Try to find one person in your organization whose outpatient procedure could have been prevented by eating more broccoli.

ER visits?  Maybe they decline.  But maybe they increase, due to sports injuries sustained by newly activated employees.  And someone who really is eating more broccoli might slice their finger chopping the crowns off the stalks.  (Anybody who voluntarily eats the crowns with the stalks still attached doesn’t need a wellness program.)

And then the catch-all:  savings through “overall wiser use of healthcare.”  Come again?  This is an industry that — as well documented by their own words captured on this website — makes its living telling employees to do exactly the opposite:  go get checkups you don’t need and won’t benefit from, submit to screens far in excess of USPSTF guidelines so that vendors can brag about how many sick people they find, yo-yo diet for “biggest loser contests” and weigh-ins, like ShapeUp’s get-thin-quick 8-week crash-diet programs, and avoid eating fat and cholesterol and load up on carbs instead.

cerner cholesterol

Perhaps what the HERO committee intends is that since employees largely don’t trust their employers, they will do the opposite of the recommendations.

The savings from wellness

Quizzify 4

When wellness doesn’t add up, Quizzify does

We are going to leave out respiratory savings.   To capture those, charge a smoking differential and make smoking cessation available.  Done.  You don’t need an intrusive and expensive wellness program for that.  (We are big believers in a “smoking differential” for employee-paid premiums.  It makes sense for all the reasons weight loss and other wellness programs don’t.)

Instead let’s focus on people who have cardiometabolic issues.  In order to lose weight and reduce their risk, they need to switch to a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.

Oh, my bad!  That is sooo 2014!  While most of us not in the wellness business already knew the dangers of eating too many simple carbohydrates long before now, even the most ardent card-carrying member of the Wellness Ignorati learned in March that all their dietary advice has been wrong — to go along with their incorrect screening and checkup advice.  Yet recommending exactly the wrong things hasn’t stopped most vendors from claiming massive savings.  See “On the (Even) Lighter Side” and The Smoking Guns for examples.

Now let’s look at all the hospitalizations that can be avoided through wellness – heart attacks, angina, hypertension, and…um, hmm…did we mention heart attacks?   You’re thinking: “What about diabetes events?”  OK, we’ll add diabetes, only because the HERO report lists it and we want to be true to the report.  But diabetes complications admissions (like CHF, which they also list) are a disease management issue, not a wellness issue — you can’t prevent or manage diabetic neuropathy or left-ventricular heart failure by eating more broccoli. The $1.50 PMPM price would not be high enough to also include disease management, and in any event what one does in disease management for complex cases is much different from a typical “pry, poke, prod and punish” wellness program.

And “straight” diabetes admissions are usually the result of diabetic employees pushing their blood sugar too low by over-medicating themselves—often in a good-faith effort to hit Hba1c “targets” that your wellness program set, no doubt on the advice of your consultants.   Low blood sugar won’t do much for productivity either.  Without the advice of a company specializing in diabetes, you’re likely to get this result.  (And if this is the first you are hearing about the likely causes of “straight” diabetes ER visits and admissions, you should consider such an option.)

So we are now adding all ischemic and hypertensive heart events and diabetes as what they call “potentially preventable hospitalizations.”  How many of your hospitalizations are for those items?  Simply run the primary codes for those events, being careful not to double-count professional fees, to see how many you had.  Here’s what happens when you do it for the United States as a whole.

HCUP WSMEs non-respiratory

Next, divide the relevant figure (Private insurance, 432,065) by the total number of privately insured discharges in the US (7,360,684)

HCUP US as a whole

So—using the HERO Committee’s own acknowledgment of the undeniable fact that wellness can only impact wellness-sensitive medical events (WSMEs) and using the diseases that the report says to use — less than 6% of admissions are WSMEs.  If your non-birth-event admit rate is, as the report says, 45 per 1000, then you have 2.6 admissions per 1000 in non-smoking-related WSMEs.  Once again, don’t take our word for this.  Run this analysis on your own admissions.  You won’t be surprised by how few there are.  Do you even know anyone admitted to the hospital for these things, especially where the admissions could have been prevented with a few more screens, HRA and servings of broccoli?

Shameless plug:  We are happy to do this WSME analysis for you.  We do these all the time.  It’s $4000.  We can also tell you your savings, ROI, trend, comparison to others over time, and more.  We also adjust for the major secular decline in cardiac events that has been taking place anyway for decades that the Committee seems to be unaware of, sort of surprising given their alleged expertise in cardiac risk reduction.

