Last year the US broke a record. We spent, on average, over $10,000 per person on healthcare. This didn’t happen overnight, either. Healthcare spending as a percent of GDP went from 5.2%, in 1960, to 17.9%, in 2010. Tim O’Brien of athenahealth had it right when he said, “everyone knows healthcare is broken.”

It’s not fixed yet, either. PwC projects the rate of increase will continue in 2017: another 6.5% increase in healthcare costs nationwide. But, did you know the corporate wellness industry is growing even faster – at almost 8% annually?

In fact, the wellness industry as we know it today is a reaction to the rapid rise of healthcare costs. Globally, the wellness industry is $3.4 trillion, even larger than the pharmaceutical industry. The premise was a good one: “To get healthcare costs down, we can’t just make it cheaper to get sick people healthy, we have to keep them from getting sick in the first place.”

But, here’s the problem – “wellness” is just as broken as healthcare.

Why It's Time to Redefine Wellness

Companies waved “wellness” like a magic wand over their P&L hoping the investment would provide a tangible return. They checked a box and walked away. “Wellness” was defined by an industry notorious for bureaucracy, paperwork, inefficiencies, and transparency problems. Their eyes were on dollar signs and silver bullets. Overnight, solutions sprang up: gamified mobile apps, reward programs, biometric screen services, wearables, and other services you could vaguely consider health-related. They all had one thing in common: their target audience was the healthcare industry, not the consumer.

This has been the fatal flaw of the wellness industry for decades.

Why It's Time to Redefine Wellness

A New Perspective

Let’s be clear, Peerfit did not start off as a wellness company. Peerfit started as a way to help individual consumers connect more easily to the best tools the fitness industry had to offer.

We believe businesses should only succeed if their customers succeed. In the wellness world that means a wellness company’s bottom line should grow or fall in direct proportion to their ability to get people to engage in healthy behaviors.

Instead, most wellness companies play on the pressure HR managers feel to offer some sort of health-focused benefit, trying to keep the cost low enough that it slides under the CFO’s radar. The result is a sad flyer half-stapled to a bulletin board and a monthly let’s-get-healthy email that gets deleted before it is read. But, “hey, at least it didn’t cost too much!”

Other programs don’t skimp on the cost. Companies are offering around $700 per employee for wellness incentives. These are usually doled out in gift cards for good behavior. Do a biometric screening? Here’s a $100 to Amazon. Take a smoking cessation class? Here’s a coupon for five free movies.

It’s not that any one of these interventions is inherently wrong. It’s that there’s no cohesive vision. There’s no long-term benefit. It’s that “wellness” today just means checking a box on your employee benefits. In doing so, we’ve treated people like rats in a maze, surrounding them with cheese and traps and then wondering why they don’t go where we want.

Why It's Time to Redefine Wellness

 

Redefine Wellness

We think $7.8 billion in wellness dollars can be better spent. That money should be held accountable for actually making people healthier and making companies stronger. Let’s start by tearing away from any preconception of “wellness,” so we can give it new meaning:

 

Redefine Wellness as a culture and not just a benefit

We’ve got to start understanding people in the context of their community. According to the American Psychological Association, “an accumulating body of evidence [suggests] that engaging in health (or risk) behaviors mirrors the behavior choices of close social partners.”

Social network members often play a key role in facilitating the health behaviors and treatment adherence critical to promoting health and managing disease through specific health-related interactions with one another” (e.g., Franks et al., 2006; Stephens et al., 2013).

People don’t make decisions in isolation. We need to start thinking about how employees are impacted by their families, friends, and co-workers.

 

Redefine Wellness as intimately personal and not one-size-fits-all

Every person is infinitely complex, and we have to leave room for that complexity. Give people the attention and tools to find their own path to wellness. Listen, learn, and react. It’s not just about reducing healthcare, it’s about making people healthier, happier, and more productive in their lives.

 

Redefine Wellness programs as pieces of a larger puzzle

We’ve got to start playing nice with complementary technologies and programs. We may even be competitors, but if we focus on our core competencies and learn what “interoperability” actually means we can be better together.

