August 08, 2014

Infographic: More Americans Now Have Health Insurance, New Gallup Data Shows

New data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® demonstrates that, despite the many hiccups associated with rolling out provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the healthcare law has led to a tremendous shift in health insurance coverage. In the third quarter of 2013, 18 percent of Americans were without health insurance; by the first quarter of 2014, that number was down to 13.5 percent, its lowest point in years.

Check out our newest infographic, which reveals some fascinating insights from Gallup-Healthways research, including which states are seeing the greatest percentage of their residents without insurance as well as how health insurance coverage affects well-being.

For a deep dive into the data, Dan Witters, research director at Gallup, extensively discussed trends associated with health insurance data in a Healthways-sponsored webinar last month.

To learn more about the Well-Being Index, visit http://info.healthways.com/wbi2013.

The ACA's Impact on Health Insurance Coverage Nationally, Regionally and Individually

 


Written by: Madison Agee

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August 06, 2014

More than 40 Percent of Americans Have Past-Due Debts

In a report released in July, the Urban Institute found that 5.3 percent of American adults have a debt past due – meaning anywhere from 30 to 180 days late. To become current on these debts, these individuals would have to pay an average of approximately $2,300 per person. Even more alarming, the study also revealed that 35 percent of American adults have a non-mortgage debt in collection (more than 180 days past due). These 77 million Americans owe an average of about $5,200 each.

As we’ve discussed before in this blog, financial well-being is one of the five inter-related elements of well-being – along with purpose, social, community and physical. Because these elements are interdependent, low financial well-being can negatively affect the other elements. Low financial well-being can adversely impact physical and emotional health, put incredible strain on family and social relationships, decrease people’s interest or ability to engage in their community, and otherwise act as a barrier to people living their best lives. At work, it can make an employee less productive (imagine trying to get an important project finished if your water is in danger of being shut off) and less willing to engage in any well-being improvement programs offered by the company. In short, financial well-being matters – a lot. We should all be talking about it and devising ways to improve it.

Dave Ramsey is someone who talks about financial well-being and the ways in which individuals and families can alleviate financial stress. Considered America’s trusted resource on money, his straightforward approach to financial management, household budgeting, debt reduction and savings has been put into practice by millions of Americans. Perhaps most importantly, Ramsey understands that the key to improving financial well-being is achieving and sustaining behavior change, one step at a time.

One of the millions of people Ramsey has helped, a guy named Vince, recently garnered some media attention when he posted a hilarious online advertisement listing an amp for sale. In the ad, Vince laments, “Dave Ramsey ruined my life” by advocating “tightening the old spending belt and saving all of your disposable income.” The tongue-in-cheek tone of the ad has Vince remembering with nostalgia a former period in his life when he could buy things that brought him fleeting enjoyment but added to his household debt. To keep faithful to Ramsey’s philosophy, Vince is selling his amp to earn enough cash to purchase an acoustic guitar he’s been eyeing.

Vince listed his amp for sale so he could earn enough cash to buy an acoustic guitar.

Vince decided to sell his amp so he could earn enough cash to buy an acoustic guitar. With this kind of savvy approach to money, he hopes to avoid being one of the 40% of Americans with past-due debts.

A follow-up article to the ad captures Vince’s more sincere feelings toward Ramsey’s approach. Vince says, “[I]t’s given my wife and me something concrete that we can be together on regarding finances,” noting that “having unified financial goals plays a big role in marital harmony.”

Although Vince’s ad puts a humorous spin on raising your financial well-being, it’s an incredibly serious issue. Unless people are able to adopt new attitudes and behaviors toward their money, we’ll likely continue to see staggering statistics like those in the Urban Institute study for some time to come.


Written by: Madison Agee

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July 30, 2014

Which Has a Greater Impact on Employee Productivity: Well-Being or Chronic Disease?

Having a chronic condition no doubt has an impact on your productivity at work. Employers are well aware of this fact, and typically structure their wellness programs to focus on improving their employees’ physical health to prevent productivity loss. This approach is understandable, given that the existing body of scientific literature supports the idea that physical health (such as the presence or absence of chronic illnesses) is the primary contributor to worker productivity.