Let’s say you run this analysis with or without our help, and a rate/1000 similar to the US average pops up.  The HERO report says you need to reduce this rate by “only 1 or 1.25 admissions.”  But that’s almost half of your total 2.6/1000 WSMEs!  And in any event, you’ve probably seen by now – if you downloaded the spreadsheet – that Page 15 seriously underestimates your wellness program expenses, meaning your breakeven reduction needs to be much higher than “only 1 or 1.25.”  It’s probably higher than the number of admissions you have available to be reduced.

You can enter both your admissions per 1000 and the reduction in that figure you achieved directly into the spreadsheet.

But for now let’s very generously assume their expenses are right, and you only need to reduce admissions by 1 to succeed. How hard would it be to go from 2.6 to 1.6 WSMEs per 1000, a reduction of 39%?  Here are five things to keep in mind:

  • Your true engagement rate itself is probably much lower than that aforementioned 39%, not including people who simply participate for the money, and the people who are engaged generally aren’t the ones who would crash anyway;
  • A big chunk of all heart attacks can’t be predicted at all, and certainly not now that law prohibits asking about family history;
  • Even events that can be generally predicted can’t necessarily be prevented (we all know people who are “walking heart attacks” and have been ignoring advice for years);
  • “Straight” diabetes admissions are more likely to be for over-control than under-control;
  • In 7 years of measuring this, we have never seen a reduction in WSMEs remotely approaching 39% after adjusting for secular declines in cardiac events that take place even without a wellness program (which the report overlooks)

See The Million Dollar Workplace Wellness Heart Attack Screen in Health Affairs for a more in-depth view of the math. But the entire committee writing this HERO report insists wellness saves money, right?  So, it’s us against them, right?  A he said-she said?  Wrong.  Here’s the denouement.  On Page 23, the report’s own example shows that wellness only saves $0.99 PMPM!   That figure, by the way, is grossly overstated for reasons we will get to when we deconstruct Page 23.  But for the time being, here it is.

hero page 23 99 cents  

So even their own comparison of their own overstated savings estimates to their own understated cost estimates reveal:  wellness is a loser financially.  They have already admitted it is a loser for employee relations.  Funny — if we had made these two arguments, they would attack us.  But they are making these two arguments themselves.

Once again, the Surviving Workplace Wellness mantra applies:  “In wellness, you don’t have to challenge the data to invalidate it.  You merely have to read the data.  It will invalidate itself.”

Where does this leave us?

To summarize, pages 10, 15 and 23 combined tell us:

  1. Even before adding page 10’s cost categories back to page 15, costs are $1.50 PMPM;
  2. Savings are only $0.99 PMPM, meaning wellness loses $0.51 PMPM;
  3. The first two points are not our estimates — they’re their estimates and are far more optimistic than ours;
  4. Adding back the cost elements on page 10 to page 15, and then on Page 23 removing the respiratory savings, adjusting for secular decline in WSMEs, and adding in all the extra doctor visits would create a much larger loss from wellness;
  5. And they have already admitted that “pry, poke, prod and punish” programs are bad for morale.

Now you see why RAND’s PepsiCo study showed a negative ROI from wellness:  It’s because there is a negative ROI from wellness, which no one disputes any more.

And you see the reason we asked the question in the last installment:  Why would any company “do wellness” if the biggest proponents of wellness – people who make their living off it – admit that it’s a waste of money that adversely impacts morale?

Likewise, now you see why wellness vendors and consultants get “outed” all the time on this site, advocate savings methodologies designed to obfuscate rather than enlighten, and try to prevent you from learning that we exist.  We are not saying they are sociopaths.  Sociopaths lie for no reason.  Conversely, wellness vendors and consultants are just trying to keep their jobs.  Bleeding customers or clients dry is only a good job security plan if indeed the customers or clients never find out about it.

But now customers know how their own vendors and consultants really feel.  And we can all work together to dismantle these programs and start doing wellness for employees instead of to them.

Poll: Cue the Wellness Industry Response…  

We have a little dispute with RAND’s Soeren Mattke.  He says the wellness industry modus operandi is, whenever one claim is disproven, to switch to another claim.

We say the reason they are known as the Wellness Ignorati is, their strategy is to ignore facts, including ones they admit, and they will simply just ignore this posting so as not to create a news cycle, rather than switch claims.

There is also the chance that they admit that their own financial model is accurate. This would demonstrate integrity, a quality historically in short supply in this field.

