Friday, February 22, 2008

Monetary Health Incentives Show Cost Effectiveness and Improved Productivity in the Workplace

We now know what can motivate people to take responsibility for their health – it is money, pure and simple. The results of a pilot program have been presented at the annual conference of the American College of Preventive Medicine. DIRECTV has seen significant improvement in the health of their employees, as well as definite cost benefits after participating in an aggressive health program for their employees.
The incentive provided was $50 per employee to participate in a health screening program.

Those who were found to have health risk factors were given a $200 health insurance credit for continued participation in the program. Those with no health risks were also given the $200 credit. The study was conducted over a three year period in 2003 - the results were positive – 42% of employees with three health risk factors had no health risks at the end of the study. Disability decreased by 16%; the company saved money in medical expenditures and the employees shared those cost savings.

Matria Healthcare initiated the study in conjunction with investigators from Harvard and Cornell Universities. Support came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Ron Loeppke, MD, MPH, a vice president with Matria, presented the initial findings.

The financial benefit to DIRECTV is translated as follows: “Reducing the number of "lost" days per employee from 8 to 7 (12%) would be the equivalent of increasing gross sales by $76 million”.

Health problems that may not draw attention in the workplace include depression, fatigue, back and neck pain, chronic pain, insomnia, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and anxiety, all of which contribute to decreased productivity on the job: absenteeism is not always the problem.

Physicians who met evidence based guidelines were also rewarded, creating a “profit sharing” environment. Additional rewards were given to employees for even greater health improvements.

I’m not sure why I’m surprised that money should be such a motivating factor toward good health. Good health just isn’t enough, as evidenced by statistics reflecting the incidence of hypertension, obesity and metabolic syndrome among the general population.

Researchers have made a multitude of proposals to provide public solutions for curbing unhealthy lifestyles and toward health risk management. It seems that this business model should be viewed as completely implementable. It is certainly encouraging, especially when everyone benefits. I’m so impressed that I’m going to order DIRECTV.

Kudos to the employees,their dependents and to the company.