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URAC Releases Standards and Measures for Wellness Programs for Public Comment

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Washington, D.C. June, 24, 2008 – URAC has convened an expert advisory group for creation of accreditation standards and measures for wellness programs in response to employers’ requests for quality standards and measures for both comprehensive and focused wellness programs. The more than 50 advisory committee members include employers, health plans, public benefits organizations, health care professional associations, health care providers and wellness promotion companies. The group represents a variety of perspectives from the health care industry and has been collaborating to draft the standards, which were released for public comment today.The deadline for public comment is Aug. 7, 2008.

URAC is the Washington, D.C.-based independent accreditor that offers more than 20 accreditation and certification programs along the continuum of care, including health management accreditation programs for utilization management, disease management and case management. The new health management accreditation programs for Comprehensive Wellness and Focused Wellness promotion programs are a response to the need for national standards to measure the effectiveness of these programs that focus on health promotion, chronic disease prevention and health risk reduction.

Employee health and wellness programs have become a critical component of employer health benefit management because of their ability to reduce health risks and their related health care costs and boost productivity. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, about 86 percent of U.S. employers currently offer wellness programs to their employees.1

“It is clear that uptake of these programs is growing among employers as an avenue for both employee health improvement and potential cost savings,” said Alan Spielman, URAC’s president and CEO. “The addition of two Wellness Accreditation Programs to the suite of URAC Health Management accreditations will be a valuable tool for purchasers of these programs to evaluate whether health management organizations promoting wellness meet industry-recognized standards and measures for effectiveness, safety and quality.”

“URAC Comprehensive Wellness and Focused Wellness Health Management Accreditation Programs will help employers recognize quality programs which are based on reliable standards for program participant assessment, wellness interventions and program evaluation,” said Douglas Metz, DC, chairman of the URAC Standards Committee. “The Comprehensive Wellness Standards will include specific program quality measures. This is the first time a URAC accreditation program has included quantitative measurement as a component of its standards. As employers focus more on wellness, health improvement, and productivity improvement, the development of standards and expectations for companies providing wellness programs is crucial for the improved quality and efficiency of wellness interventions that are developed and implemented.”

In addition to its core organizational quality standards, URAC’s Wellness Accreditation will include standardized definitions and measures to evaluate programs. These standard components will allow health management companies to demonstrate they meet quality organizational standards and will aid purchasers as they compare and evaluate the services those companies provide.

URAC’s Comprehensive Wellness Accreditation is slated to include five broad areas of focus. In addition to including the comprehensive Core Organizational Quality Standards, the Wellness modules are:

  • Assessment: Includes risk identification and risk awareness components;
  • Interventions: Addresses overall program design, staffing, and use of incentives and education and communications aspects of wellness programs;
  • Evaluation: Focuses on how the wellness organization calculates, measures, and reports participant progress and overall clinical and financial program success to the client; and
  • Integration: Focuses on an organization’s ability and willingness to coordinate with other organizations, operations, and programs already in place.
  • Measurement: Focuses on producing and reporting on a specified set of performance measures as part of internal performance improvement, reporting to purchasers and public reporting.

URAC’s Focused Wellness Accreditation includes Core Organizational Quality and three areas of focus for organizations offering services to support health promotion and risk reduction across a narrower spectrum of behavioral health or physical health characteristics.

“URAC has historically worked in the health care management sector to assist employer purchasers in their effort to purchase efficient, effective services,” Spielman said. “We have also been a champion for the consumer with our HIPAA Privacy and HIPAA Security accreditation programs and our overall emphasis on consumer empowerment and protection. Now URAC is taking a new leadership role in assisting organizations to demonstrate they meet standards for what has become an important component of the overall employer health benefit strategy.”

The Wellness Accreditation draft standards are available for review at https://www.urac.org/publiccomment/. URAC will only accept comments through this online comment form. After the comment period, the committee will make recommended changes to the draft standards and measures, which will then undergo Beta testing and evaluation. Final Wellness Accreditation standards and measures are expected for release in December.

Organizations represented on the advisory committee are:

Aetna
Alabama State Employee’s Insurance Board
American Association of Preferred Provider Organizations
American College of Physicians
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
American Institute for Preventive Medicine
American Psychiatric Association
American Specialty Health
Aquila, Ltd., Health & Fitness Solutions
Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
Broadspire, a Crawford Company
Case Management Society of America
ComPsych Corporation
Coventry Health Care
Coventry Workers Comp Services
Disease Management Association of America
Georgia Department of Health
Employees’ Benefits Program, State of Nevada
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Free & Clear, Inc.
Intel Corporation
HAYES, Inc.
Health Designs
Health & Fitness Solutions
Healthways, Inc.
Humana, Inc.
HPN Worldwide, Inc.
Iowa Foundation for Medical Care
Marathon Health
Matria Health Enhancement
Maxim Health Systems
MAXIMUS Federal Services, Inc.
McKesson Health Solutions
MedCom Care Management a wholly owned subsidiary of Gilsbar, Inc.
Mercer
Midland Health
National Association of Specialty Health Organizations
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
New York Presbyterian Hospital –    Department of Psychiatry
Partnership for Prevention
Plus One Health Management
Principal Financial Group
Procter & Gamble
StayWell Health Management
Tangerine Wellness
The Leapfrog Group
The Regence Group
The Vitality Group
Trajectory HealthCare, LLC
Towers Perrin
Toyota North America
TriWest
TriWest Healthcare Alliance
US Corporate Wellness, Inc.
Vision Service Plan
WebMD Health Services
Wellness Coaches USA
WellPoint

1Gurchiek, Kathy. “Wellness Programs Are Growing Global Phenomenon, Report Finds.” Society for Human Resource Management. October 17, 2007. http://www.shrm.org/hrnews_published/archives/CMS_023366.asp.

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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.

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