Wellness Now a Key Theme to the Healthcare Landscape Dialogue

DEC 22

Proactive preventive care is increasingly seen as a viable and in many cases necessary substitute to traditional reactive health care. Preventative offerings and wellness programs (including biometric screenings, care intervention, and health risk assessments) offer lower costs by addressing health issues prior to medical incidents, rather than after.

This psychological shift in our healthcare thinking has evolved around mounting healthcare costs and began entering consumer consciousness once it became apparent that we (the consumers) may soon be bearing more of our own healthcare costs.   Trends around wellness programs have shifted to a keen focus correlating healthy behavior and healthcare outcomes – all told, a broad societal “awareness shift” of the health effects of our individual behaviors.

Politicians and capital markets are taking note:

  • Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel’s recently announced that if elected he intends to implement an incentive-laden health and wellness plan for city employees projected to save Chicago $240 million over 4 years.

Much of this M&A activity has been driven by changing market regulations and broad government support. The Accountable Care Act of 2010 included many health and wellness provisions, including a potentially game changing provision altering prior HIPAA regulations. This provision raises the wellness incentives ceiling from 20% to 30% of the employee-only coverage portion of the plan (and includes the possibility of raising it to 50% pending review). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recently announced Healthy People 2020, a roadmap for public health and wellness that requires significant investment and utilization of wellness programs as a core component of national health goals.

This wave of public adoption is a key validation for “wellness,” a long-time healthcare “trend” that is now becoming a central theme in the broader healthcare dialogue.

Next steps? Continuing the momentum of wellness themes into effective wellness programs that capture meaningful participation from employees.

  • While many U.S. employers currently offer some type of incentives, (56% according to the latest wellness survey by Buck Consultants, driving measurable wellness results means offering substantial incentives that drive meaningful participation.  Without incentives, participation in wellness programs, regardless of offerings, typically falls in an anemic range of 20-30% that fails to include the most at-risk members who are responsible for driving the majority of healthcare costs.
  • Meaningful incentives drive participation increases of three to fourfold, bringing participation to 80-90% of those eligible, including engaging the top at-risk employee segment. This is a substantive increase and one that promises to shape the evolution of future wellness programs.

Our growing spate of advisory work and broadening research agenda underscore that preventative care and wellness programs are more relevant than ever. As we assess the landscape of wellness vendors, we’re most impressed by those firms pairing well-designed wellness platforms with go-to-market strategies that creatively leverage the incentives supported by health reform, and onboarding models that garner consumer/employee engagement.

Our research team is working on two reports that include “wellness” as a central theme; a Q1’11 publication focused on the Senior’s market, and a Q2’11 publication focused on healthcare informatics.  In addition, the 6th annual Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance Convergence Summit will explore compliance, chronic care and a host of other wellness related topics.

Let us know if you’re interested in learning more, and have a great week!

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