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Increasing Wellness Engagement and Saving Billions in Healthcare Costs: Cleveland Clinic Case Study

Rising healthcare costs, aggravated by the aftermath of the pandemic, are causing financial strain for both employees and employers. Many workers are accumulating significant debt while trying to manage their health and treat chronic conditions, leading some to avoid medical care to escape further financial burden. To address this crisis, employers are exploring methods to lower healthcare expenses without compromising employee health. This has prompted a shift towards employee wellness initiatives, but the effectiveness of these programs in improving healthcare metrics and employee engagement remains a concern.


Employee stretching at her desk.
Dr. Roizen concludes that a comprehensive wellness approach has yielded positive results, manifesting in increased productivity, healthier employees, and physiological youthfulness.

In a recent discussion, Dr. Michael Roizen, Emeritus Chief Wellness Officer at the Cleveland Clinic, delves into the approach of enhancing employee wellness engagement to counter escalating employer healthcare spending. Using Cleveland Clinic's case as an example, Dr. Roizen illustrates how increased participation in well-designed wellness solutions translates to better health outcomes and reduced healthcare costs.


He highlights the "Healthy Choice" program initiated in 2008 at Cleveland Clinic as a prime example. This voluntary employee wellness program aimed to cut healthcare expenses and cultivate a healthier and more productive workforce. Dr. Roizen emphasizes that physiological age, rather than biological age, significantly influences health outcomes. He draws on studies indicating that regular engagement in wellness activities maintains cognitive function and slows the aging process.


The focus shifts from merely preventing diseases to physiological rejuvenation. The target is set on achieving "six normals," including blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, blood sugar, body mass index, stress levels, and smoking status. If these indices are maintained at healthy levels, chronic disease risks can be reduced by 80-90%. Additional metrics, immunization status, and annual visits to a primary care physician, have expanded the criteria to "6+2."

Dr. Roizen underscores the importance of CEO-led participation and incentives in increasing employee engagement six-fold, from 12% to 75%. This strategy involved free fitness centers, smoking cessation programs, and subsidized memberships at external fitness facilities. A consequence-driven approach ensured uniform adherence to wellness goals throughout the workforce.


To further bolster wellness, the organization revamped food offerings on campuses, prioritizing low-sugar, low-fat diets. Initiatives ranged from transforming a McDonald's into a vegan restaurant to comprehensive smoke-free policies. These efforts, coupled with personalized and innovative programs, have led to healthier and more productive employees.

Dr. Roizen concludes that a comprehensive wellness approach has yielded positive results, manifesting in increased productivity, healthier employees, and physiological youthfulness. The "6+2" goals serve as a motivating factor for employee participation in these initiatives. Organizations can leverage programs like Global Healthcare Accreditation (GHA) For Business to establish and optimize employee wellness structures, fostering a healthy and productive workforce. Check out the full article from Corporate Wellness Magazine.

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