At some point the industry needs to come up with some way to police itself. Why? I recently attended a meeting of the key companies and leaders in the wellbeing industry. Here were some statistics presented by a large corporation during a panel that included one of the Senior Executive’s of the company offering the employer their wellness service:
Incentives Associated with the Company Wellness Program
Annual Physician Visit – $100
So why are they incenting employees to get an annual visit? Amongst the many screenings recommended by the USPSTF it gives it an A Grade to annual screening for adults aged 40 years or older and for those who are at increased risk for high blood pressure. Adults aged 18 to 39 years with normal blood pressure (<130/85 mm Hg) who do not have other risk factors should be re-screened every 3 to 5 years.
Health Risk Appraisal (HRA) $100
I believe this one is fine.
Annual Biometric Screenings $300
Again this is over-testing and not recommended annually. Per the USPSTF various biometric screens such as abnormal blood glucose a typical screening included in these gets a B Grade. The USPSTF recommends screening for abnormal blood glucose as part of cardiovascular risk assessment in adults aged 40 to 70 years who are overweight or obese.
Both the annual physician office visit and the annual biometric screening are not recommended for many in the younger age categoris or those with no known risk factors. So why would the conference, the company and the senior population health executive offer up this information as an example of an excellent program?
Then they presented a slide on outcomes:
82% of all continuously enrolled maintained or improved their health continuum status.
This one is just bogus as presented, but let’s go through it.
- Selection bias, by only measuring those who enrolled and then were continuously enrolled (2 out of 3 strikes) selection bias is all over this one. See the Illinois Workplace Wellness Study.
- How many didn’t enroll at all?
- How many enrolled, but quit?
- What was the definition of maintain or improved health?
- Might it have been one measure and others got worse?
- What was the net overall change in risk a la Dee Edington (Natural Flow) or perhaps the movements for each of the individual health measures?
Again as a Wellbeing expert why would the vendor allow their client to put this slide up?
The weight loss program they ran offered by one of the well-recognized national vendors had 2,600 participants who lost 9,226 lbs during the year. Wow an average of 3 lbs! Was that at 12 months? How many gained versus lost weight during the period? How many dropped out?
And the next line showed a weight loss challenge at 12 weeks. In which over 1,300 participants had lost about 12,000 lbs or about 10 lbs each. Again these weight loss challenges have not been shown to create sustainable weight loss. How did they look at the end of the year?
But to add insult to injury, this presentation was the final one of the day that began with a nationally recognized academic who when asked which is the best weight loss program, gave this answer:
“any weight loss program can show weight loss over 3-6 months, but a year or two later they gain it back and often gain back more.”
So they started the day honestly and finished it a little less so, to put it nicely. But the bigger issue is:
“Isn’t part of our job as experts to inform and educate clients to do what works, what is evidence based and report on what’s meaningful and real? ”
Why would you let one of your clients present this at a major national conference. And then while you are on the stage, tout it as success and look the other way. And, if this is a reflection on your program, one allowing excess testing, inappropriate visits and the reporting of meaningless results what does it say about your program?
Come on, we can and must do better.