New Year - New Wellness Plan

Personal aspirations aside, what are your resolutions in 2012 as a wellness manager? You probably have some of the same ones as previous years like increasing participation numbers in wellness events and realizing return on investment sooner rather than later. The carrots and sticks that were decided last year to incentivize healthy changes for the New Year are now becoming reality for your workforce.


January is a good time to bring wellness motivators to the forefront of employees' minds because chances are their personal resolutions will have something to do with improving their health as well as meeting the incentives and disincentives of the company health plan. Their list might include stopping smoking, losing weight or maybe even more specific goals like lowering cholesterol and/or blood pressure to keep risk of heart and vascular disease low.


Helping your employees improve their health is the ultimate goal of your organization's wellness program, and including the right components in the program to help them achieve their health goals is essential to everyone's success.


Your task in evaluating wellness offerings has evolved in many ways over the past few years. What was once considered a viable wellness program if a newsletter and healthy vending options were provided, has quickly turned into more substantial offerings like health risk assessments, biometrics, and blood tests to help implement the various carrots and sticks used to keep health insurance premiums from sky-rocketing.


Adding something new each year to offer requires due diligence on your part in gauging what the perceived ROI will be for the upfront cost to the company. True ROI, however, comes not only from claims reduction, but claims avoidance as well. Wellness screenings help in finding disease in your workforce population, and although it can increase claims temporarily for those individuals who seek the care they may have been avoiding, it provides savings in the long run.


Substantial, immediate savings, however, can be realized when risk of disease is uncovered.  As a wellness manager, you are already cognizant of the prevalence of your company's risk within the employee population by reviewing aggregate claims data from your carrier or third party administrator.  This data can help you pinpoint what those cost drivers are and could be, and subsequently help you choose new screenings each year that address those issues.  


Incorporating the value proposition of wellness is essential as well. This proposition is the health and productivity connection: To increase a company's profit, an employer must increase productivity which is accomplished by reduced absenteeism and presenteeism.  


Keeping employees and their dependents healthy will do just that.Statistics from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) on serious health issues are staggering:  Chronic diseases accounts for 75% of healthcare spending, 45% of Americans have at least one chronic disease, and 59% of next year's high risk population comes from this year's low-risk population .  


Your wellness program offering for next year can help find the risk of disease before it becomes a chronic disease.  Having this information gives you more leverage to upper management to introduce several different screening modalities that not only screen for disease, but screen for the risk as well, and stop a disease (and a claim) before it ever occurs.


The most common chronic diseases in this country include hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol that subsequently lead to coronary artery disease, and vascular diseases like stroke, peripheral arterial disease and abdominal aortic aneurysms. Not only is blood testing, biometrics and health risk assessments essential, but adding ultrasound screening that looks for atherosclerosis in the blood vessels can prove to be cost worthy as well, and can ultimately reduce the cost of insuring at-risk individuals.


Ultrasounds can find disease in earlier stages when intervention can do the most good in stopping or reversing the progression of the disease through disease management, life-style changes, medication and/or surgery.  Even when the disease is found to be life-threatening or debilitating, ultrasound technology can be the best solution to finding the condition before a catastrophic event occurs.


A well designed screening program that includes ultrasound can also be very effective in motivating the individual to take action. What blood results might determine as elevated cholesterol levels, an ultrasound result could show mild to moderate blockage in an artery, which has much more impact on the individual to effect change.


Your employer's challenge is to meet a growing need to contain healthcare costs, and compounding that problem is the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which is making health insurance more demanding and less affordable for employers.  Your challenge as a wellness manager is to offer a value-added chronic disease prevention program that will incentivize change in lifestyle habits for your workforce.


The answer to both of these challenges is the same: decrease chronic disease by uncovering the risk of disease before the chronic disease ever happens. Incentivize positive change that reduces health risk and enhances personal effectiveness that will benefit the organization's bottom line. Happy 2012 to all!

About the Author

Carol Gugliemetti, Account Executive, Life Line Screening has planned and marketed hundreds of community health screening events and has been a guest speaker at countless civic organization meetings and corporation lunch and learns about the importance of preventive healthcare. To learn more about how to add LLSA' Chronic Disease Prevention Program to your wellness program in 2012, contact Carol at carol.gugliemetti@llsa.com  or (847) 341-3141.