By Stuart M. Sutley, ADMS
There are many terms new and old used by employers and their employees to describe managing health. Terms such as wellness, disease management, health management, care management, etc., are liberally tossed around with various definitions and requirements. Wellness to some may mean a smoking cessation program, while to others it means Biometrics, health portals, claims analytics, coaching, and on and on.
Most would agree that the word “wellness” is completely overused. For those in the “wellness” industry, the diluted meaning of the word makes it difficult for various constituencies to truly distinguish between one service or another.
As a consumer, you can rack up points on your pharmacy “wellness” card and use those points to redeem savings from healthcare items, to cigarettes, to candy. Chiropractors and acupuncturists call themselves wellness providers. And when an employer launches a wellness program, its meaning and outcome can be interpreted differently by individuals in the same company based on their risk profile.
How about health systems? They use the term interchangeably with in-patient and out-patient services. And when used in a broad context, a health system’s use of the word “wellness” could imply discharge care plans, care/disease management, and services provided by a primary care
So when we as a nation are trying to focus on better health outcomes for all, why do we need so many different terms and definitions that lead to silos of information and overall inconsistent results? Population health was defined by Kindig and Stoddart (2003) as “the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group.” The word “outcomes” is emphasized to make the point that the definition focuses on the implicit goal of improving health. Health systems are hiring Population Health executives to start looking outward to the community versus inward to the patient. With the emphasis on not differentiating between wellness, disease management, care management, etc., the umbrella approach to defining all the terms into one we can all understand leads to population health as the appropriate definition, whether an individual, employer, health system, or State and Federal government.
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About the author: Stuart M. Sutley is the President and Managing Partner of Total Health Management, Inc. (www.totalhealthmgt.com). THM’s goal is to align health systems with employers and employees to manage better health outcomes with a key focus on the coordination of health, disability and workers compensation benefits.