Benchmarks of Successful Wellness Programs

What does it take to become one of America’s healthiest companies? How can companies with both large and small employers link health and well-being to business outcomes?

Achieving Well Workplace status requires making the switch from activity-centered to results-oriented programming which takes hard work and extreme attention to detail. Results-oriented programs are those programs which are carefully researched, thoughtfully designed, and diligently executed. These programs are focused on impacting the organization’s bottom line through improved employee health.

According to recent benchmarking studies, there are a number of common elements inherent in successful health promotion initiatives that can attain measurable results. Companies with successful wellness programs have:

  • the strong support of the senior level leadership that can be measured
  • an integrated diverse and well-functioning Wellness team
  • a process for collecting data to drive the Wellness initiative
  • an annual operating plan that serves as the communication vehicle as to what the program will accomplish
  • appropriate health promotion interventions for their employees
  • supportive health-promoting environment and policies to support participation
  • a carefully planned evaluation strategy that would evaluate the outcome of the above benchmarks and holds them accountable

Source: Absolute Advantage

Patient’s Bill of Rights

The Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued regulations to implement a new Patient’s Bill of Rights under the Affordable Care Act – which will help children (and eventually all Americans) with pre-existing conditions gain coverage and keep it; protect all Americans’ choice of doctors; eliminate the need for a referral to see an ob-gyn or seeking emergency care; and end lifetime limits on the care consumers may receive.

The new rules also ensure that if you like your current health care plan, you can keep it; youth up to the age of 26 can stay on their parents health care plan; tax credits for small businesses that have been struggling to provide care to their employees; and $250 checks to tens of thousands of seniors who have reached the ‘donut hole’ — a term used to describe the gap in Medicare Part D prescription coverage.

Source: HHS and HealthReform.Gov; June, 22nd 2010

Personalized Health Solutions

According to Dr. Kvedar of Healthrageous, Inc. “given the right tools and the right information, individuals can be their own best care providers.”

Launched in 2010, Healthrageous, Inc. designs and delivers highly effective, personalized, interactive, motivational self-management solutions that help individuals shed unhealthy habits, improve their adherence to medical advice, and embrace healthy lifestyles.

Healthrageous’ solutions can be packaged as workplace benefit for large employers, health plans and insurers, specialty care and disease management companies, provider health systems, pharmaceutical makers and clinical trial sponsors, pharmacy benefit managers, device makers, and consumer wellness retail and fitness brands.

Healthrageous’ technology platform is designed to interface with most major manufacturers of biometric sensors and telemedicine devices, smart phone operating systems, popular social network media, leading direct-to-consumer outbound telephonic call systems, and emerging Web-based personal health record (PHR) systems.

The company’s solutions are based on technologies developed at the Center for Connected Health, a division of Partners HealthCare, founded by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, teaching affiliates of Harvard Medical School. Healthrageous, Inc. is headquartered in Massachusetts.

Source: PR NewsWire, June 2010

Herbal Supplements

A report released last summer states that U.S. consumers spent $14.8 billion on natural supplements in 2007. According to a recent investigation conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) undercover government employees received consistently false information when shopping for supplements, and analyses show most supplements contain trace amounts of contaminants.

Of the 40 herbal supplements tested for the GAO investigation, 37 contained trace levels of at least one hazardous compound. These heavy metal levels are down from a 2004 study, published in JAMA, Journal of the American Medical Association, which found dangerous levels of heavy metals in 20 percent of herbal supplements tested.

Despite these findings the FDA only requires pre-market evaluation of products containing any “new dietary ingredient” that has not previously been used in a supplement. However, levels of exposure depend on how much of a supplement a person takes.

The lab also tested the supplements for pesticides and found that 18 of 40 contained traces of at least one formula. Although the EPA sets limits for many pesticides, if a pesticide has not been sufficiently evaluated to have an established maximum level, any amount is considered too much. Sixteen of the supplements thus exceeded the acceptable pesticide levels, and four of the pesticide residues were from formulas not approved for use in the U.S., according to the report.

SOURCE: Curaxis, May 28th, 2010

Smoking Major Cause of Newborn Death

Although the number of women who smoke during pregnancy has declined, smoking is still a major cause of newborn deaths, premature births, and babies born underweight. A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains that infant lives could be saved if more mothers quit smoking before pregnancy. The study was published in the July issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, and analyzed data from 3.3 million births during 2002. The study suggests that 23-34 percent of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome cases were directly linked to mother’s smoking. Smoking mothers are also responsible for about $232 million in health care costs each year. 


Benefits Of Wellness Programs

A study by researchers with Emory University Rollins School of Public Health concludes that at least one large-scale work site wellness program actually fostered meaningful changes, including a drop in employee absenteeism.

To measure the benefits of wellness programs, researchers put in place at 12 Dow Chemical work sites between 2006 and 2007. At five of the sites, employees received intensive interventions; four site received moderate interventions, and three sites implemented the company’s standard programs.