However, findings from a new study recently published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has called this commonly held belief into question. The study showed that employees’ well-being is actually a more important contributor to on-the-job productivity than their chronic disease status. The study, “Comparing the Contributions of Well-Being and Disease Status to Employee Productivity,” is the first to challenge the common belief that physical health is the primary contributor to employee productivity levels. It’s also the first study to specifically show that well-being improvement can increase productivity in both healthy populations and those with disease.

Well-being is a more complex and holistic measure. Well-being considers not only the important role of physical health but also a person’s sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security and community attachment.

“As individuals, we intuitively know that we are not at our best when we are stressed about anything that is important to our well-being,” said James E. Pope M.D., chief science officer at Healthways and coauthor of the article. “What this research has shown is how these elements of well-being interact to drive decreased productivity. Equally exciting is the discovery that programs designed to help improve the overall well-being can improve the productivity of both healthy and chronically ill individuals alike.

“Measuring employee well-being and understanding the unique aspects of their populations will help employers achieve more successful outcomes with their programs. Higher well-being manifests in greater degrees of creativity, innovation and employee engagement, all of which can improve value for employers by shifting the focus from productivity loss to productivity gain.”

The two-year survey tracked the well-being of more than 2,600 employees at three different companies. Researchers divided the employees into two groups: those that had no chronic conditions and those with diabetes (these individuals may have had other health conditions). Diabetes was selected as the focus chronic condition due to its prevalence and demonstrated impact on productivity.

The study showed that employees with higher well-being demonstrated greater workplace productivity, regardless of whether they suffered from chronic conditions. In addition, well-being was more important than chronic disease or demographic factors in defining how productive a person would be in any given year. Over time, changes in well-being contributed significantly to shifts in productivity beyond what could be explained by any individual characteristic, such as disease status, age, gender or socioeconomic status.

To read more about improving on-the-job productivity, download a copy of Healthways’ eBook 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Improving Productivity in the Workplace.


Written by: Madison Agee

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

July 24, 2014

Arianna Huffington: Changing the Definition of Success

Arianna Huffington has a mission: She wants to evolve our society’s thinking on how we define success. Traditionally, we’ve seen it as twofold: money and power. Huffington believes that this is far too limiting, not to mention borderline dangerous. In putting too much importance on accumulating more power and more money, we’re putting ourselves at risk of burnout and exhaustion, poor physical health, unhappiness, and low well-being. We’re also negatively affecting connections with our family, friends and community.

Especially concerning for Huffington is that our modern culture fetishizes this. Being overworked, exhausted and burned out is a badge of honor. We constantly talk about how many hours we’ve logged at the office, how few hours of sleep we got last night, how many emails we sent, how many projects we’ve completed.

In Huffington’s case, she was a model of traditional success – lots of money and power – but it led her to have a serious wake-up call. She passed out in her office, sending her to the hospital with a fractured cheekbone, a gash above her eye, and the start of a medical journey looking for answers to why she passed out. With few definitive reasons for her accident other than “exhaustion,” Huffington realized that she needed to change her thinking around success.

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Huffington shared her story at Healthways’ 2014 Well-Being Summit and in her latest book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. Each one of us needs to start thinking of success as having three metrics instead of two – the third necessary to truly thrive. This “third metric” has four pillars:

  1. Well-being. Huffington remarked that we take care of our smartphones better than we do ourselves, and this needs to change. Because 75 percent of our modern healthcare costs go to treating preventable, stress-related chronic illnesses, taking time for our better well-being can make an enormous impact.
  2. Wisdom. We need to take time to just think, engage in intellectual activity, and connect to ourselves and the people and the world around us. This requires that we disconnect from our electronic devices and pay attention to things we wouldn’t otherwise see.
  3. Wonder. This entails bringing back to the joy in everyday life – taking note of the usual “occurrences and small miracles that fill our lives” and reveling in them.
  4. Willingness to give. Huffington suggests that we, as human beings, are wired for giving. Our empathy for other people encourages us to complete selfless acts, which in turn creates good feelings within ourselves. This is a “virtuous cycle” that contributes to our better well-being.