So vote early (but not often)…



While we aren’t deconstructing this as a sales tool for Quizzify.  But as it happens, Quizzify is literally the only wellness program that does pay for itself.  Don’t take our word for it.  Quizzify is 100% guaranteed to save money and improve morale/engagement–exactly the opposite of what the HERO report says usually happens.  No other wellness program is either, let alone both.

Quizzify 3

Quizzify: the antidote to poke-prod-pry-punish wellness

Apologies to HERO and the Wellness Ignorati!

(March 18) Due to vacation schedules, we are taking a brief time-out from both our “profiles” of vendors and our serial analysis of the HERO report (Part 1 was our most popular posting ever — don’t forget to “Follow” us so as not to miss a single installment.).

Quizzify 3

Knowledge + fun + respect = happiness + health

This posting is to apologize to the HERO Wellness Ignorati.  A comment our posting on the HERO report said we shouldn’t call the Wellness Ignorati “ignorant.”  We aren’t calling them ignorant and we apologize if we were misunderstood.  Since it has sold almost 6000 copies despite Wiley’s decision to price it to finance their retirement accounts, we thought by now most people had read Cracking Health Costs.  That was the book in which the term was coined.  It emphatically does NOT mean “ignorant.”  We would never call them “ignorant” and the Ignorati are anything but.  Quite the contrary, they are smart enough to realize that facts are their worst nightmare.

Or as Tom Friedman said in today’s New York Times, “We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t outright ignore facts that make a laughingstock of our hopes.”   (I actually did the opposite. See the blog post: Founding Father of Disease Management Astonishingly Declares: “My Kid Is Ugly.”  Dee Edington did something very similar. Both of us were simply not willing to sacrifice our integrity for filthy lucre.)

The Wellness Ignorati are more than smart.  They are brilliant.  They have elevated fact-ignoring to an art form.

They realize that enough people seeing this site will derail their HR-financed gravy train, so they keep to a strict strategy of not even acknowledging that facts exist.  Example: us.  Not a mention of our existence in their entire report.   A brilliant strategy for them, and one that flatters us immensely.  Obviously, in the massive tome they just published, if they thought we were wrong, they could have said: “They Said What and its authors offer a competing view, but it’s wrong because…”

Fact suppression is of course the opposite of what we do — we want facts to be front-and-center.  We welcome transparency and debate, though the latter is tough because people either repeatedly decline (Ron Goetzel) or, after the debate, wouldn’t agree to release the recording (Michael O’Donnell).

Instead they simply disappear us.  This is despite the fact that the two of us (plus our colleagues like Jon Robison and Tom Emerick) have sold more books, been interviewed in more major publications, authored more articles in high-impact journals than all the Ignorati combined.

Quizzify 2

Do you employees know when to just say “no” when it comes to medical care?

I’ll close with a f’rinstance.  We copied a screenshot from that report showing that the Ignorati finally admitted that “pry, poke, prod and punish” programs damage morale.  This guy looked at that screenshot, and put a comment on our post that this screenshot didn’t exist, but rather it was our propaganda.  Someone else said the screenshot was out of context, so we invite everyone to read the context.

The bottom line is, of course the HERO Report is correct about the cost of morale damage.  Coincidentally, I am writing this from State College, Pennsylvania.  I am here as an honored guest of the Penn State Faculty Benefits Committee, feted for my role in helping to free them from the Goetzel/Highmark forced wellness program (featuring those immortal testicle checks).  Try telling Penn State there’s no morale impact.  (For those of you thinking of sending your kids here, do it!  I’ve never been to a university where the professors were more passionate about teaching their students than PSU–despite what happened to them in 2013.)


“Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.”

–Daniel Patrick Moynihan

A Short Painless Primer on the Value of Screening

At the risk of knocking our second-most-widely viewed posting (the first of several analyses of the HERO report) off our front page, this is a brief and amusing lesson on the value of screening

If you like this, you’ll love this–it will also tickle your funny bone.

HERO Report: Wellness Industry Leaders Shockingly Admit that Wellness Is Bad for Morale


The question is: how do you help employees spend less and get healthier at the same time?

(March 14) This is the first in a series looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the HERO Outcomes Guidelines report, recently released by the Wellness Ignorati.  One explanatory note:  A comment accused us of insulting the Wellness Ignorati by calling them that.  It is not an insult.  It describes their brilliant strategy of ignoring facts and encouraging their supporters to do the same.  We are very impressed by the disclipline with which they have executed this strategy, and will be providing many examples.  However, if they prefer a different moniker to describe their strategy, they should just let us know.

