Daily Briefing Blog

Do wellness programs work or not?


Dan Diamond, Managing Editor

Wellness plans aren't working well—or so suggests a new RAND study that raises questions, again, about whether the programs are worth the investment for employers.

After surveying 600 businesses, reseachers found that the programs offered limited financial benefit, and didn't really improve workers' health, either.

But we know that some wellness programs, like the Cleveland Clinic's much-touted plan, do seem to be succeeding. So what's the secret?

I asked John Workman of the Advisory Board's HR Investment Center for his take on the study and the broader debate.

"Employee wellness programs can be worthwhile, especially if viewed through the lens of your employment proposition and employee engagement.," Workman told me. "But organizations have to be clear about their end goal." 

Workman pointed me to his team's research on capturing returns from wellness. "If you’re looking strictly to control costs, then plan design, intensive case management of costliest plan members, and improved negotiations with third-party vendors are the proven methods," he added. 

But "we remain highly skeptical of any hard-dollar savings from pure wellness programs," Workman said.

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