The Two-Minute Drill
Here's how you can win the Wellness ROI game.
- By Buck Peavey
- Apr 01, 2010
Here is the wellness gig in a nutshell. Health care
costs really are out of control. How do we win
this out-of-control game? I think everyone
agrees the word "wellness" sounds nice and
makes good sense, correct? On the surface, it does make
sense. If we concentrate on getting our employees healthier,
we will lower our escalating health care costs. However,
it is easier said than done.
The most common hurdle is that most simply speak the
word but never "get off the dime" and invest in a wellness
program, greatly due to the fact they have no idea when
they will pay for their investment and get a positive return
on their investment. In this economy, no ROI means no go.
Short Term vs. Long Term
To win at the wellness game, we must have a short- and
long-term strategy in play. Everyone searching for an answer
is flocking to the Internet and such to get their employees
signed up for wellness activities.
Walking programs, smoking cessation, club memberships,
weight loss programs, disease management programs.
All of these initiatives are aimed at making employees
healthier, so they must be the correct choice, right? The
problem here is that most of these wellness initiatives take
three to five years to show any measurable results or dollar
return. This means that, after a year, the senior management
pulls the plug and everyone loses.
Start with a short-term strategy, then move to the long
term down the road. (Most do the opposite, of course.) In
sports, this advice is similar to the old "focus on your first
opponent before thinking about your next game." The primary
strategy is to achieve ROI quickly and convince our
senior management that wellness is not a waste of money
but, rather, a critical, profitable eff ort that will save lives,
money, and make for a much more productive work environment
with great morale.
Plan to achieve ROI within six months on our first
wellness initiative. Once this is accomplished, we will then
have the funds to invest in longer-term wellness initiatives
that will keep the healthy from falling into unhealthy status.
Programs such as weight management, stress management,
etc. will be added later.
Launch a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) to all employees.
A good one not only helps your employees learn
how to improve their health, but also provides data on
which wellness areas your company needs to focus on to
make an impact. Remaining HIPAA compliant, a third
party can use your HRA data to identify and consult with
those 15 percent who are causing 90 percent of your company's
health care costs. This is key. One challenge is the
fact that most HRA participation rates are less than 20
percent. The first critical play here is that in order to make
an impact, you must get north of 75 percent participation.
Keep in mind that most companies purchase an HRA and
then do nothing with the data. Don't make this mistake,
resulting in the ultimate penalty.
It's a fact that unmanaged prescription drug therapy
causes a significant number of trips to the E.R., along with
other short-term measurable costs. This is greatly caused
by drug compliance, drugs interacting negatively with
each other, patients taking the wrong dosage, etc. Without
a doubt, this group is likely the group that is producing
most of your medical claims. It's been proven if we focus
on and help this group with skilled registered pharmacists
(working in hand with that person's doctor), we will get
immediate results and ROI.
Most of you have heard the term "disease management."
This is another good way of going aft er the "critical
15 percent"; however, it takes much longer to deliver ROI,
according to a report published in the Journal of Managed
Care Pharmacy in 2008. Using disease management in
our long-term approach later does make some sense.
Tie In On-the-Job Safety
Most separate wellness from safety. Big mistake. By combining
them, you are adding yet another measurable and
quick-ROI-generating tool to your game plan.
It's likely you already have a good overall safety program
in place, but how is it being promoted? Is there a
strong awareness and educational campaign behind it that
has everyone motivated? Do you have a good safety incentive
program in place?
By combining, most have found they save significant
dollars. Some simply use their existing safety incentive
budget and add wellness awarding criteria at little extra
cost. (Two birds with one stone? You bet.) I have seen firsthand
literally thousands of companies running gamecard
safety incentive programs deliver an ROI within three
short months that is capable of paying for a wellness campaign
for an entire year.
Make sure that your incentive system is flexible and
can reward smaller batches of "points" for multiple behaviors.
This article originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.