Employee absenteeism fell from 3.9 days in 2006 to 3.4 days in 2007, researchers found. Meanwhile, between 2006 and 2007, average absenteeism at moderate/intense sites was 1.5 days lower than at standard sites. Dow saved about $414.90 per employee per year.

Source: FierceHealthcare Nov. 2009

Improvement Map

The sheer volume of often conflicting demands placed upon hospitals — coupled with a deteriorating financial climate—can make the notion of improving care quality seem like an idealistic improbability at best, an impossibility at worst. Many healthcare executives are pretty skeptical that quality improvement is a realistic goal in current healthcare landscape.

In response to the current situation The Institute for Health Improvement (IHI) has designed an “improvement map” to help hospital leaders sift through myriad regulations, measurements, and demands to hone an essential set of processes and craft an organization-specific plan for quality improvement.

The Improvement Map™ is an interactive, web-based tool designed to bring together the best knowledge available on the key process improvements that lead to better patient care. It offers clear guidance helping hospitals set change agendas, establish priorities, organize work, and optimize resources.

View The Gap Analysis Chart

View The Introductory Video

Source: The Institute of Health Improvement

Quick Accurate Assessments for Healthcare

In order for healthcare leaders to make quick accurate assessments they need to develop skills in four key areas:

    Understanding the messiness of improving healthcare
    Determining why they are measuring
    Understanding and depicting variation
    Translating data into information

It’s important the leaders understand that the complexity of healthcare challenges cannot be adequately understood with simple models or theories; and the awareness that rarely does a single variable drive an outcome.

It’s also important to be clear about the purpose of the measurement efforts and make the distinction between the three faces of performance measurement: accountability, research, and improvement.
Healthcare organizations regularly engage in and use all three approaches to performance measurement. These efforts can become counterproductive by mixing measurement for accountability or research with measurement for improvement. When the aims and methods of the three aspects of performance measurement are mixed, we run the risk of thin slicing the intended measurement aim and increase the probability of arriving at incorrect conclusions.

Source: Robert Lloyd, PhD June 2010; Institute for Health Improvement


According to Deepak Chopra the most significant health benefits of meditation are stress reduction, better sleep, lower blood pressure, improved cardiovascular function, improved immunity, and the ability to stay centered in the midst of all the turmoil that’s going on around you. Meditation helps you do less and accomplish more.

Click on the link below to view Deepak Chopra defining meditation, performing a healing meditation and demonstrating the law of attraction and meditation.  Rediscover the purpose of meditation and get tips from one of the world’s most respected authors and spiritual guides:

Meditation Techniques Demonstrated by Deepak Chopra

Common Faults in Human Thought

When communicating with people, it’s important to understand their cognitive biases that our minds commonly do to distort our own view of reality. Some are adaptive, for example, because they lead to more effective actions in given contexts or enable faster decisions when faster decisions are of greater value. Others result from a lack of appropriate mental mechanisms, or from the misapplication of a mechanism that is adaptive under different circumstances.

Here are some examples:

Gambler’s Fallacy
The Gambler’s fallacy is the tendency to think that future probabilities are altered by past events, when in reality, they are not. Certain probabilities, such as getting a heads when you flip a (fair) coin, are always the same. The probability of getting a heads is 50%, it does not matter if you’ve gotten tails the last 10 flips.

Reactivity is the tendency of people to act or appear differently when they know that they are being observed.

Pareidolia is when random images or sounds are perceived as significant. The Rorschach Inkblot test was developed to use pareidolia to tap into people’s mental states. Testees are shown images of ambiguous pictures, and asked to describe what they see. Responses are analyzed to discover the testee’s hidden thoughts.

Self-fulfilling Prophecy
Self-fulfilling prophecy is engaging in behaviors that obtain results that confirm existing attitudes. A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that causes itself to become true. For example, I believe that I am going to do poorly in school, so I decrease the effort I put into my assignments and studying, and I end up doing poorly, just as I thought.

Economic Recessions are self-fulfilling prophecies. Because a recession is 2 quarters of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline, you cannot know you are in a recession until you are at least 6 months into one. Unfortunately, at the first sign of decreasing GDP, the media reports a possible recession, people panic and start a chain of events that actually cause a recession.

The Halo Effect
The Halo effect is the tendency for an individual’s positive or negative trait to “spill over” to others’ perception of them. For example, the Physical Attractiveness Stereotype is when people assume that attractive individuals possess other socially desirable qualities, such as happiness, success and intelligence. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when attractive people are given privileged treatment such as better job opportunities and higher salaries.

Herd Mentality
Herd mentality is the tendency to adopt the opinions and follow the behaviors of the majority to feel safer and to avoid conflict.

Reactance is the urge to do the opposite of what someone wants you to do out of a need to resist a perceived attempt to constrain your freedom of choice. “Reverse Psychology” is an attempt to influence people using reactance. Tell someone (particularly children) to do the opposite of what you really want, and they will rebel and actually end up doing what you want.

