Investing in Wellness and Preventive Health

More than half of the adults in the United States have at least one chronic disease. Each year, 7 of 10 deaths are due to chronic diseases. Seventy-five cents of every dollar is spent on medical related issues to treat chronic diseases and the associated risk factors.  Chronic diseases include heart disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension among other diseases. The management costs for chronic diseases exceed $277 billion annually based on 2003 data and are probably higher today. With the loss of productivity this cost increases to more than $1.3 trillion for the nation’s businesses and government.  The time is now to act. Something must be done. And it must be done now if we are to alter the trajectory of health care and reduce costs; that means a focus on wellness and disease prevention is imperative.

Preventive education programs have not previously been recognized as reimbursable services by insurers. Recently Medicare and other payers have initiated billing codes specifically to reimburse for chronic conditions, smoking and tobacco cessation counseling visits.

The step forward is to improve communication between patients and providers.  The government has initiated a demonstration program through the CDC that focuses on an anti-smoking campaign with a major physician group. The impetus of this campaign is to improve communication between patients and providers. The providers receive tobacco intervention training as well as information through scientific journals, newsletters and other methods.

The government program was a first step and now there are several large corporations that focus on wellness. Such programs are becoming commonplace among employers in the United States. Starting in 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will build on existing wellness program and provide new incentives for employers promoting wellness programs.

Wellness programs not only improve health but also reduce costs, therefore, providing employees with an incentive for participation that is rewarding  to the employers and the employees. There is no question that a healthy workforce costs less whether incentivized or not.

Browne and Associates, Inc. proposes that it is time to join the movement and go beyond the bedside. The old adage of medical research has been to move from the laboratory bench to the bedside (translational research), but now it is time to move beyond the bed to prevention. We propose that a well-designed strategically integrated prevention and wellness program should include compassionate multilevel leadership; open, sensitive communication; comprehensive, high quality services; accessibility; ongoing collaboration; low cost; and positive outcomes that leads to healthcare savings, reduced absenteeism, and employee satisfaction. Wellness is not just a mission—it’s a message. It is time the healthcare system takes that next step — from bench to bedside and beyond; the beyond is now.

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