CEOs participate in, but don’t evaluate wellness programs


After more than a year of participation in workforce wellness programs, mid-Atlantic companies are still enthusiastic about the benefits but can’t prove programs are making a difference.

A recent survey conducted by RCM&D in partnership with the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research polled 150 companies with workforce wellness programs and showed that although 78 percent of senior leadership is committed to wellness, only one in four companies evaluates the impact on health plan claims. This, despite the fact that 72 percent of those surveyed said reducing health plan costs was their major objective.

The findings of the survey were presented to the GBC Health Care Committee which has been a long time partner of Healthiest Maryland Businesses, the state initiative to encourage more companies and organizations to institute workforce wellness programs.

The more common method of evaluation for plans was participation as opposed to quantifiable savings or improvements in health status. Dave Johnson, senior vice president at RCM&D, said when they looked more deeply into this measurement they found several potential reasons why.

First, usually human resources is responsible for the programs; they are not administered from the CEO’s office. Second, although more than three quarters of CEOs were committed to the programs, their commitment was evidenced by sending out emails encouraging participation rather than making the wellness programs accountable for affecting the bottom line of the company. Third, employers often depend on their health plan to measure outcomes.

Eighty-four percent of the companies surveyed did not have an operating plan for their programs or a reliable funding stream.

“It is important to know what you want to measure and to measure it,” Johnson said.

Measureable objectives include reduced health care costs, reduced absenteeism and increased productivity.

“The company needs to own it to make it effective,” Johnson said.