Fierce Q&A: Cleveland Clinic wellness program gets results
As Cleveland Clinic's wellness program hits its five-year anniversary, Chief Wellness Officer Michael Roizen says the program is showing real results and returns. FierceHealthcare spoke with Roizen about how the program has affected the patients, the community and employees--plus previews a patient wellness widget that's in the works.
FierceHealthcare: Cleveland Clinic has been a target of criticism for its strict wellness program, with rules against smoking and a ban on sugared drinks, for example. How do you respond?
Michael Roizen: We want to do things that will help our employees be healthy and don't want to do things that will help employees to be unhealthy.
It's clear, for example, that sugared beverages have no redeeming health value. They only inhibit health, so there's no reason to have them on campus. Tobacco is a toxin; there's no reason to expose our community, our patients or our employees to tobacco smoke or cigarettes.
Our goal is to help our employees be as healthy as they can be, which obviously will drive down our costs, which drive down the community's costs, which make our communities competitive for jobs.
It's not "Big Brother" to foster health. It's not that we say to an employee, "You can't bring a sugared beverage on campus and drink it." We just don't want to be the enabler for bad health habits.
FH: How have employees reacted?
MR: The employee engagement--which is our way of judging employees' happiness with work--went up about 33 percent over the most recent two years for which we have data. A large number of the comments (maybe as many as 50 percent) that were positive reflected the joys of participating in the wellness program.
FH: What kind of results have you seen?
MR: together, employees have lost around a little over 330,000 pounds. The usage of the fitness clubs has gone up from about 2,500 hours a month to 25,000. The number of smokers self-reported to physicians has gone from 15.4 to 6.8 percent.
"It's not 'Big Brother' to foster health."
FH: Cleveland Clinic has been vocal about not hiring smokers. Has the smoker-ban affected recruitment?
MR: No. In fact, less than 2 percent of job offers since we put [the program] in place--300 of the 20,000 job offers--have had to be rescinded because positive nicotine tests.
We were actually concerned the policy would restrict recruitment, but in fact, when we've done surveys, we think we get 17 more applicants because of the policy than we get people who stay away because of the policy. There are a few people who have chosen to apply for jobs because they want to quit smoking and know there is a free smoking cessation program.
To my knowledge, no employee has been fired because they use tobacco.