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None of your Business, or is it?

by Jody Dzuranin

I recently attended a forum of workplace wellness managers and they voiced similar frustrations of employees who were pushing back against taking the health risk assessment.  The main reason cited is the fear that this personal health information will be used against them by their employer or their health insurance company. No matter how many incentives (or disincentives) were on the line, people do not want their employer dictating health behavior change.   It led me to ponder our current structure.  Why does it fall to the employers to try to convince their employees to lead a healthy lifestyle?   It is not a comfortable position for the employer or employee.  I really don’t think my boss needs to know what I weigh, but in small companies who are administering their own HRA, that is exactly what is happening. If I know my employer is going to see this information, I may not be honest in answering these personal questions.  (I expect that the weight question and number of drinks per week are the 2 questions that are answered dishonestly most often).  Something needs to shift in this model.  On one hand, I think it is very important that the consumer (patient) has access to as much of their personal health information as possible, to become a good “self leader” as Dee Edington, PhD calls them.  A good self leader will share their health information with their health professionals and take an active role in their own wellcare plan.  On the flipside, who has more motivation than the employer who pays the expensive health insurance premiums, to make this helpful health information available to the employee?   The right spot for it would be to come through the health professionals, but mostly people only see their doctor when they are ill.  Who is responsible for wellcare?   I think healthcare, health insurance and personal health information has become over-complicated to the point where the patient feels like an observer, rather than an active participant in the process.   If we can streamline and simplify, we can bring the consumer back into the center of this unbalanced equation.

This post seems to raise more questions, than provide answers.  Hopefully I will have more to share next week.  I will be blogging at the 4th Annual Consumer Healthcare & Wellness Congress in Washington DC, September 15-17, 2008.  I look forward to learning which corporate wellness, health prevention and promotion initiatives are gaining traction with employees and saving money.   I am sure there will be lots of “healthy” conversation on this topic and more.     I hope to see you there!

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