The Health and Wellness Industry FAQ: Vendors – How Do You Sort Out the Good, Bad and Truly Ugly?
Wellness Exists at the intersection of Contentment and Aspiration.
To live there, You Must First Choose to Move Out of the Village of Someday…
Over the years I’ve been asked a number of questions about the health and wellness industry. This is question #7 of the top 10 most frequently asked questions. The responses are, of course, neither right nor wrong. They are simply my impressions from over 35 years of field experience.
“We are bombarded with individuals and organizations selling wellness (health promotion, disease prevention and disease management) products and services. How do you sort out the good, bad and truly ugly?”
Thirty years ago, there were only a handful of quality programs available through national vendors. Choice was not that difficult. Today, with the growth of the Internet and the flood of scientific data, there are hundreds of vendors anxious to sell you their services.
Caution: A “Desk Drawer” wellness initiative will burn out your staff and simply will not work (tweak…maybe…but not transform). Avoid a scattergun or one-off approach. Success requires a dedicated internal project manager working with an experienced and field-tested 360 degree vendor.
Questions to ask include:
- How long have you been in business?
- Who are the individuals behind the products?
- Do you have an advisory board? If so, who are the members?
- Can you prove net health care and/or productivity cost reductions while improving population health?
- Any accreditations and/or awards?
- Are you open to risk sharing or pay-for-performance contract provisions?
- What are the delivery options?
- What outcome analytics are in place to track program results?
- Who are your client references?
A vendor should be much more than a provider of drop-off products and services. They need to be comprehensive, accessible, flexible and experienced. Sound simple? It’s not. Due to limited dollars, you need as much quality one-stop-shopping as possible. You do not have the time, dollars or energy to have multiple contacts for each of your offerings. Find an experienced multi-component provider and stick with them. They will not only help you with paperwork and sanity, they will also help with triage, crossover, data collection, analysis and strategic planning. Like a good pharmacist, they will also help you avoid unhealthy program interactions. An excellent provider will have a pattern, philosophy and support network that is consistent throughout their offerings; this will help you, immensely. A good vendor is, at a minimum, equal to one FTE.
The ideal vendor should be able to assist clients with each and every phase of a “comprehensive” wellness initiative, including:
- A health awareness component, including health education, preventive screenings and health risk assessments.
- Marketing and promotion efforts to maximize employee participation and engagement.
- Research supported programs and methodologies to change unhealthy behaviors and lifestyle choices, including counseling, seminars, online programs and self-help materials.
- Supportive environment efforts, including assistance with workplace policies to encourage healthy lifestyles, healthy eating, increased physical activity and improved mental health.
Introducing excellent programs without a comprehensive corporate audit (readiness) and indicated culture adjustments ⎯ policies, procedures, senior management visible buy-in and health-driven food services ⎯ is akin to throwing fertile seed on untilled and nutrient-poor soil. It won’t work; you will lose money and credibility.