Positive Takeaways from the Recent RAND Report on Worksite Wellness Programs
Many individuals are aware of the recent RAND Report that was published regarding effectiveness of worksite wellness programs. Various articles and editorial opinion pieces have been published following the release of the RAND report, using information from the report which portrays worksite wellness programs in a negative light. These various publications have labeled worksite wellness programs as ineffective, resulting in little to no return on investment (ROI).
While we respect the articles and editorial pieces that have been written, it is interesting that they chose only to focus on the negative findings offered in the RAND Report, whereas the Report had many positive findings regarding worksite wellness programs, and demonstrated how when properly designed, have the ability to positively impact a population and drive behavior change.
Some of the positive findings demonstrated in the RAND Report on Worksite Wellness Programs are as follows:
- Participants showed improvement in exercise frequency, smoking behavior, and weight control.
- Participants’ total medical care costs were $157 per year lower than non-participants, with an increase in the cost savings over time.
- The RAND Report’s final hypothesis that “there is reason to believe that a reduction in direct medical costs would materialize if employees continued to participate in a wellness program.”
One thing to keep in mind when considering the findings of the RAND Report on worksite wellness programs is that it is only one report. There are nearly 60 other controlled studies which have shown that best-practice wellness programs that target risk reduction and chronic condition management do have a significant impact on short-term (improved performance and reduced absenteeism/presenteeism), intermediate-term (reduction in unnecessary visits to the doctor and ER), and long-term (compression of morbidity through avoidance of early onset of chronic conditions and diseases) outcomes that result in cost-avoidance and ROI.
Admittedly, there are many wellness programs out there that have limited effectiveness and actually have a negative ROI. That’s primarily because those programs are not well-designed and are focused on promoting awareness only or simply on participation in activities that don’t significantly impact health risks, chronic conditions, healthcare utilization, and productivity impairment. For such programs, ROI will be minimal at best.
The bottom line: It’s important to design an outcomes-based program that targets risk reduction and management of chronic conditions, and places incentives on employee achievement of those outcomes.