Reasons Wellness Programs Do Not Achieve Optimal Results – #3: Information Overload

This blog entry continues the series examining market insights of the wellness industry that we've gathered through contributing broker and consultant partners. One of the striking themes from our industry research is that even the best and brightest in and around the industry have a difficult time getting their arms around the nuances of the population health management industry. In fact, in preparing to design our Wellness Navigator product, we are able to identify 36 initial categories in which providers were delivering wellness offerings . Since this initial research, we have identified 10 additional categories which will be added in the future. In total, that is almost 50 component parts that get classified as “wellness” or “population health management”. Some wellness providers offer 1 of these 50, while others offer as many as 30 or 40 of these components. Services such as immunization, biometric screenings, incentive management, tobacco cessation, etc. It seems as if the list continues to grow every day. Additionally, these providers are brought to the end consumer, the employer, by consultants, insurance carriers, their third-party administrators, or the single independent wellness provider themselves.

So with this level of complexity, the industry is due for a period of settling, right? It has to begin to consolidate and simplify, doesn't it? I wouldn't be so sure. In what is now a highly publicized multi-billion dollar industry (estimates from $2-8 billion), more and more people are “following the money”. The technology revolution we are in the midst of doesn't help slow this proliferation. Just 5 years ago how many companies were in the “wearable” space? Now I've seen new products just in the last month that measure respiratory rate, a shirt that measures your heart rate variability and a helmet that monitors your brain waves to assess your stress level…and allow you to remotely control things with your brain. The mere definition of wellness is getting more and more complex every day.

We believe that the consolidation of these services must be driven by the broker and consultant market. These groups are the trusted resource which drives the selection of most population health management programs for employers. In our research, this group told us that they average 9 hours a week in simple administrative tasks of issuing rfps and “spreadsheeting” providers trying to understand the differences. Additionally they spent another 4 hours a week listening to vendor updates. Add it up and they hardly have time to meet with their clients, let alone steer the evolving direction of an industry when they are averaging almost 700 hours a year on these tasks. No wonder they strongly agreed with the statement (3.97 on a scale of 5) that “It is challenging & time consuming to stay up-to-date on the expanding wellness marketplace”.

Even the industry leaders admit having a difficult time keeping tabs on what is going on in the marketplace. We recently spoke with the CEO of one of the top 10 wellness providers in the country. The question he asked was “how do you figure out what direction the industry is going? We have a hard time compartmentalizing it all ourselves”. We compared notes about how we define the industry and found out that our methods were totally different. My big take away from a conversation where each of us gave valid explanations of how and why we define the industry as we do, is that no standardization exists.

With all of these factors it will continue to be a complex issue to get high returns on a wellness program investment. New systems of analysis need to be adopted to maximize process efficiency and understand program successes and failures quicker than in the past. Only then will organizations be set up to make the most of their wellness program.