The Well-Being Journal

New Methodology Helps Organizations Better Measure the Impact of Absenteeism

Madison Agee

New studies have shown some of the positive outcomes associated with well-being improvement programs among employers, such as improvements in overall well-being and individual well-being elements, higher productivity, lower rates of absenteeism, and gains in job performance. And now, recently published research helps organizations that are looking to better measure the impact of these programs. A new study authored by the Healthways Center for Health Research expands upon existing, widely accepted methodologies and provides organizations with a more comprehensive and robust way to gauge the impact of their well-being improvement programs.

The study “Regional Economic Activity and Absenteeism: A New Approach to Estimating the Indirect Costs of Employee Productivity Loss”, was published in Population Health Management and introduces a new method for measuring the economic impact of work-related absences. Called the Regional Productivity Loss (RPL) method, the new method expands upon the most commonly used and widely accepted method, the Human Capital Approach (HCA). The study showed that measuring the impact of workplace absenteeism using the RPL method resulted in materially higher cost estimates than would have been found via the HCA method (34 percent higher for two smaller employers and 51 percent higher for a larger employer).

For decades, the HCA method has been the most widely accepted measure for helping employers quantify the economic impact of workplace absenteeism, but the method has some significant weaknesses. To address these deficiencies, Healthways researchers developed the RPL model, which has three significant advantages over the HCA method:

  • Measures lost output and not simply lost wages. The RPL method recognizes that employees are expected to generate value for an employer above and beyond their hourly wage — otherwise, how would an organization be profitable?
  • Accounts for labor replacement for the absent employee. The RPL method acknowledges that when an employee is absent, a co-worker often steps in to cover the workload.
  • Extends the impact of lost productivity to the regional level. The RPL method takes into account the “ripple” effect of workplace absenteeism, by measuring the impact of a single employer’s workplace absenteeism on businesses that interact with that employer, such as vendors and customers, as well as organizations that interact with those businesses.

Because of these advantages over the HCA method, the RPL method more comprehensively calculates the economic impact of workplace absenteeism and thus better conveys the value of programs aimed at reducing absences, such as well-being improvement programs. This is especially true in industries where employees are highly skilled or trained and not easily replaced if they are absent.

In an upcoming article, we’ll take a look at another study authored by the Healthways Center for Health Research that also makes an important contribution to the science of well-being improvement program measurement.

Topics: Science and Research

Did Dan Buettner Convince a NYT Foodie to Adopt a Healthier Lifestyle?

Madison Agee

Yes to coffee, red wine and bread? Kale and protein shakes not required? Long walks instead of high-impact exercise? Lingering with friends over a long meal? A pair of New York Times articles reveals that the secrets to a long, happy life may be a lot more enjoyable than many of us believe.

Recently, National Geographic Fellow and Healthways partner Dan Buettner spent a day with New York Times food writer Jeff Gordinier, in which the two prepared a “longevity feast” that reflected a sampling of the discoveries Buettner made during a global expedition to uncover the areas of the world in which people live the longest – known as “Blue Zones”. Buettner and Gordinier shopped, cooked and enjoyed a meal based on Blue Zones principles.

The experience, detailed in this article, convinced Gordinier that a healthy lifestyle that promotes longevity doesn’t have to be ascetic and miserable – in fact, a Blue Zones-centered life can be pleasurable and full of tasty meals and great companionship. Some of the tips that Buettner shared with Gordinier are collected here in a companion article.

Buettner is working with Healthways on the Blue Zones Project®, a powerful community well-being improvement initia­tive designed to make healthy choices easier through changes to environment, policy and social networks. You can learn more about the Blue Zones Project here.

Topics: Dan Buettner Longevity Eating Healthy Blue Zones Project

New Study Shows Positive Impact of Australia’s Largest Health Management Program

Sophie Leveque

The impact of chronic disease on the U.S. healthcare system is staggering – 86 percent of all healthcare spending is for individuals with a least one chronic condition. But unfortunately chronic disease is not an issue unique to the United States. Chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease are also highly prevalent in other parts of the world.

In Australia, approximately one million people are living with diabetes. What’s more, 100,000 new cases are diagnosed annually – making it the fastest growing chronic illness in the country. Cardiovascular disease is also a serious health issue in Australia, as it’s the leading cause of death, accounting for 30 percent of all deaths. In terms of financial impact, diabetes and cardiovascular disease combined are expected to cost Australians $31.2 billion in annual healthcare expenditures by 2033 – representing nearly 12.7 percent of all healthcare spending.

In 2009, Australia’s largest not-for-profit private health insurer, The Hospitals Contributions Fund of Australia (HCF), decided to meet this critical issue of chronic disease head-on by partnering with Healthways to provide comprehensive well-being improvement solutions through a program called My Health Guardian (MHG). The largest program of its kind in Australia, MHG works to actively manage and improve the health and well-being of HCF members by offering them an extensive suite of resources. Members with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are eligible for telephonic support from registered nurses, helping to drive adherence to proven standards of care, medications and physician care plans.

A four-year study of the MHG program was recently published in BMC Health Services Research. “Long-term Impact of a Chronic Disease Management Program on Hospital Utilization and Cost in an Australian Population with Heart Disease or Diabetes” definitively illustrates the positive impact MHG has had on reducing costs and hospital utilization for insured HCF members with heart disease or diabetes. Overall, participants were 27 percent and 45 percent less likely to have any admission or readmission, respectively, over the four year study period than matched non-participants. The study also found that average per-member savings across the four-year period totaled $3,549.

These results build on earlier published research that looked at the outcomes from the first 18 months following the implementation of the MHG program. This 2012 peer-reviewed study showed that MHG significantly reduced the rate of hospital admissions for participants with heart disease and diabetes. Both the 2012 and 2015 studies found the magnitude of program effect increased over time, demonstrating the importance of sustained participation in the program.

Managing chronic conditions is a global issue and the MHG study demonstrates that there are viable solutions to help address it that can be successful in countries outside the United States. You can read the complete study here.
Topics: Chronic Disease Science and Research Cardiac Disease International Diabetes

Can Leaders Make or Break Well-Being Improvement Programs?

Sophie Leveque

Over the last several years, Healthways leaders have exhibited a high level of visible support for and engagement in our well-being improvement efforts. This high level of support from the top has helped us maximize program outcomes. Specifically, Healthways saw a 20 percent decrease, per member per month, in benefits spending during a five-year period.

In an earlier article, we explored this important role that leadership plays in sustaining a well-being culture and helping organizations see improved outcomes from their well-being improvement and wellness programs. Recently, Human Resource Executive (HRE) published an article that addresses this same issue, suggesting that the success of such programs is often strongly connected to how noticeably engaged organizational leaders are with them.

Featured in the article is Ross Scott, Healthways’ chief human resources officer, who discusses his views on the critical relationship between leadership and program effectiveness. Scott addresses a number of actions that leaders at Healthways have done to more visibly engage in the company’s well-being improvement effort, including wearing fitness attire, holding walking meetings, and taking the time to introduce colleagues who may not already know each other.

The HRE article also highlights two pieces of Healthways research that demonstrate the link between well-being and worker productivity: a study entitled "Comparing the Contributions of Well-Being and Disease Status to Employee Productivity" published last year in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and the annual Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®.

To learn more about the important role that executives play in leading well-being, read the full article here.

Topics: Well-Being In the News Workplace Well-Being Health in the Workplace Wellness Leadership