 Huffington also discussed how this third metric is playing itself out in workplaces, hers included. At the Huffington Post, there are nap rooms and meditation spaces, and employees and journalists are not expected to check email during non-working hours. She also drew attention to a Volkswagen policy of disabling its employees’ phones after hours.

Huffington believes that by pursuing this third metric of success, we can lead more fulfilling lives with deeper connections to the things that really matter.


Written by: Madison Agee

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July 18, 2014

The Power of the Patient Centered Medical Home

Intended to have a transformative impact on healthcare, the Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) is a model that stresses care coordination, accessibility, patient centrality, comprehensiveness, quality and communication within primary care. It emphasizes primary care physicians, putting them in director-type roles in which these doctors have greater responsibility for the outcomes of their patients’ care. Ideally, the PCMH model can lead to higher quality of care, better outcomes, reduced healthcare costs, and more positive experiences for both the patient and the primary care doctor.

The merits of the PCMH approach to healthcare have been much discussed and analyzed in recent years, in scholarly journals and traditional and online media. Recently, a new Washington Post/Kaiser Health News article was published that highlights the cost savings that Healthways partner CareFirst has realized since the implementation of its PCMH program in 2011. Additional data released by CareFirst suggests that CareFirst members under the care of participating PCMH physicians fare well when measured on key quality indicators.

CareFirst is one of the largest health insurers in the country, with 1.1 million members enrolled in its PCMH. Since the program began, CareFirst has seen the overall rate of increase in medical care spending for its members slow from an average of 7.5 percent per year, in the five years preceding the program’s launch, to 3.5 percent in 2013.

In addition, key quality indicators suggest positive impacts on CareFirst members who are under the care of PCMH primary care providers. When compared to members under the care of non-PCMH physicians, CareFirst members seeing PCMH providers had:

  • 6.4% fewer hospital admissions*
  • 11.1% fewer days in the hospital*
  • 8.1% fewer hospital readmissions for all causes*
  • 11.3% fewer outpatient health facility visits*

This new data released by CareFirst certainly adds to the argument that the PCMH model is one that the healthcare industry should continue to explore as a way to improve outcomes and lower costs.

*Per 1,000 CareFirst Members.


Written by: Madison Agee

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

July 16, 2014

The 3 Leadership Tenets Behind a Strong Well-Being Culture

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Are your leaders actively — and visibly — improving their own well-being?

If your organizational culture and your stated commitment to well-being improvement aren’t in close alignment with one another, you could be unconsciously undermining the potential of your wellness programs. In other words, culture counts – a lot. It doesn’t matter how excellent your benefits package and well-being improvement offerings are if they’re at a constant disconnect with your overall culture. For example, what’s the point of having a generous paid time off (PTO) policy if employees are never actually taking vacation days?

An essential step in determining the state of your well-being culture is to turn a critical eye on your organization and ask some important questions. Once you’ve completed this self-evaluation, you can focus your attention on those areas that you’ve identified for further development. For many organizations, the commitment and behavior of their leaders is a crucial area for improvement.

In a popular webinar from June, experts from Gallup and Healthways provided a great deal of insight into the important role leadership plays in creating, cultivating and sustaining a culture of well-being. According to Ross Scott, Chief Human Resources Officer at Healthways, there are three key leadership tenets behind a strong culture of well-being:

