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  • Save the Date for November Musculoskeletal Summit

    The United States Bone and Joint Initiative's (USBJI) next summit, Best Practices in Patient-Centered Musculoskeletal Care, will be held November 18-19 in Washington, DC. This meeting will build on the previous summit held in 2011 on The Value in Musculoskeletal Care.

    In a Q&A, cochairs David Pisetsky, MD, PhD, and Gregory Worsowicz, MD, MBA, reflect on the upcoming meeting's agenda and key goals. When asked how summit participants might prepare for the event, Worsowicz, responded, "Do your homework. Come with an open mind and be ready to listen and engage in vigorous, change-making dialogue." As for summit take-away messages, Pisetsky said, "We're striving for real-world solutions. As an example, we hope one take-away will be insight on how to build an interdisciplinary process—one that will work in your setting and, perhaps with modifications, can work for colleagues in other settings or travel with you to a new environment."

    APTA is a founding member of USBJI.

    RWJF Library Offers How-to Guides for Improving Care

    The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) "promising practices" library includes interventions and how-to guides for improving care and addressing major issues in health care quality and equality. Topics include reducing readmissions, improving patient satisfaction and engagement, enhancing patient safety, managing emergency department crowding, and reducing disparities.

    Workplace Wellness Programs Not Netting Savings

    Workplace wellness programs may not save companies money in the short term, says an article by the Associated Press based on a 2-year study at a major St Louis hospital system. 

    The new study provides an in-depth look at the experience of BJC HealthCare, a hospital system that in 2005 started a comprehensive program linked to insurance discounts. BJC employs 28,000 people and provides health insurance for about 40,000, including family members. The overwhelming majority participated in the wellness program.

    The program focused on 6 lifestyle-influenced conditions: high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung problems, serious respiratory infections, and stroke. Employees had to join the program in order to get the hospital's most generous level of health insurance, called the Gold Plan. For family coverage, for example, the hospital paid nearly $1,650 more of costs in the Gold Plan.

    Employees in the wellness program had to complete a health risk assessment that included height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and other measurements. They also signed a pledge to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Smokers had to get help to quit. Spouses also were required to sign the health pledge and, if they smoked, get help.

    The study tallied up BJC's medical costs before the wellness program and for 2 years after. It also compared those costs with expenses of 2 other big local employers that did not have wellness programs.

    Hospitalizations for employees and family members dropped dramatically, by 41% overall for the 6 major conditions. But increased outpatient costs erased those savings. When those costs were added to the cost of the wellness initiative itself, "it is unlikely that the program saved money," the authors concluded.

    Steven Noeldner, an expert with the Mercer benefits consulting firm says well-designed programs generally show a positive return of about 2% by the third year, the article says.

    BJC President Steven Lipstein said he doesn't dispute the conclusion, but he remains committed to the wellness program and would invite the researchers to take another look now.

    He added that encouraging employees to make healthy lifestyle decisions and rewarding those who do reflects corporate values, not just the bottom line.

    Economist Gautam Gowrisankaran, lead author of the study, notes that there could be other benefits not directly measured in the study, such as reduced employee absenteeism and higher productivity.