We encourage everyone to pick up a copy of this report, the magnum opus of the Wellness Ignorati.  Unlike the Ignorati, we are huge advocates of transparency and debate (which they call “bullying”).  We want employers to see both sides and decide for themselves what makes sense, rather than spoon-feed them selected misinformation and pretend facts don’t exist.

The latter is the strategy of the Wellness Ignorati.  Indeed, they earned their moniker by making the decision to consistently ignore inconvenient facts.  (This is actually a smart move on their part, given that basically every fact about wellness is inconvenient for them.)  For example, they just wrote 87 pages on wellness outcomes measurement without admitting our existence, even though we wrote the only book — an award-winning trade best-seller — on wellness outcomes measurement.  Observing the blatant suppression of facts and the loss of credibility that comes with blatantly suppressing facts is just one of the many reasons to read this report.  In total, their report provides a far more compelling argument against pry, poke, prod and punish programs than we ourselves have ever made, simply by bungling the (admittedly impossible) argument in favor of them.

There is too much fodder for us to deconstruct in one posting, so over the next several weeks we will highlight aspects of this report that we think are especially revealing about the sorry state of the wellness industry.

In terms of getting off to a good start, the Ignorati are right up there with Hillary Clinton, with their first self-immolation appearing on Page 10.  Remember our mantra from Surviving Workplace Wellness:  In wellness, you don’t have to challenge the data to invalidate it.  You merely have to read the data.  It will invalidate itself.

And sure enough…

Ironically, the first self-immolation is the direct result of that rarest of qualities among the Ignorati:  integrity.   We were shocked by the revelation that the Ignorati actually realize that employee morale and a company’s reputation both suffer when companies institute wellness programs – but here is the screenshot.  Both morale and reputation are listed, as “tangential costs.”

Try telling a CEO that the morale of his workforce and his corporate reputation are “tangential” to his business.   We ourselves run a company, and we would not list low morale as a “tangential cost.”  Quite the opposite — our entire business depends on our employees’ intrinsic motivation to do the best job they can.   If their morale suffers, our profit suffers.   That’s why we would never institute a wellness program.  The last thing we want to do is impact our morale in order to measure our employees’ body fat.  Obviously, it is harder to hire and retain people if you value body fat measurement over job performance, and we are pleased to see the ignorati finally admit this.

HERO list of costs


Why, having now read this revelation in the ignoratis’ own words, that wellness is bad for morale, would any company still want to “do wellness”?  Or as we say in Cracking Health Costs, “If you’re a general, would you rather have troops with high morale or troops with low cholesterol?”

The fact that employees hate wellness isn’t exactly a news flash.  Anytime there is an article in the lay press, the public rails against wellness — or “bullies” the wellness industry, to use the term that the Ignorati use for people who disagree with them publicly.  You don’t have to look far—just back to HuffPost on Wednesday.  Or All Things Considered.

Obviously, if you have to bribe employees to do something (or fine them if they don’t), it’s because they don’t like it.  If employees would rather sacrifice considerable sums of money than be pried, poked and prodded, they are sending you a message:  “This is a stupid idea we want nothing to do with.”

The news flash is that this whole business of “making employees happy whether they like it or not,” as we say in Surviving Workplace Wellness is now acknowledged – by the Ignorati as a group — to be a charade.

HERO seems to have exhausted their integrity quota pretty quickly, because after that welcome and long-overdue and delightfully shocking admission, they slip back into character.

Quizzify 4

To get good answers, you must ask good questions. We do.

Specifically, in their listing of costs, they conveniently forgot a bunch of direct, indirect and “tangential” costs.  Like consulting fees.  Generally, the less competent and/or honest the consultants, the more they charge.  (For instance, we can run an RFP for $40,000 or less, and measure outcomes for $15,000 or less — and do both to the standards of the esteemed and independent GE-Intel Validation Institute. Most other consultants can’t match either the price or the outcome.)    We’re not calling any consulting firm incompetent or dishonest other than pointing to a few examples that speak for themselves, but it does seem more than coincidental that the consultants involved in this report have conveniently forgotten to include their own fees as a cost.

And what about the costs of overdiagnosis caused by overscreening far in excess of US Preventive Services Task Force guidelines?  The cost of going to the doctor when you aren’t sick, against the overwhelming advice of the research community?

Still, we need to give credit where credit is due, so we must thank the Ignorati for acknowledging that wellness harms morale.  It took even less time for this acknowledgement than for the tobacco companies to admit that smoking causes cancer.

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