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URAC Releases Standards and Measures for Wellness Programs for Public Comment
Date:6/24/2008

Public comments for new accreditation programs due Aug. 7

WASHINGTON, June 24 /PRNewswire/ -- URAC has convened an expert advisory group for creation of accreditation standards and measures for wellness programs in response to employers' requests for quality standards and measures for both comprehensive and focused wellness programs. The more than 50 advisory committee members include employers, health plans, public benefits organizations, health care professional associations, health care providers and wellness promotion companies. The group represents a variety of perspectives from the health care industry and has been collaborating to draft the standards, which were released for public comment today. The deadline for public comment is Aug. 7, 2008.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20030501/URACLOGO )

URAC is the Washington, D.C.-based independent accreditor that offers more than 20 accreditation and certification programs along the continuum of care, including health management accreditation programs for utilization management, disease management and case management. The new health management accreditation programs for Comprehensive Wellness and Focused Wellness promotion programs are a response to the need for national standards to measure the effectiveness of these programs that focus on health promotion, chronic disease prevention and health risk reduction.

Employee health and wellness programs have become a critical component of employer health benefit management because of their ability to reduce health risks and their related health care costs and boost productivity. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, about 86 percent of U.S. employers currently offer wellness programs to their employees.(1)

"It is clear that uptake of these programs is growing among employers as an avenue for both employee health improvement and potential cost savings," said Alan Spielman, URAC's president and CEO. "The addition of two Wellness Accreditation Programs to the suite of URAC Health Management accreditations will be a valuable tool for purchasers of these programs to evaluate whether health management organizations promoting wellness meet industry-recognized standards and measures for effectiveness, safety and quality."

"URAC Comprehensive Wellness and Focused Wellness Health Management Accreditation Programs will help employers recognize quality programs which are based on reliable standards for program participant assessment, wellness interventions and program evaluation," said Douglas Metz, DC, chairman of the URAC Standards Committee. "The Comprehensive Wellness Standards will include specific program quality measures. This is the first time a URAC accreditation program has included quantitative measurement as a component of its standards. As employers focus more on wellness, health improvement, and productivity improvement, the development of standards and expectations for companies providing wellness programs is crucial for the improved quality and efficiency of wellness interventions that are developed and implemented."

In addition to its core organizational quality standards, URAC's Wellness Accreditation will include standardized definitions and measures to evaluate programs. These standard components will allow health management companies to demonstrate they meet quality organizational standards and will aid purchasers as they compare and evaluate the services those companies provide.

URAC's Comprehensive Wellness Accreditation is slated to include five broad areas of focus. In addition to including the comprehensive Core Organizational Quality Standards, the Wellness modules are:

-- Assessment: Includes risk identification and risk awareness components;

-- Interventions: Addresses overall program design, staffing, and use of incentives and education and communications aspects of wellness programs;

-- Evaluation: Focuses on how the wellness organization calculates, measures, and reports participant progress and overall clinical and financial program success to the client; and

-- Integration: Focuses on an organization's ability and willingness to coordinate with other organizations, operations, and programs already in place.

-- Measurement: Focuses on producing and reporting on a specified set of performance measures as part of internal performance improvement, reporting to purchasers and public reporting.

URAC's Focused Wellness Accreditation includes Core Organizational Quality and three areas of focus for organizations offering services to support health promotion and risk reduction across a narrower spectrum of behavioral health or physical health characteristics.

"URAC has historically worked in the health care management sector to assist employer purchasers in their effort to purchase efficient, effective services," Spielman said. "We have also been a champion for the consumer with our HIPAA Privacy and HIPAA Security accreditation programs and our overall emphasis on consumer empowerment and protection. Now URAC is taking a new leadership role in assisting organizations to demonstrate they meet standards for what has become an important component of the overall employer health benefit strategy."

The Wellness Accreditation draft standards are available for review at http://www.urac.org/publiccomment/. URAC will only accept comments through this online comment form. After the comment period, the committee will make recommended changes to the draft standards and measures, which will then undergo Beta testing and evaluation. Final Wellness Accreditation standards and measures are expected for release in December.
Organizations represented on the advisory committee are:

Aetna

Alabama State Employee's Insurance Board

American Association of Preferred Provider Organizations

American College of Physicians

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees

American Institute for Preventive Medicine

American Psychiatric Association

American Specialty Health

Aquila, Ltd., Health & Fitness Solutions

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association

Broadspire, a Crawford Company

Case Management Society of America

ComPsych Corporation

Coventry Health Care

Coventry Workers Comp Services

Disease Management Association of America

Georgia Department of Health

Employees' Benefits Program, State of Nevada

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Free & Clear, Inc.

Intel Corporation

HAYES, Inc.

Health Designs

Health & Fitness Solutions

Healthways, Inc.

Humana, Inc.

HPN Worldwide, Inc.

Iowa Foundation for Medical Care

Marathon Health

Matria Health Enhancement

Maxim Health Systems

MAXIMUS Federal Services, Inc.

McKesson Health Solutions

MedCom Care Management a wholly owned subsidiary of Gilsbar, Inc.

Mercer

Midland Health

National Association of Specialty Health Organizations

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

New York Presbyterian Hospital - Department of Psychiatry

Partnership for Prevention

Plus One Health Management

Principal Financial Group

Procter & Gamble

StayWell Health Management

Tangerine Wellness

The Leapfrog Group

The Regence Group

The Vitality Group

Trajectory HealthCare, LLC

Towers Perrin

Toyota North America

TriWest

TriWest Healthcare Alliance

US Corporate Wellness, Inc.

Vision Service Plan

WebMD Health Services

Wellness Coaches USA

WellPoint

About URAC

URAC, an independent, nonprofit organization, is well-known as a leader in promoting health care quality through its accreditation and certification programs. URAC offers a wide range of quality benchmarking programs and services that keep pace with the rapid changes in the health care system, and provide a symbol of excellence for organizations to validate their commitment to quality and accountability. Through its broad-based governance structure and an inclusive standards development process, URAC ensures that all stakeholders are represented in establishing meaningful quality measures for the entire health care industry. For more information, visit http://www.urac.org .

(1) Gurchiek, Kathy. "Wellness Programs Are Growing Global Phenomenon, Report Finds." Society for Human Resource Management. October 17, 2007. http://www.shrm.org/hrnews_published/archives/CMS_023366.asp .


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