Episode #35 – Do Employee Wellness Programs actually make Employees Well? – an interview with Al Lewis, Founder of Quizzify

Al Lewis may be one of the most controversial, and respected, figures in the employee health & wellness industry.  His insight and candor have earned him various labels and epithets including, “the founding father” of disease management and alternatively, the “troublemaker-in-chief” of the wellness industry.
Whether you like him or not, I doubt that anyone can challenge his integrity, or the rigorous intellectual approach he takes in analyzing the efficacy of employer-based wellness and care management programs.

By way of introduction – Al Lewis attended Harvard College, where he studied and then taught Economics.  He graduated from Harvard Law School, and eventually became a partner at Bain & Company; prior to becoming a nationally recognized expert and consultant in the fields of employee health & care management.
Al has authored a number of critically acclaimed books on employee health & care management, including ‘Why Nobody Believes The Numbers’, which was named ‘2012 healthcare book of the year’ in Forbes.

In this interview Al Lewis – true to form – dispels numerous myths and radically reorients our thinking on the critically important issue of employee health & wellness.

According to Mr. Lewis, the most significant healthcare cost & health outcomes opportunity for employers is NOT getting employees to “take more steps or eat more broccoli;” but instead to prevent them from having unnecessary screenings, tests and treatments – what he terms “hyper-diagnosis.”
He has, over many years, repeatedly documented and demonstrated that healthcare over-utilization wastes tremendous money and adversely impacts employee health. He also argues that current Health Risk Assessments (HRA’s) are misguided, wasteful and potentially harmful.

What you’ll discover in this interview includes:
1. Why, according to Al Lewis, employee health wellness programs are a waste of money and, more importantly, are potentially harmful to employee’s health & wellness. If you’re interested in his online documented expose on the “mis-statements” of the wellness industry, you can learn more on www.theysaidwhat.net.
2. Mr. Lewis’ online program ‘Quizzify’ (available to employers at www.quizzify.com) – which uses games, quizzes and assessments to educate employees on how to better manage their health, healthcare, and healthcare expenditures – and whose basic purpose is to create a culture of healthcare literacy.
3. How employers can provide services that enhance employee health & wellness – what Mr. Lewis terms “wellness done for employees” instead of “wellness done to employees”.
4. Al’s forecast for the future of the wellness industry – an industry which he predicts is going to change dramatically in nine months, as a result of major court rulings.

Mr. Lewis certainly puts his money where his mouth is. If you don’t agree with him, he’s offering a $3 million reward to anyone who can demonstrate that wellness programs actually save money, or if he can’t prove that they don’t save money!

It is refreshing, enlightening and encouraging to have a conscientious industry watchdog with the intellectual rigor, acumen and experience that Al Lewis possesses.  For the purpose of this podcast series, it’s not his critique that is most important.  What’s important is what Al Lewis is creating, and how he is contributing to Creating a New (and better) Healthcare.  Again, I did warn you all that he is a controversial and respected authority.  If you have any difference in opinion, Al is ready to listen and respond.

As always I hope you get as much out of this interview as I have!

Zeev Neuwirth, MD