blog.edlogics.com

Do Workplace Wellness Programs Really Reduce Health Costs?

Do they really live up to the hype?
Read More

Countless employers – an estimated 80% of large US employers – offer wellness programs for their employees. In fact, wellness programs are often touted as key employee benefits. The goals are simple: make employees healthier and health care costs will be reduced.

But new research questions if wellness programs actually do reduce health care costs. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on April 19 was jointly conducted by Harvard and the University of Chicago.

The researchers randomly offered different wellness programs at various work sites and then tracked the results. Specifically, they offered new wellness programs at randomly selected locations of BJ’s Wholesale Clubs. Those results were compared to existing programs at other locations to identify any changes in individual behavior as well as any changes in the corporate culture.

The results showed some demonstrated behavior changes but little effect on other outcomes.

Behavior Changes Recorded at Sites Offering Wellness Programs:

  • 8.3% higher rate of employees self-reporting engaging in regular exercise
  • 13.6% higher rate of employees self-reporting managing their weight

Outcomes Showing No Significant Impacts Included:

  • Self-reported quality of sleep
  • Job performance and absenteeism
  • 10 specific clinical health markers

Researchers noted that the field of studying wellness programs is still relatively new. Others have commented that 18 months might not be enough time to effectively measure the success/impact of wellness programs. Might it not take decades?

One of the coauthors of the study, Zirui Song, an assistant professor of health care policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School’s Blavatnik Institute, stated her summary.

“As we grow to understand how best to encourage healthy behavior, it may be that workplace wellness programs will play an important role in improving health and lowering the cost of health care,” Song said. “For now, however, we should remain cautious about our expectations from such interventions. Rigorous research to measure the effects of such programs can help make sure we’re spending society’s health and wellness dollars in the most effective way.”

One missing variable is the role that education plays. Would behavior change absent of an increase in health literacy even be sustainable? Conversely, if employees better understand their personal health – how to properly use an asthma inhaler, for example – would behavior change persist longer?

We’ll be fielding these questions to several health literacy experts so check back for their responses.

Never miss a post.

Subscribe now. Know when we publish our latest articles on health literacy, gamification, and healthcare.

Jerry Gulley currently serves as EdLogics’ Chief Content Officer. He trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and has held positions with Cooking Light, Health, and AllRecipes. 

INFOGRAPHIC: How Telemedicine Works

Get medical help without seeing a doctor in person
Read More

Talk to a doctor without seeing them in person

Never miss a post.

Subscribe now. Know when we publish our latest articles on health literacy, gamification, and healthcare.

Jerry Gulley currently serves as EdLogics’ Chief Content Officer. He trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and has held positions with Cooking Light, Health, and AllRecipes. 

The Amazon-JPMorgan-Berkshire Hathaway Health Announcement

Press Release Contains Few Specifics
Read More

On January 30th, three American business giants announced a partnership “to address healthcare for their U.S. employees, with the aim of improving employee satisfaction and reducing cost.” The three companies – Amazon, JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway – are known for innovation and it’s clear that the scale of their partnership could be a disrupter to the healthcare industry.

But with few if any specifics around what the three companies would actually build or create, the buzz created by the announcement quickly led to more questions.

From the press release…

“The initial focus of the new company will be on technology solutions that will provide U.S. employees and their families with simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost.

Tackling the enormous challenges of healthcare and harnessing its full benefits are among the greatest issues facing society today. By bringing together three of the world’s leading organizations into this new and innovative construct, the group hopes to draw on its combined capabilities and resources to take a fresh approach to these critical matters.”

The lack of specifics didn’t deter media outlets, industry experts and elected officials from making speculations.

At Vox, Dylan Scott suggested the announcement might mean that the companies would become self-insured and “take all the administrative responsibility of running a health plan, rather than contract it out to a third party.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who is no stranger to promoting out-of-box solutions for health care interpreted the announcement differently and wondered if this could be the start of some businesses embracing the changes for which he’s been advocating.

“Could this be the beginning of the American business community understanding that a not-for-profit Medicare for All, single payer system makes sense not only for the average American, but for the business community as well”, Sanders Tweeted.

