3 Signs Your Wellness Strategy Will Fail

Everyone wants an effective wellness strategy to maintain a healthy, happy and low-cost population, but how do you know yours will work? Linda K. Riddell, a principal at Health Economy LLC and frequent guest contributor to EBN’s blog, Employee Benefit Views, has compiled some warning signs you may be on the wrong path.

Doomed to collapse?

The best way to choose a wellness and health cost strategy is to study your group – its illnesses, social factors, work environment, and other relevant traits. Then, select a program that responds directly to those issues. As you consider your strategies for 2013, the following are three wellness red flags to watch out for.

1. Everyone’s doing it

Programs that have good spin become popular whether they deliver results or not. Take, for example, disease management. No self-respecting employer would have a health plan without disease management, though only certain types of people benefit from it. People who have only a high school education get much more from disease management than college-educated people.
Similarly, wellness incentives, weight loss programs, and many other wellness tactics are considered must-haves but do not have proven positive results. Before you jump to add or continue an everyone’s-doing-it program, look for solid evidence of results.

2. Everyone ‘knows’ it works

The things that everyone “knows” are things that the media has repeated, not necessarily truth. Detecting disease early, even before it causes a problem, is widely touted as the goal of wellness programs. Supposedly, it is cheaper and better to treat early. But we are now starting to admit openly that screening programs, such as mammograms, can cause more harm than good. Patients get treatment they don’t need, racking up costs for no benefit or even harm.

3. The salesperson has data showing that it works

Just because another employer had success does not mean you will. Their workforce, social-economic status, work environment, company policies, management, climate, social support and myriad other factors will be different from yours.

In addition, data from the salesperson probably has not been written by a trained statistician. If they are promoting a return-on-investment of $4 dollars for every dollar spent, you are wise to be skeptical. Even two dollars should raise an eyebrow.

Originally posted by Employee Benefits News on 1/9/2013.