It started as a program just for Blue Shield of California employees. We wanted to reduce our own company’s cost of healthcare, so we created Wellvolution, a lifestyle medicine approach to improving the health of our employee population. Yes, even insurance companies want to reduce the cost of healthcare for our business. Are you surprised?
We knew that many of the chronic conditions Californians face that drive up the cost of care were caused by a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle, so it made sense to promote a healthy lifestyle as a solution.
What makes Wellvolution unique, is that its programs are held to the same standard as traditional medicine in that the methods are subject to trials that demonstrate proven health outcomes. The proof of efficacy is what sets Blue Shield of California’s lifestyle medicine approach apart from traditional wellness interventions.
Our program focuses on six lifestyle areas that could dramatically impact and improve a person’s health and quality of life. They are nutrition, physical activity, sleep, smoking cessation, emotional help, and social support. We have an 80% engagement rate with our employees who sign-up and our programs are clinically proven to improve a person’s health with only positive side effects like improved sex life and general increase in happiness.
In 2014, after several years of assessment of our employee population, we expanded the program to our members. We always start by meeting people where they are with our "daily challenge," which includes simple challenges that anyone can do within a socially supportive environment. Then we added “undo it with Ornish” in 2015, our heart disease reversal program we sponsor with select providers. We added QuitNet in 2016 for smoking cessation as smoking also causes a person’s health insurance premiums to go up. Then, last year in 2017, we added our Diabetes Prevention Program and WalkADoo.
We strive to have engaging programs across the spectrum of clinical need. For instance, for our healthier members, we have a very simple general well-being program that facilitates daily wellness activities, as well as a walking program that helps people stay accountable for daily exercise. And for those that have more serious clinical needs, we offer a heart disease reversal program as well as a diabetes prevention program. The common thread across all these programs is that we’ve taken the time to conduct testing at the highest level of stringency in the form of randomized control trials – proving their effectiveness in achieving improved health outcomes targeted against some of our state’s top health challenges.
Type 2 Diabetes
- A 10-year longitudinal study on prevention of type 2 diabetes showed that lifestyle interventions were 39 percent more effective than the leading diabetes medication Metformin.
- After a year and a half, our Diabetes Prevention Program has nearly 18,000 enrolled members, and an average weight loss of about 3.5% for those completing the program. This accounts for a 38 percent reduction in diabetes risk, and all with only the positive side effects of better health.
- If a person who is pre-diabetic can lose 5 percent to 7 percent of their body weight, they could mitigate their risk of ever becoming diabetic at all.
- The cost for a member to go through our Diabetes Prevention Program is less than $1000 versus an average of $80,000 to $100,000 for treating a diabetic patient. Plus, it avoids having to be poked several times a day to check their glucose levels, or the horrific side effect many diabetics face of potentially needing to amputate their hands or toes due to their illness.
- A six-week randomized control trial showed that members using Walkadoo, our daily physical fitness program that challenges members to incrementally increase their physical activity goals, walked about 1,000 more steps than those using a step counter alone – a statistically significant improvement, especially for those that were previously sedentary.
- PET scans of heart disease patients, before and after a nine-week lifestyle medicine intervention, showed significant improvement in blood flow, decreased arterial blockage and reversal of heart disease.
- The cost of going through our undo-it with Ornish heart disease reversal program is approximately $10,000 compared to $1.4 million for a heart transplant, which will only last about 11 years on average.
As Wellvolution, approaches its 10th anniversary, the lifestyle medicine team has been hard at work building a suite of products that help our members not only prevent, but also treat and reverse disease. It’s a tall order – and yet over the years, Wellvolution has given members more ways to take care of themselves using lifestyle medicine.
We aren’t stopping here – Wellvolution continues to bring on new ways for members to engage in improving their health. In 2019, we’ll launch Wellvolution Next – with a wider scope of health apps, as well as more clinically proven programs to treat and reverse some of the most common conditions that hurt our communities and drive up the cost of healthcare, such as diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia. Stay tuned for more updates in the coming months and join the Wellvolution.