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Taming the Frankenstein Wellness Program - eBook Transcript

You Need a Wellness Program That Works For You, Without Hidden Costs, Errors and Effort.

Your leadership expects an employee wellness program that delivers results. But they don’t always give you the tools to run great programs and connect the dots to show results.

We talk to wellness leaders every day who are stitching together a lot of program components - and winding up with a program that is more of a “Frankenstein” than a work of art.

Check out these tips for taming your Frankenstein wellness program and turning it into a smooth-running machine that won’t turn on you.

What's a Frankenstein Wellness Program?

Many wellness leaders stitch together their programs from pieces that were never designed to connect. For example:

A health assessment from the plan administrator, a data file of biometric screenings, onsite events and programs tracked with Excel spreadsheets, challenges and tracking programs that run online, and incentives that use data from all these different silos.

A program like this can turn into a monster: it’s clunky, it’s not smart, and it can turn on you.

It's Clunky

A Frankenstein program is clunky because your data is scattered among a variety of Excel files, other data files and emails.

You have to manually cut and paste it all together - and hope you haven’t missed anything. You have to create complex formulas in Excel to add things up across programs and across time periods.

If several people are working with the data, you’ll have overlaps and inconsistencies between files. And you’re always checking your email for manual corrections or updates that trickle in.

And after the work is done, it’s out of date almost instantly.

It's Not Smart

A Frankenstein program can’t connect the dots to answer the important questions, such as:

Are the right people joining the programs? Or are the people joining the fitness programs already fit? If only the healthy join your programs, you aren’t making a difference.

Do the program successes last? Do the people who lose weight keep it off? Do your diabetes program participants have a better A1C at the next year’s screening?

If you don’t have the data to answer questions like this -- you can’t really show the skeptics that your program is effective.

It Can Turn On You

A Frankenstein program can turn on you. Small mistakes in handling data can cascade into a big problem when your numbers don’t add up.

It’s easy to make a mistake when you’re cutting and pasting so much data. It’s easy to type a number in the wrong box or miss a number that should be added. Or lose a column when you sort.

Or build a complex formula that is almost (but not completely) correct. And it’s hard to keep your spreadsheets up to date as employees join and leave the company.

Also, spreadsheets aren’t good at version control, backup and disaster recovery. Can you go back to an earlier version to find a mistake? What happens if your hard drive fails and your newest file is lost?

Taming the Monster

To tame the Frankenstein Wellness Program, we recommend three changes to your program.

First, you’ll need to use individual-level data to connect the dots and answer the important questions.

Second, start using an online database rather than Excel files to store and connect your data.

Third, enable self-service to let participants manage their own data and get the answers to their own questions.

Data To Connect the Dots

To tame your Frankenstein wellness program, you need individual-level data to connect the dots.

Without this kind of data, you can’t show that the right people are joining your programs, or that the programs affect the next year’s biometrics and other outcomes.

Aggregate-only data will not let you answer the key questions and show that your programs are effective.

If you don’t want to see PHI (personal health information), use a wellness vendor to store and analyze the information. They can give you aggregate reports after all the data is connected.

Database Not Files

To tame your Frankenstein program, you’ll need to use an online platform that incorporates a database. Here’s why:

A database is designed to give you one complete and up-to-date version of the truth. One version of the truth gives you definitive answers. You can get your answers anytime if your data is always up-to-date.

An online platform can take care of backup and disaster recovery for you. If your hard drive or computer fails, the data won’t be lost.

A database is designed to connect the dots - and join data together in new ways at any time. A spreadsheet is limited to rows and columns - one view of the data in 2-D only.

Enable Self Service

To tame your Frankenstein program, you’ll need to empower your participants to manage their own data - and answer most of their own questions.

That means you need ways for them to log their data - from steps and weight to blood pressure and cholesterol.

Give them ways to upload validated information like lab reports and device-measured physical activity. You don’t have to personally take each measurement for it to be valid.

Give them a place to see their data and how it adds up toward your incentives. If they haven’t earned a particular incentive, they should be able to see what their next steps are -to earn the incentive or request an alternative.


Many wellness programs are stitched together from parts that were never designed to fit. The result is a Frankenstein program - It’s Clunky, It’s Not Smart, and it can Turn On You.

To tame the monster, you need to take three key steps.

First, make sure you or your vendors get individual-level data from all programs. You’ll never be able to connect the dots otherwise.

Second, manage your data with a robust database, not a collection of separate files. You need one, single version of the truth, with the ability to connect data across your program. Databases do this, files don’t.

Third, enable Self-Service for your participants. Participants should enter and manage their own data (including uploading validated data), and get answers to their own questions on points and incentives.

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