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URAC Accreditation Standards Aligned With “Framework for Assessing Financial Benefits of Wellness Programs” Peer-reviewed Article

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

New Findings Presented at 10th Annual Quality Summit

Washington, D.C., November 12, 2009 – URAC, the nation’s leading health care accreditation and education organization, today announced that the value of its Comprehensive Wellness Accreditation standards is referenced in “Framework for Assessing the Financial Benefit of Wellness Program”, an article by Thomas Wilson, PhD, DrPH, a wellness expert and an epidemiologist for Trajectory Healthcare, LLC. The article will appear in an edition of The Journal of Health & Productivity to be published this fall.

In the peer-reviewed article, Dr. Wilson recognizes URAC as the first major accreditation organization to advocate transparency, a level of evidence assessment, and third-party validation. He says that these are the key components necessary to evaluate the financial benefit of wellness programs.

“While there has been a lot of general support for wellness programs, there was not a lot of information on how to compare the financial impact of one wellness program to another. The framework that was developed through extensive research and interviews with consumers and wellness program providers provides guiding principles for fair comparisons,” said Dr. Wilson, “The benchmarks and measurement tools URAC has established are aligned with the framework and provide wellness vendors and consumers with the details they need to evaluate programs based on the same criteria.”

Dr. Wilson presented his findings and discussed the policy and economic framework in evaluating the financial impact of wellness programs during a general session on October 8, 2009 at URAC’s 10th Annual Quality Summit and Exhibition in Tucson, Ariz.

“Wellness programs are a critical component of any comprehensive health benefit plan,” said Alan P. Spielman, president and CEO of URAC. “However, many organizations want a way to measure success before they adopt new programs. The framework that Dr. Wilson highlights combined with the clear, comprehensive URAC standards, enable purchasers to evaluate the effectiveness of these programs and determine which are best suited for the consumers they serve.”

With the launch of its Comprehensive Wellness Accreditation program standards and measures in 2008, URAC addressed a need for national standards to measure the effectiveness of wellness programs that focus on health promotion, chronic disease prevention and health risk reduction. Consumers need independent tools based on rigorous and inclusive standards, such as integrated program evaluation and performance measurement components, by which they can evaluate wellness vendors and programs.

URAC’s program-specific standards fall into five broad categories, creating an evaluation framework for wellness programs that focuses on individual health improvement and risk reduction. Those categories include the following:

  • Assessment – Health risk identification and risk awareness program components, such as the use of Health Risk Assessments;
  • Interventions – Overall program design, health coaching, and use of consumer participation incentives, education and communications aspects of wellness programs;
  • Evaluation – How the wellness organization calculates, measures, and reports participant progress and overall clinical and financial program success to the client;
  • Integration – An organization’s ability and willingness to coordinate with other organizations, operations, and programs already in place; and
  • Measurement – Producing and reporting to purchasers and the public on a specified set of performance measures.

The standards and measures, available for purchase in April 2009, were developed by URAC’s Wellness Accreditation Advisory Committee, which is comprised of members representing employers, health plans, consumer representatives, public benefits organizations, health care professional associations, providers and wellness companies.

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For 25 years, URAC has been the independent leader in promoting health care quality through accreditation, education, and measurement. URAC offers a wide range of quality benchmarking programs that reflect the latest changes in health care and provide a symbol of excellence for organizations to showcase their validated commitment to quality and accountability. URAC’s evidence-based measures and standards are developed through inclusive engagement with a broad range of stakeholders committed to improving the quality of health care. For more information about URAC, contact us.

Thomas Wilson, PhD, DrPH, is the principal of and an epidemiologist for Trajectory® Healthcare, LLC. He specializes in the evaluation of the financial and clinical impact of interventions that are designed to effect defined populations including disease management, case management, payment-for-performance programs, wellness programs, and electronic medical record use. He received his doctorate in epidemiology from UCLA. He has served as corporate epidemiologist at Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and held faculty research positions at Columbia University and UC Berkeley, a NIH post-doctoral fellowship position in cardiovascular disease, and a Fulbright award lectureship. Wilson is also the founder and board chair of the Population Heath Impact Institute (www.PHIinstitute.org), a non-profit organization set up as an educational and research organization advocating for scientific, independent, and transparent evaluations of organized population health management programs. He can be reached at twilson@trajectory-inc.com or 513 289 3743.

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