The reviews are coming in
and the verdict is clear:

Cracking Health Costs and
Why Nobody Believes the Numbers
are the best books ever written.*

* By me

Wellsteps Meets Fischer-Price....and Also Joins the 100 Club

Intelligent Design Awards are lovingly bestowed upon those contributions to the population health field that most set back the evolution of outcomes measurement, thanks to a unique and usually hilarious combination of dishonesty and cluelessness. But there is a serious lesson here: Engineers say that more is learned from a single bridge which collapses than from 100 which stay up. The good news is, that means there is not just a lesson here but an entire curriculum, because as it turns out, every bridge in wellness falls down. Yes, every single wellness outcome which has been made public is made up.

Wellsteps is the latest vendor to claim that costs can be reduced by more than 100%. Just to review the summary of this "Bialystock Rule" from Why Nobody Believes the Numbers:
(1) You cannot reduce a number by more than 100%
(2) This is true no matter how hard you try
(3) Special note for our friends Down Under: This is not one of those things that's the opposite in the Southern hemisphere.

The difference with Wellsteps is that they didn't just make up their numbers. Nosirree. They base their finding on "an exhaustive search for...published studies," which is a very high hurdle indeed, but they didn't stop there. They also "systematically reviewed these studies" and used "science-based assumptions."

And yet they still ended up concluding that reducing obesity and smoking rates could reduce costs by about 140%, though it should be noted it would take 5 years to accomplish that feat in the Wellsteps model, whereas the other members of the 100 Club usually pull it off in a year or two, probably due to the latter's lack of science-based assumptions.

Lest you think we just fiddled with the assumptions to make Wellsteps look bad, we didn't. That calculation uses the pre- and post-smoking rates that Wellsteps itself filled in on its ROI Calculator home page.

For this next one we are doing the reverse: Since obesity reduction and smoking cessation are powerful enough to reduce total spending to a negative number, it stands to reason that an obesity increase and increase in smoking would cause costs to skyrocket.

My bad! According to Wellsteps, wellness is so powerful that you can hand out cigarettes in the lobby and serve fast food three times a day...and you'll still save exactly the same -- meaning reach the same mathematically impossible negative spending level -- as if you reduced obesity and smoking. Seems like pushing buttons has as much impact on the outcome of Wellsteps ROI model, as pushing buttons does on a Fischer Price toy. And Wellsteps thinks you won't notice this and more than a toddler who plays with that toy.

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