  1. Leaders should be grounded in the value proposition of and fully understand the business case for well-being. Do your leaders truly believe in the value of well-being – that healthier people cost less and perform better? If they do, then they’re much more likely to participate in and encourage their teams’ participation in well-being programs. But if there’s any lingering doubt in a leader’s mind, that could inhibit the success of your well-being improvement program.
  2. Leaders’ own well-being impacts their ability to show up and lead effectively every day. Employees, of course, will model the tone and behaviors set by your leaders, so leaders can’t just expect that employees will embrace and embody better well-being without them. Demonstrating their individual dedication to well-being improvement can make leaders healthier, happier and better in their roles. At the same time, doing so shores up the strength of your well-being programs by not only making it okay, but actively encouraged for employees to engage in well-being improvement activities.
  3. Leaders have the opportunity to influence the well-being of others with every interaction. As described by Gallup, there are “20,000 moments in a day” during which organizations can positively impact their cultures of well-being and help their employees on their own individual journeys. Leaders who remember this and continuously take advantage of the multiple touchpoints and opportunities they have with their employees can make a tremendous positive impact. Relatively simple actions – smiling, taking a moment to listen to an employee, starting a meeting with a question about well-being – can be incredibly powerful actions.

So, how well are your leaders doing in terms of supporting your culture of well-being? Are they exhibiting these three key tenets on a regular basis? Simply educating them on these three principles could help you cultivate your well-being culture – perhaps your leaders aren’t totally aware of the enormous impact they have.

As you’re building your well-being culture, you may want to consider a few thought-provoking ideas that can continue to guide your organization. Luckily, we’ve collected nine of the top ways organizations can create and grow their well-being cultures – complete with easy tips for getting started today with little to no major investment of resources or budget.


Written by: Madison Agee

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

July 08, 2014

The Quiet Emergency of Financial Well-Being

Have you ever stressed about your finances? Have you worried that there’s not enough money in the bank to pay bills? Or felt like you didn’t have an idea how to pay for your child’s college education? Or simply couldn’t figure out how to retire comfortably?

If so, you’re definitely not alone. According to data from Gallup, 43 percent of American workers, if they lost their job, couldn’t go more than one month without experiencing significant financial hardship. More than a quarter (28 percent) don’t feel they currently have enough money to live comfortably. Nearly one in four (39 percent) say saving for the future just isn’t a realistic goal for them.

People at all income levels are struggling financially, with wide-ranging impact. They may not be sleeping at night, exercising or eating right, or quitting smoking even though they know they should. They may be delaying necessary medical treatment, as 30 percent of Americans have done, according to Gallup.

As a result, low financial well-being can all negatively affect the four other elements of well-being: purpose, social, community and physical. Individuals with low financial well-being are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, depression and substance abuse, and have a lower sense of self-worth. They’re likely to restrict activity with friends and family, and reduce their involvement in their communities. In fact, this epidemic of financial distress has been dubbed the “Quiet Emergency in Healthcare” by Forbes.

The impact of poor financial well-being isn’t just limited to individuals. Employers can see higher rates of absenteeism, less on-the-job productivity, and increased health costs from their employees who are struggling financially. Low financial well-being can also impede adoption of employee wellness programs. For example, someone who is living under a mountain of credit card debt probably isn’t making losing weight a top priority. Yet, less than half of large U.S. companies have, or plan on having, a financial wellness strategy in place over the next two years and only 22 percent offer any education around debt management and budgeting to their employees. Poor financial well-being can drive up healthcare usage, creating additional costs for health plans and health systems as well.

At Healthways’ 2014 Well-Being Summit, Andres Gutierrez from the Dave Ramsey organization spoke on the issue of low financial well-being and what can be done to address it. He asserted that one reason for this crisis is ignorance – people simply don’t know enough about personal finance. This isn’t necessarily their fault; the financial services industry refuses to use “straight talk” and real language to better explain its products and services. Little wonder, then, that people make bad decisions when it comes to their money, according to Gutierrez – decisions that become increasingly worse the more trouble they’re facing (e.g., taking out payday and title loans).

So how can individuals improve their financial well-being? The Ramsey approach stresses behavior change over “head knowledge,” guiding people to adjust the way they think about and interact with their money. Using the Seven Baby Steps, complemented by a powerful combination of plain-language education and inspiration, individuals can follow a proven path to taking control of their finances. At the Summit, Gutierrez noted that if people’s financial houses are in order, then it becomes much easier for them to then focus on other aspects of their own well-being.

