CEOs Push Corporate Wellness Data Standards, Evidence-Based Programming

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Nine CEOs from major corporations met in DC last month to announce that innovation, data-sharing, and evidence-based health and wellness programs would produce more efficient, less costly healthcare system with better outcomes and healthier people. Good to know, guys.

This idea isn’t breaking news for corporate wellness professionals. What’s new as far as I know is the call for a nationwide coordinated effort. Consider:

Yes, indeed…what if?

Corner office conflict?

The council included CEOs from the big guys like Verizon, Bank of America, Walgreens and Coca Cola.

Now, there’s been a bit of a ruckus already since Coca Cola makes and profits from, well, Coke, and this council is about wellness.

And as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, both here and elsewhere, Walgreens, “at the corner of happy and healthy” STILL sells cigarettes and other tobacco products. (Which is why I’ll be getting my flu shot at CVS, who announced earlier this year that they’d stop selling tobacco products, and actually beat their own self-imposed deadline!).

But let’s move on from these interesting but peripheral considerations.

Do standards really help?

Standardized measurements and reporting, sharing innovative solutions — all good. We’ve done several healthcare analytics projects this year, for various employers, technology vendors and corporate wellness providers, and data standardization is a huge issue across the board. At least clinicians have been working for a long time on the issue. Data generated by workplace wellness initiatives is usually in the Dark Ages, full of data integrity issues and consistent problems.

Plus, innovative solutions and evidence-based programming can only take you so far. Effective employee health and wellness programs don’t always scale; and over-standardizing (cough cough — HL7, anyone?) by trying to implement identical solutions in every workplace can rob initiatives of their effectiveness. Not all health data systems are created equal, not all employers and workforces have the same needs, and not all members of a patient population respond equally well to the same clinical intervention.

It’s great that the CEOS got together. No doubt that their buy-in is, eventually, mandatory.

But a C-level conversation is worth much more when its informed by the experiences and insights of the health and wellness leaders and professionals who have been to the wars, who have “been there, done that.”

Without considering the lessons learned by employers, providers, carriers, brokers, TPAs and plan managers, care managers, wellness program managers, and others, we’re just starting the game over, with the pieces rearranged.

We’ve been crying for standards ever since we had data. The question is: whose standards, and informed by what experiences?  We need evidence-based standards that then inform individual employer decisions.

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