By now many of us know ROI stands for “Removal of Intuition.” But some of our leading “pointy heads of wellness,” (not you, of course) keep telling us getting ROI data for your wellness program is mission critical − and they mean “Return on Investment.”
I am not buying into the need to demonstrate a need for their definition of ROI at every workplace. Here are a few things that come to mind when I hear the phrase Return on Investment being used with day-to-day practitioners of wellness programs:
1. Difficult: I’d rather take the same amount of time, money, and effort and develop an in-depth knowledge of quantum physics. Or attend an Astrophysics convention for some light entertainment.
2. Success must be hidden: If your wellness program was working great, why would you have to produce complex metrics to prove it? Wouldn’t it be obvious by just walking around and observing? It’s like trying to teach someone how to know when they‘re hungry. You don’t need to. They just know.
3. Where are the underwriters? Insurance actuaries and underwriters (not allowed within a two city block radius of a wellness conference) would immediately and dramatically lower the cost of risk based on wellness ROI − if it really was the “Holy Grail” of health cost management. I suspect they’re suspect about wellness ROI data.
4. Road Runners don’t dwell on ROI? For those that think business execs use ROI to justify all decisions − why don’t I remember the ROI data that drove business mobile phone sales? Or the ROI metrics that got businesses using email?
If you want to get steam rolled like the Coyote while your competitors take off like the Road Runner – just sit around and wait for definitive ROI data when the evidence is intuitive. Does anyone really think healthy people are not less expensive and more productive than unhealthy employees?
5. Too much stuff in the mix: An employee benefit plan is much like a fruit smoothie. Lots of stuff going on in there. To isolate one element of it, and claim it was the cause of a cost reduction, would take months or years, millions of dollars, and an impeccable scientific methodology. Check out the Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings by Baicker, Cutler, and Song. Refer to that study and tell your management “what they said.” But to try to re-demonstrate an ROI at every workplace is lunacy. Even this highly-respected review of the literature presents significant disclaimers to the data.
If Wellness Cost Just 1% of Healthcare,
You’re Paying 1% Too Much
By the way, I think many workplace wellness tactics have been outdated by fast-evolving communication technology and billions of dollars of easily available online health resources. There is no reason that a top-notch wellness program can’t be offered for $0 PEPY (per employee per year). You read that right. F R E E!
And don’t get me started by telling me your wellness program cost is just 1% or 2% of your total healthcare spend. That’s way (way, way) too expensive! It’s based on a pricing model that reflects wellness practices that unnecessarily re-create resources, and employs complex and labor intense practices. And all-the-while ignores the rich resources now available to anybody with an internet connection.
Look for communication-based, fun, inexpensive, multi-media, community centric, and internet savvy wellness programs to rock the workplace wellness industry in the near future.
If you’d like to see a powerful idea for a free Workplace Wellness Program, check out my post − 3 Big Problems with Big Wellness Programs For Small Businesses.
And that Return on Investment stuff? Just think about the Coyote… beep, beep!
Shawn is the President and Founder of Hope Health. For over 30 years, his work has focused on bringing clear, easy-to-read, and watch health messages to the public via workplaces. He bills himself as the “Best C+ Student in the Wellness Biz” because, as he says, “I like to challenge the notion that there is no such thing as a stupid question.” Shawn is on a mission to tie workplaces into their surrounding communities to share resources and ideas in an effort to improve the health of all Americans.
You may reach Shawn at sconnors@HopeHealth.com or 800-334-4094.