Hyperbolic Discounting
Hyperbolic discounting is the tendency for people to prefer a smaller, immediate payoff over a larger, delayed payoff. Interestingly, delay time is a big factor in choosing an alternative in decision making. Put simply, most people would choose to get 20 dollars today instead of getting 100 dollars one year from today.

Escalation of Commitment
Escalation of commitment is the tendency for people to continue to support previously unsuccessful endeavors.

The Placebo Effect
The Placebo effect is when an ineffectual substance that is believed to have healing properties produces the desired effect. Especially common with medications, the placebo effect has been observed when individuals given a sugar pill for a real ailment report improvement.

Confirmation Bias
The confirmation bias is the tendency to look for or interpret information in a way that confirms beliefs. Individuals reinforce their ideas and attitudes by selectively collecting evidence or retrieving biased memories.

Availability Heuristic
The Availability heuristic is gauging what is more likely based on vivid memories. The problem is individuals tend to remember unusual events more than everyday, commonplace events. For example, airplane crashes receive lots of national media coverage. Fatal car crashes do not. However, more people are afraid of flying than driving a car, even though statistically airplane travel is safer.

Illusion of Control
Illusion of Control is the tendency for individuals to believe they can control or at least influence outcomes that they clearly have no influence on. For example when playing craps in a casino, people will throw the dice hard when they need a high number and soft when they need a low number. In reality, the strength of the throw will not guarantee a certain outcome, but the gambler believes they can control the number they roll.

Planning Fallacy
The Planning fallacy is the tendency to underestimate the time needed to complete tasks. The planning fallacy actually stems from another error, the “Optimism Bias”, which is the tendency for individuals to be overly positive about the outcome of planned actions. People are more susceptible to the planning fallacy when the task is something they have never done before. The reason for this is because we estimate based on past experiences. “Realistic Pessimism” is a phenomenon where depressed or overly pessimistic people more accurately predict task completion estimations.

Restraint Bias
Restraint Bias is the tendency to overestimate one’s ability to show restraint in the face of temptation, or the “perceived ability to have control over an impulse,” generally relating to hunger, drug and sexual impulses. The truth is people do not have control over visceral impulses; you can ignore hunger, but you cannot wish it away. Unfortunately, this bias has serious consequences. When an individual has an inflated (perceived) sense of control over their impulses, they tend to overexpose themselves to temptation, which in turn promotes the impulsive behavior.

Just-World Phenomenon
The Just-World Phenomenon is when witnesses of an injustice, in order to rationalize it, will search for things that the victim did to deserve it. This eases their anxiety and allows them to feel safe; if they avoid that behavior, injustice will not happen to them. This peace of mind comes at the expense of blaming the innocent victim. The Mean World Theory is a phenomenon where, due to violent television and media, viewers perceive the world as more dangerous than it really is, prompting excessive fear and protective measures.

Endowment Effect
The Endowment Effect is the idea that people will require more to give up an object than they would pay to acquire it. It is based on the hypothesis that people place a high value on their property. This happens frequently when people sell their cars and ask more than the book value of the vehicle, and nobody wants to pay the price. This bias is linked to two theories; “loss aversion” says that people prefer to avoid losses rather than obtain gains, and “status quo” bias says that people hate change and will avoid it unless the incentive to change is significant.

Self-Serving Bias
A Self-Serving Bias occurs when an individual attributes positive outcomes to internal factors and negative outcomes to external factors. This is very common as people regularly take credit for successes but refuse to accept responsibility for failures. When considering the outcomes of others, we attribute causes exactly the opposite as we do to ourselves. When we learn that the person who sits next to us failed the exam, we attribute it to an internal cause: that person is stupid or lazy. Likewise, if they aced the exam, they got lucky, or the professor likes them more. This is known as the Fundamental Attribution Error.

Cryptomnesia is a form of misattribution where a memory is mistaken for imagination. Also known as inadvertent plagiarism, this is actually a memory bias where a person (inaccurately) recalls producing an idea or thought. There are many proposed causes of Cryptomnesia, including cognitive impairment, and lack of memory reinforcement. False Memory Syndrome is a controversial condition where an individual’s identity and relationships are affected by false memories that are strongly believed to be true by the afflicted. Recovered Memory Therapies including hypnosis, probing questions and sedatives are often blamed for these false memories.

Bias Blind
The Bias blind spot is the tendency not to acknowledge one’s own thought biases. There is actually a bias to explain this bias (imagine that!). The Better-Than-Average Bias is the tendency for people to inaccurately rate themselves as better than the average person on socially desirable skills or positive traits. Coincidentally, they also rate themselves as lower than average on undesirable traits.

Attribute Substitution
This explain cognitive biases. Attribute substitution is a process individuals go through when they have to make a computationally complex judgment. Instead of making the difficult judgment, we unconsciously substitute an easily calculated heuristic (Heuristics are strategies using easily accessible, though loosely related, information to aid problem solving). These heuristics are simple rules that everyone uses everyday when processing information, they generally work well for us; however, they occasionally cause systematic errors, aka, cognitive biases.

Source: Listverse, June 2010