At CNN Money, Tami Luhby speculated that Amazon could utilize its expertise and experience in optimizing distribution and supply channels.

What is known is that the yet-to-be-named initiative/company is being spearheaded by Todd Combs of Berkshire Hathaway, Marvelle Sullivan Berchtold of JPMorgan Chase and Beth Galetti of Amazon.

Look for updates here as more information is released.

Never miss a post.

Subscribe now. Know when we publish our latest articles on health literacy, gamification, and healthcare.

Jerry Gulley currently serves as EdLogics’ Chief Content Officer. He trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and has held positions with Cooking Light, Health, and AllRecipes. 

The Potential CVS and Aetna Merger

Read More

The healthcare industry, the retail pharmacy industry and in fact lots of industries, were buzzing with the news that mega pharmacy chain CVS was pursuing a merger with Aetna, one of America’s oldest insurers. While the trend toward consolidation in healthcare is not new, a deal this size would be unprecedented in multiple ways. And the combined entity would have far-reaching implications for consumers, for employers and even the US government.

The negotiations are highly confidential, so any details about the deal, or the motivations behind it, are purely speculative. But Fred Goldstein, founder of Accountable Health Inc., offers a unique viewpoint on the merger. Goldstein points to a flaw in the Affordable Care Act known as the Medical Loss Ratio requirement.

“This requirement was put in place as a way to ensure that health plans did not make money by underutilizing medical care.  But it had the unintended consequence of insuring that costs never went down and here’s why.

Let’s assume that a hypothetical health plan offers a product at a $5,000 premium.  Based on this premium, they must spend 80% or $4,000 on Medical Care and the remaining $1,000 goes to cover administrative expenses and profit. At the same time, it’s fairly common knowledge that 30% and possibly more of healthcare costs are associated with waste, fraud and abuse.”

Visit The Health Care Blog for the full story.

Never miss a post.

Subscribe now. Know when we publish our latest articles on health literacy, gamification, and healthcare.

Jerry Gulley currently serves as EdLogics’ Chief Content Officer. He trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and has held positions with Cooking Light, Health, and AllRecipes. 

Preventing Emergency Department Visits With Education

Read More

Hospital emergency departments, as the name implies, are meant to be used for true emergencies. Unfortunately many trips to the ER are not life-threatening and are in fact both unnecessary and avoidable. A study published in 2013 found that only 29% of ER visits reviewed were actual emergency situations. Less than half of those visits that were not an emergency required medical attention but could have been treated in a primary care facility. One in four did not require immediate attention.

Low health literacy leads many patients to the ER when they could have received care at a less expensive setting – like at their doctor’s office or at a walk-in clinic. It’s also known that patients with low health literacy are more likely to make return visits to ERs within two weeks. Some barriers for patients with low literacy include:

  • Not understanding or following doctor’s instructions for managing chronic conditions.
  • Misunderstanding information they find about symptoms online.
  • Not recognizing the importance of proper preventative care.

More recent research, presented at the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine Annual Meeting in Orlando, explored how low health literacy was related to preventable ER visits. The study looked at over 1,200 participants and a total of 4,444 ER visits. Over 10% of the visits were found to have been preventable.

Of the preventable visits, over 60% led to hospital admission. (The average cost of a hospital stay is estimated to be close to $10,000.) When researchers looked at the health literacy of the participants, those with lower health literacy were over twice as likely to have made a preventable ER visit. Having below an eighth-grade reading level was the definition used for low literacy.

The most common preventable conditions leading to ER visits included chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), urinary tract infections and long-term complications from diabetes.

While not surprising, the study illustrates that patients with low literacy are more likely to make preventable visits to ER and other emergency services. And increasing the literacy of patients can help dramatically decrease unnecessary healthcare costs.

Never miss a post.

Subscribe now. Know when we publish our latest articles on health literacy, gamification, and healthcare.

Jerry Gulley currently serves as EdLogics’ Chief Content Officer. He trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and has held positions with Cooking Light, Health, and AllRecipes.