I recently attended a workplace wellness conference put on by a Chamber of Commerce. The conference began with a Keynote by a Medical Director of a major health plan and then had a number of breakout sessions one could attend including:
- Overcoming Barriers to Building a Wellness Program
- The Business Case for a Healthy Workforce
- The Future of Corporate Wellness
- Best Practice for Corporate Wellness
Overall the Agenda looked very good and the speakers were key people at health plans, wellness vendors and large employers.
I was able to attend the morning keynote session and had to pick two of the breakouts, so I selected The Business Case for a Healthy Workforce and The Future of Corporate Wellness.
The keynote presentation was very well presented, entertaining and a good overview of wellness programs. Unfortunately while they discussed absenteeism and presenteeism as some of the broader values of wellness programs, they also used studies that had been walked back, claimed extremely high ROI’s (truth be told they said it was in year 2 or 3), associated disease management and other chronic care savings with wellness program savings, made no mention of the RAND study showing a debatable ROI for wellness programs, nor did they mention the new article in the American Journal of Health Promotion entitled:
The Relationship Between Return on Investment and Quality of Study Methodology in Workplace Health Promotion Programs
This article looked at savings as related to study design and found that as the study design became more rigorous, the ROI or medical savings dropped to a net loss in the gold standard of Random Control Trial. To say the least I was a bit surprised.
The panels were even worse.
In the Business Case for a Healthy Workforce, none of the panelists had any data from their programs, nor did they refer to any studies, they just stated that “wellness saves money” and most of the comments were simple ideas like, “get the CEO involved”, “build a culture of health”, “start simple”, and had no discussion on how to do these things or build evidence based programs (a phrase I never heard at the conference).
The last panel I attended was The Future of Corporate Wellness. A potentially great topic with a tremendous amount of exciting innovation going on: mHealth, Big Data, predictive analytics, machine learning, better behavioral approaches, incentive and plan design, gamification, integration with providers, on site clinics, collaboration, and on and on.
This panel unfortunately was moderated by someone who began by stating that “(he) had no background in healthcare, but fortunately we have a panel of experts.” Here to the answers from the experts were sweet with no substance.
During this panel presentation I heard Continue reading