To learn more, read about the Ramsey approach in action in the workplace – outstanding results achieved in just 90 days.


Written by: Madison Agee

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

July 03, 2014

Is Well-Being an Integral Ingredient in Your Organization’s Cultural Recipe?

This cake may look pretty, but if you left out an essential ingredient – like sugar – it’s probably going to taste awful. Similarly, omitting the key element of the right kind of organizational culture can inhibit the success of your well-being improvement program.

More organizations are looking to wellness and well-being improvement programs to help them improve productivity and manage ever-growing healthcare costs. As they invest in these types of programs, organizations logically want to maximize their returns and improve outcomes as much as possible.

But what happens when programs aren’t creating the results organizations want to see? The easy scapegoat is the design or implementation of the wellness program itself, but what organizations may underappreciate is the critical role that their own culture plays.

Consider, for a moment, baking a cake without sugar. Although it may look like a cake, it certainly wouldn’t taste like one. It’s a similar situation with culture, which is an essential ingredient in the overall recipe for well-being improvement. If you’re expecting your employees to prioritize high well-being, but your culture is working against you (for example, leaders aren’t participating in offered activities or engaging in a well-being dialog), then you’ve likely set yourself up for disappointment.

Ask yourself the following questions to better understand how well you’re actually baking well-being into the very recipe of your organization:

  • Are our underlying attitudes and assumptions reflective of a true commitment to well-being? A crucial element in a culture of well-being are the very values and rituals that are important to your organization. How is well-being actually “folded into” your core values and the ways in which colleagues interact with the organization, your leaders and one another? For instance, does your organization have an annual volunteer day that encourages employees to give back to their community?
  • Are we structurally aligned to well-being? A culture of well-being requires that your organizational structure reflect it, with programs, benefits and activities that encourage and enhance well-being. If you’re not offering these kinds of things, you could be at risk of simply “talking the talk” and not “walking the walk.” What kinds of things, such as providing a tobacco cessation program or launching an organization-wide “steps challenge,” are you doing to improve well-being within your organization?
  •  Are we actively supporting our employees’ well-being? In the absence of continuous support for your employees’ individual well-being journeys, your employees could actually perceive you as actively discouraging them. Real encouragement takes place in an environment where people are not only openly talking about well-being improvement, but actually caring if their colleagues are working towards it. If co-workers aren’t saying “good for you” when a team member decides not to check email on a long-awaited family vacation, you may have an unsupportive culture.
  • Are our leaders modeling the right behaviors? The role of leadership in creating and supporting a culture of well-being can’t be understated. Take a close look at what your leaders are saying – and doing – on a regular basis to better gauge whether they’re shoring up or undermining your culture of well-being. Are they, for example, always wearing a suit on days when you allow your employees to wear workout clothes?
  • Are we properly incentivizing or encouraging well-being behaviors? Behavior change is not easy for most people – typically employees may need to be urged or incentivized to participate in activities and programs that enhance their well-being. What’s your organization doing to create this sense of excitement and desire among your employees that helps them along on their journey to better well-being?

By asking yourself the questions above, you can get a much better sense of how truly integral well-being is to your organizational culture. We’ve assembled some additional questions you can use to better benchmark where your organization currently stands, as well as guidance to help you develop your own action plan for creating a culture of well-being.

In a June webinar, experts from Gallup and Healthways explored the topic of well-being cultures in more detail, and shared some great insights into how organizations can create start or enhance their own journeys. Download the webinar recording to learn more.


Written by: Madison Agee

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

June 24, 2014

More Engagement with Weight Loss Program Fosters Success, New Study Shows

Studies of weight loss programs in a clinical setting benefit from a tidy combination of elements, such as carefully controlled environments, rigorous processes and structured selection criteria for participants. That’s why it’s so important to examine any program in a real-world setting as well a clinical one – you need to make sure it’s going to work when you can’t quite plan for everything.