 

Why It's Time to Redefine Wellness

Redefine Wellness to be driven by user-data instead of allergic to it

It will always be difficult to connect the dots between a dollar spent on “wellness” and a dollar saved on healthcare costs. But, if we shy away from data, we’ll be left with anecdotal evidence and good intentions. We may not like what the data has to say at first, but if we don’t stare it in the face then we can’t move forward. Ask yourself, what data actually shows me if we’re helping make this community of people more well? Here’s a hint, it won’t start with a lower insurance premium.

This is our heartbeat at Peerfit. But, our hope is we won’t stand alone. Wellness isn’t a destination; it’s a journey we choose to walk every day. It’s an out of shape father getting up early for a spin class with his coworker because he wants to be there to meet his grandkids someday. It’s a busy professional who makes time for yoga with her friends because she’s found her success starts with taking care of herself. It’s young parents playing soccer with their kids on the weekends because they want to lead by example.

I’m committing as President of Peerfit, along with our CEO, Ed Buckley, and the entire Peerfit team to fight this battle to redefine wellness. But, we know we don’t stand alone. There are amazing, forward-thinking companies out there who are doing it right. So, as of today… as of this moment, we’re officially launching the #RedefineWellness campaign.

Follow us on social media and join the conversation. It’s not about us and it’s not about you. It’s about the millions of people who we can help together. So, what are you going to do to #RedefineWellness? Talk to you soon!

Author

Scott Peeples is Peerfit’s President. Half of the dynamic duo with his co-founder, Ed Buckley, PhD., Scott embodies Peerfit, architecting the business and leading the team. You can find him in your local yoga studio recovering from bootcamp class. Scott’s talent & passion is strategy and helping people reach their full potential. He drives Peerfit to align with the healthcare industry’s interests and inspire greater collaboration to redefine wellness together.

7 Comments

  1. Joe Alexander

    Amen. But how do we change the minds of sloths who are entitled to receive what they want, when they want it without expending energy. People want to “get healthier, or “lose weight” without inconvenience. How do we get them to realize they will be happier and able to do more if they act on it. It is too much trouble and we don’t have time for it are the excuses we use. I think this is where the companies use wellness as a carrot to prove that they are doing something nice for the associates without having to spend. They know the associate will not utilize the benefit. I know from experience. I’m one of them. I’ve had Peerfit available for nearly 2 years from my company and have never used it. Thank you for the inspiration I needed to start.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story! We are so happy that we are able to inspire you to re-start your fitness journey. You are the type of wellness champion we need to help us on this quest. Happy peerfitting!

  3. Scott Peeples

    Joe, that’s a great insight! A lot of companies go in with the good intentions by adding a wellness program but are baffled when people don’t use it. America’s a consumer-culture. We’re not used to being told that to enjoy the benefits of something we have to put in effort. I’m so glad this helped encourage you to try it! We find that’s where it all begins, if we can help people step out and have a positive first experience with social fitness that it can open the door to other little habit changes (check this out https://pulse.peerfit.com/how-setting-habit-goals-can-help-you-achieve-wellness-goals/). Get a friend/co-worker involved to try a class with you – it makes it less intimiating and more fun to try something new!

  4. Kathryn McDaniel-Calder

    I am impressed with your new approach to #RedefineWellness. We have a Rewards Program through my husband’s company health insurance by filling out surveys, keeping track of our exercise, etc. , none of which inspires us to do more for our health and wellness. I’m anxious to see your #RedefineWellness plan in action!

  5. Hi Scott, I agree wellness needs to be redefined. We have taken on the mantle to help our clients become both mentally and physically involved in their wellness. We do this by creating independence through their awareness of how they move in space. This new learning allows them to understand their underlying tension patterns in their movement which, in my experience, translates to how they are moving/and or inforcing those tension patterns in their daily living or when they are golfing, or playing tennis, or running a marathon, etc. A big plus is their bodies become uniform and at times they get out of pain, but more importantly, it gives the client the opportunity to create a self care practice due to their new knowledge base. We are grateful to be catching this wave with you. Thank you for the opportunity.

  6. Scott Peeples

    Thanks, Virgil! Glad to have you in our studio community!

    Kathryn, that’s exactly how we feel! “Inspire” is the perfect word for it. We have to inspire action and make it easy. Can’t wait to share more about our plan!

    What a great approach, Deborah! I recently got to attend a class at your studio. It absolutely made me more aware of how I can keep my body aligned throughout the day. Love that your approach isn’t just about what they do in class, but about a mindfulness change. Really appreciated the handwritten note, as well 🙂

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