The following is a transcript of an interview with Thomas Milam, Founder & President of TrueLifeCare (TLC). TrueLifeCare launched in 2012, an evidence-based diabetes employee health program to help individuals struggling with diabetes confront and overcome the challenges of diabetes management, while providing employers alternatives to addressing the ever-escalating cost of diabetes care and improve health outcomes.
What does the future hold for Employer-based health & wellness?
There is certainly recognition of the need for Health & Wellness in the market, as I recently read there are over 7,500 wellness-related vendors in the U.S. That tells me the future will also hold a lot of “noise” with many options and programs to sort through.
What are the challenges going forward for companies, such as TrueLifeCare?
Cutting through the “noise” I just mentioned is the major challenge. Health benefit consultants and their employer clients are constantly bombarded with vendor offerings. They must first serve the employee/dependent base and with the limited time available have every right to be wary.
How should employers integrate services provided by their insurance carriers with services of a company such as TrueLifeCare?
My first thought is that “integration” should require no workload being placed on the employer. The vendor should do all the work. I recommend employers look at their workforce and its demographics (salaried versus hourly, rural/small town versus urban, white collar versus blue collar, centralized versus distributed workforce, and don’t forget the covered spouses/children) and look for programs that logically “fit” and make sense.
You must have engagement…people/employees participating and sustaining that participation. That can be tough, but that is essential. Employers should not be afraid to assess and make a change where engagement is not being realized.
Which health & wellness services seem to be the most popular with employers? And why?
From my observations, the on site/near site clinics have been popular, as have company-wide “fitness/wellness” programs with competition aspects built in (Fitbits, personal and group incentives). As to why, I think there is a natural inclination to look for programs that can apply to all employees, and those do have that potential. However, I strongly feel there is also a place for specialized and targeted programs like ours.
What are the top 3 issues faced by companies that cause them to seek TrueLifeCare services?
- Seeing the incidence and costs of diabetes in their population and the disproportionately excessive costs incurred by this group, both to the plan and the employee’s out-of-pocket payments.
- Wanting to do something for their employees and not another something they do to an employee (like a higher co-pay or higher deductible).
- They have no time to install “another program” and are delighted to learn how TrueLifeCare does all the work.
Would you be willing to share customer employee outcomes being achieved to date?
Yes. We see a measurable and impactful decrease of inpatient events, and a shorter stay when people do go in the hospital, yielding lower costs. We average almost 40% voluntary participation, and here’s what our members have to say about TLC:
Member Research Report – Sept. 2017. Method: Survey
83% state participation in the program has improved their overall health
59% report lower glucose readings
39% report weight loss
29% report lower BP
48% report improved feelings of wellbeing
90% would like their company to continue to offer the TLC Program
94% are satisfied with the TLC Program
92% state the TLC is a valuable company benefit
What advice do you have for companies working with employer-based health and wellness that will help enhance overall results?
A company won’t “move the needle” (bend the cost curve down) with 5%, 10% or even 20% engagement and participation. There must be hard evidence of real engagement, with agreed-on reporting and feedback. Long-term (after 2+ years) financial metrics and outcomes should be assessed. You can measure participants to non-participants, but the final assessment is the group as a whole.
To what degree, if any, has NSHC’s health coach training/certification helped TrueLifeCare establish market differentiation and customer buy-in? Briefly explain your response.
I would say that the practice of evidenced-based “behavioral” health coaching based on the principles, training and certification of the NSHC program is what has produced the favorable results and these results now help us immensely with our marketing differentiation and prospect buy-in.
What would you like to see enhanced in NSHC’s training from a company perspective?
Now that I give more thought to this, I would like to have a discussion with our Coaches in this regard to provide meaningful feedback.
What do your clients say their greatest benefit of Tele-coaching is?
They really don’t say much about that. What we think, and sometimes talk with them about, are the following:
- The TLC “Coach” is a personal and enduring relationship, one-to-one with the employee/spouse. Think of them as friends.
- It’s private and of course confidential…you aren’t going to a meeting room at the company.
- Coaching contacts and sessions are scheduled in advance for the convenience of the member.
- TLC is for spouses, not just the employees, and our participation rates are equal in both groups.
What does TrueLifeCare staff think is the greatest benefit they provide to clients with Diabetes?
A program/employee benefit their employees love and saves both the employee and employer money.