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Gina Pferdehirt
Director, Public Relations & Community Relations
UPMC Health Plan

Study of Incentivized Wellness Programs at UPMC Published in ‘American Journal of Preventive Medicine’


PITTSBURGH (Sept. 17, 2014) –Total health care costs follow health risks and can be mitigated over time through incentivized workplace wellness programs, according to a five-year observational study by UPMC Health Plan.

The report, “UPMC MyHealth: Managing the Health and Costs of U.S. Healthcare Workers,” has been published today by the “American Journal of Preventive Medicine” (AJPM).

The study was designed to evaluate the impact of UPMC’s health management and wellness program, MyHealth, on the health and health care costs of its own employees who choose to participate. The program is managed by UPMC WorkPartners, which provides health and productivity solutions to organizations across the United States.

The study concluded that there were significant improvements in health-risk status as well as increases in the use of preventive and chronic disease management services among UPMC employees who participated in the program.

“This study is the largest and longest continuous research effort on incentive-based health and wellness programs in the health care organization workplace to date,” said Michael D. Parkinson, MD, senior medical director for UPMC Health Plan, and one of the authors of the study. “This study provides a much more accurate interpretation of incentive-based health management and wellness program effects on health behaviors, preventive care, medical quality, and costs than has been possible before.”

The findings are particularly meaningful since healthcare workers are a prime target for improving population health and mitigating rising healthcare costs. Health care is the largest industry in the U.S. and, in most communities, hospitals are the largest employers. Employees of hospitals and health systems also have poorer health status, higher rates of health care service utilization, and higher health care costs than those in other industries.  

The study indicated there is a positive effect on the overall cost of health care for employees who participated in MyHealth. Total health care costs can “be mitigated over time through financially incentivized workplace wellness programs,” the report says. “Savings will accrue for the combined group of health care workers who reduce risks, primarily because of significant reductions in medical costs for those who achieve the lowest health risk levels and therefore require fewer or less expensive services than those that maintain or increase risks.”

The study is especially timely because Affordable Care Act regulations encourage employers to use incentives to reward or penalize workers based on clinically relevant health standards. The study provides information to other health care organizations looking to benefit from new components of the Affordable Care Act.

“Although incorporating incentivized health management strategies in employer-sponsored health insurance benefit designs can serve as a useful tool for enhancing the health and wellness of health care workers, new approaches are also needed not only to encourage more workers to reduce health risks but also to increase the magnitude of the risk shift over time,” the report stated.

Future research in this area, the report said, should examine the impact of other workplace modifications such as on-site health clinics and lifestyle and disease management health coaches placed in employee workspace.      

UPMC MyHealth is an award-winning workplace health and wellness program designed by UPMC WorkPartners. The program provides innovative programs and tools that are customized to the needs of organizations and financial incentive design strategies that encourage participation and employee engagement.

“UPMC MyHealth: Managing the Health and Costs of U.S. Healthcare Workers” – was produced by: Michael D. Parkinson, MD, Senior Medical Director for UPMC Health Plan; Pamela B. Peele, Chief Analytics Officer for UPMC Health Plan; Donna J. Keyser, Senior Director of the UPMC Center for High-Value Health Care; Yushu Liu, Health Economics Statistician for UPMC Health Plan; and Stephen Doyle, Director of Health Promotion Account Management and Operations for UPMC Health Plan.

AJPM is the official journal of the American College of Preventive Medicine and The Association for Prevention Teaching and Research. AJPM publishes original research and review articles in the areas of prevention research, teaching, practice and policy. 

All articles published in the journal are subject to a stringent peer review process. The goal of the publication is to disseminate newsworthy information to the international medical news community.

The MyHealth study was published online in AJPM’s “Articles in Press” section on June 17, 2014, in advance of its appearance in the October, 2014 issue of AJPM, which was published today.


About UPMC WorkPartners

UPMC WorkPartners is part of the world-renowned UPMC global health enterprise. UPMC WorkPartners provides health and productivity solutions to high-performing companies throughout the United States. Its products and services are designed to identify an organization's health and productivity needs, build better strategies, effectively manage programs, and continually monitor and measure to drive the outcomes needed to control organizational costs and improve employee productivity. UPMC WorkPartners experts deliver both tactical services that align with a company’s existing health and productivity programs, and fully integrated comprehensive solutions designed to provide an organization with even greater results. For more information about UPMC WorkPartners, visit www.workpartners.com.

About UPMC Health Plan

UPMC Health Plan, the second-largest health insurer in western Pennsylvania, is owned by UPMC, an integrated global health enterprise. The integrated partner companies of the UPMC Insurance Services Division – which includes UPMC Health Plan, UPMC WorkPartners, LifeSolutions (EAP), UPMC for You (Medical Assistance), and Community Care Behavioral Health – offer a full range of group health insurance, Medicare, Special Needs, CHIP, Medical Assistance, behavioral health, employee assistance, and workers' compensation products and services to nearly 2.3 million members. Our local provider network includes UPMC as well as community providers, totaling more than 125 hospitals and more than 11,500 physicians throughout Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland. For more information, visit www.upmchealthplan.com.