ROI vs. VOI: What Can You Expect From a Wellness Program?

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While you may expect reduced health care costs when you fund and implement wellness programs, recent studies suggest that isn't always the case and employers shouldn't expect an immediate cost-savings return on investment (ROI) as the measure of success. In fact, some lifestyle management components to promote healthy lifestyles don't deliver returns that were higher than costs.1 Instead, think of value on investment, (VOI), the long-term savings potential in broader sense.

Value over returns
Your program may not immediately save your company health care dollars. While you might not have the ROI you want right away, that's like only seeing the bull’s-eye and not the target itself. A VOI, or target, can include increased job satisfaction and personal satisfaction (less turnover), increased productivity or creativity, among other long-term health benefits for employees.

Stop health risks before they start
If you help employees avoid adding new health risks to existing ones, long-term cost-savings are actually greater. For example, a recent RAND study found that participants in the PepsiCo wellness program's disease management component reduced costs by $136 per member per month with a 29% drop in hospital admissions.1 Keeping employees the healthiest they can be, and out of the hospital due to complications or new problems, means everyone hits the mark.

Programs work better together
Multiple, integrated programs improve your chance of success. It's like getting extra power to hit your target. When PepsiCo employees in the RAND study took part in disease management and lifestyle management programs together, the savings were $160 per member per month — $25+ greater savings a month. Plus, employees taking part experienced a 66 percent drop in hospital admissions.1 Combining programs helps you keep your whole target in sight.

Look for long-term solutions
Wellness programs do lead to productivity-related indirect savings, including less absenteeism, happier employees as well as reduced disability and workers’ compensation costs.2 It's hard to capture the total value of a behavior change or wellness program immediately, so be prepared for a long-term commitment to increase your wellness program's success rate.

When you keep your target in sight and provide ways for employees of all health levels to hit it, the total score easily adds up to, or surpasses, a bull’s-eye.

1 RAND Corporation website: Worksite Wellness Programs Can Cut Chronic Illness Costs; Savings for Lifestyle Improvements Are Smaller (January 2014):

2 Society of Human Resource Management website: Critics Challenge Corporate Wellness Program ROI (December 2014):