Addressing the obesity epidemic with outcomes-based incentives and physician support

The New England Employee Benefits Council named Lifespan, Rhode Island’s largest health system, as a recipient of the 2013 “Best Practice” award, presented annually to the companies exhibiting novel, innovative, and impactful strategies in employee benefits.

Currently, 60 percent of the U.S. workforce is either overweight or obese with obesity directly contributing to the incidence of chronic illnesses.  Lifespan worked with Abacus Health Solutions to develop a wellness program focusing on healthier weight and tobacco cessation.

The Lifespan Healthy Rewards wellness program is designed to manage risk in the overall population by using incentives and targeted communications to engage high-risk individuals and their physicians to proactively manage their health and reduce chronic illnesses. This program is designed to reduce health care costs while also incentivizing healthy employees and employees who actively take the steps needed to maintain or improve their health.  

“Engaging employees and dependents to become better health care consumers and to take more responsibility for the cost and care of their own health is a core component of the change happening in our health system today,” said Howard Dulude, vice president, Human Resources Operations and Lifespan Health. “Lifespan is in the unique position to encourage primary care physicians to participate in the change process to support today’s emerging models of care”.

As the administrator of the program, Abacus Health Solutions worked with Lifespan to design the program and manage key program components, including communicating with employees and physicians, tracking program compliance, and incentive administration.

“We are excited about the health improvements achieved in year one and the capability to track ongoing results and be able to tie those improvements to direct cost reductions going forward,” said David K. Ahern, Ph.D., senior scientist and program architect from Abacus. “We look forward to implementing phase 2 of the program in 2014 focusing on continued weight loss and ongoing weight-regain prevention.”

The approach is referred to as an outcomes-based incentive design as the reward is dependent on a result or improvement (weight loss and/or becoming tobacco free) not just participation in the program. Strategies like this are backed by behavior change principles and the latest research for long-term, successful weight management. Driving members to their doctor ensures proper care coordination with the health care system that is missing from traditional wellness and health plan-based disease management.

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