The creators of the Innergy™ program, Johns Hopkins Medicine and Healthways, knew that they needed to do just that. A sustained weight loss program, Innergy was borne out of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) sponsored clinical Practice-based Opportunities for Weight Reduction (POWER) trial. The two organizations wanted to advance the science of the successful POWER trial and gauge the weight loss program’s real-world efficacy.

A new study, “Initial Evaluation of a Scalable Lifestyle Program for Sustained Weight Loss,” published in the online Journal of Obesity and Weight Loss Therapy, demonstrates Innergy’s effectiveness in a non-clinical setting. Specifically, the study shows that, in the real-world environment of a mid-sized employer, Innergy can result in statistically significant weight loss. Program participants lost an average of 6.8 pounds per person over the six-month period of the study. Even better, nearly a quarter of the 265 participants lost 5 percent or more of their starting weight.

Perhaps unsurprisingly but definitively, the study also found that weight loss increased in proportion to how much participants engaged with the program. Researchers measured level of engagement by both how long participants remained engaged and how frequently they interacted with the program:

  • Participants still active with the program in the sixth month of the study had an average weight loss of 11.5 pounds and 5 percent of their starting weight.
  • Participants who took advantage of a broader range of program support elements – had more coaching calls, regularly used the website, and tracked their weight and exercise – were much more successful in shedding pounds. In fact, participants who interacted more than the study median with all five program support components lost an average of 5.7 percent of their starting weight.

The study also provided Innergy’s creators with valuable insight into how to make the weight loss program even better. Because the study demonstrated the critical importance of member commitment to weight loss, program designers updated and strengthened enrollment criteria to better assess a member’s readiness to change. Research data also revealed the essential role that re-engagement methods play following a period of inactivity, re-engagement tactics were both updated and added.

Innergy is a 24-month program, consisting of a six-month weight loss period and an 18-month maintenance period. The authors will continue to monitor the study population through the maintenance period.

One of the motives for developing Innergy was to help combat the epidemic of obesity. To learn more about this issue, download a copy of Healthways’ Well-Being Insights article, “Addressing America’s Obesity Epidemic: Practical, Flexible Weight Management Capabilities for a Spectrum of Needs.”


Written by: Madison Agee

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

June 20, 2014

“Population Well-Being” Capabilities Come to Independent Physicians in North Texas

gty_dallas_kb_140321_16x9_992Imagine, for a minute, what it must be like to be a physician. You spent all those hard years in school because you wanted to help people live long, healthy, productive lives. And then you start practicing medicine, and probably fairly quickly come to realize that there is only so much you can do to fulfill your mission because you can’t sustainably influence what is often the underlying cause of illness: lives lived short of their potential.

Physicians see the impacts of stress, loneliness and isolation. They understand that their patients don’t need another lecture on losing weight or stopping smoking because they already know these things are bad for their health. They’re well aware that once their patients leave their office, their attempts to change their lifestyles to improve their physical well-being will often fall short. Pressures at work, financial worries, lack of support and encouragement, and so many other concerns create barriers to change that physicians typically are powerless to address, particularly across their entire patient population.

Healthways has teamed up with the largest independent physicians association in North Texas, Genesis Physicians Group (GPG), to directly address this issue. You can read about it in HealthLeaders, or read our press release here. We just wanted to take a minute to share how excited we are about our new joint venture, GenHealth.

Ben R. Leedle, Jr., Healthways’ president and chief executive officer, summed up the news:

“Not only are physicians the most trusted, credible influencers of individual health behaviors, but an individual’s bond with his or her physician is one of the most enduring. As healthcare continues to transform in response to untenable healthcare costs, poor overall health, and weaker competitive positions for American companies and communities, innovative healthcare providers such as GPG are assuming more financial and quality outcomes risk for their patient populations. In so doing, they are embracing a scientifically proven approach that has well-being – not sick care – at its core. We firmly believe that by directly supporting the patient-physician relationship with well-being improvement solutions, we will create faster, more sustained engagement in order to proactively reduce the causes and effects of disease and achieve significantly greater impacts on medical savings, productivity and performance.”

 


Written by: Sandy Cummings

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