Employer wellness programs have become more popular in the last several years. Its popularity for implementation has its roots in the ever increasing concerns of rising prevalence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and many other chronic illnesses. In fact, based on recent surveys, almost 80% of companies offer some type of a wellness program.
Vendors for these wellness programs have enjoyed their growth in the last several years to a point where it has become a $6 billion industry.
So, it is only fair to ask the question: Are employers getting a significant rate of return on their investment?
The rationale for having a wellness program in the workplace is to create a organizational culture of wellness, improve the health of its employees, decrease turnover, increase productivity, reduce health care costs, and on a larger scale - improve the health of our nation. Nearly half of Americans get their health benefits from their employer and we all spend a majority of our time in the workplace. Thus, these goals and rationale make sense.
But, has this $6 billion industry delivered on its promise?
On average, employers spend about $693 per worker and larger companies who have 20,000 workers or more spend nearly $878 per worker. A large survey found that although some biometric markers like BMI, smoking cessation, and exercise had improved, these changes were not large enough to reduce health care costs nor provide the employer with a substantial ROI.
In addition, one of the major challenges in offering a wellness program is employee engagement (industry talk for employee participation). Surveys have shown that even after a wellness program is implemented, employee engagement is low. Studies have shown that the lost productivity from employee disengagement costs between $450 billion and $550 billion annually in the United States. For each employee, disengagement can cost the employer $5,000 to $7,000 per year in lost productivity.
What if a physician led an employee health benefit plan where it included resources like fitness trainers, physical therapists, nutritionist, chiropractor, acupuncture, supplements for healthy eating and weight loss, financial advisors, lawyers for estate planning, massage therapists, counselors, medical specialists, and educators?
What if the physician also had partners in imaging, laboratory, pathology, had wholesale medications in their office, did not charge for any office visits or in clinic procedures like EKG, joint injections, suturing, skin biopsies, wound care, breathing treatments, or spirometry?
What if each employee as part of this physician led wellness plan had 24/7 access to their physician, even during holidays? Certainly a relationship between the employee and the physician is inevitable. So is there value in this relationship where the physician understands the stresses, aspirations, goals, as well as medical condition of the employee?
Finally, what if the cost is only $600 per employee that is fixed annually with no other out of pocket expenses for the employer? While the employee enjoys significantly discounted medications, imaging, laboratory, and other services.
The answer to all these questions is not an ideal nor is it impossible to implement. I do it already with companies right here in Kansas City. Many physicians across the country who share my vision and mission have also aligned their practice with other companies of various sizes.
In a study that reviewed insurance claims data from 2013 to 2014 showed that the employees who belonged to the Direct Primary Care model compared to those who did not saved $679,000 per 1000 employees. In addition, there were close to 20% less claims from the DPC group.
Isn't it time to be innovative and offer a more comprehensive program to your employees? My practice is NOT insurance. So to qualify for the ACA mandate, employers must have a high deductible plan or a self insured plan that can be paired with our practice to give the most value to your employees.
Healthcare is changing. Costs are rising and the physician supply is decreasing. Employers can play an important role in changing this landscape with one decision: partner with a direct primary care practice.
Our mission is to recruit more primary care physicians, retain more physicians in private practice to facilitate patient focused care, and bring back continuity and relationship medicine. We do this simply because the health of our nation depends upon it.
Please contact us today if you would like to learn more about our primary care practice and how we can partner together to truly establish wellness in the workplace.
To your health
- Dr. Ahmed
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"He who studies medicine without books sails an uncharted sea, but he who studies medicine without patients does not go to sea at all."