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Published on : January 15, 2014

Incremental Innovation with Revolutionary Results: The Path to Corporate Wellness

Incremental Innovation with Revolutionary Results: The Path to Corporate Wellness

Corporate wellness has many definitions and just as many goals, from the wholesale revival of workplace culture and the debut of in-house health and exercise programs to specific incentives and bonuses for lowering the cost of health insurance. These ambitions are worthwhile and appealing, but sometimes the most immediate rewards come from the easiest forms of incremental innovation: Better mobile applications to engage, say, doctors and patients, or simpler ways to communicate with one another, thanks to a text-and-touch approach to messaging with a nurse, aid, physician assistant or appointment manager.

Put a different way, revolutionary outcomes - for the betterment of individual health and the collective wellness of thousands of employees - do not require revolutionary changes in behavior, spending, promotions or education.

This theory of incremental innovation, in which a technical expert improves an already existing tool or resource by making it more interactive or efficient, is the result of serious thought and sustained creativity. The former identifies an opportunity - call it Solution-by-Questioning, in which asking the right question yields the right answer - while the latter, by virtue of asking and answering the question, strengthens a multitude of industries, streamlines operations and instantly increases revenues.

To wit, let us present the one question every healthcare professional asks and every company (through its workers) has a duty to answer, if for no other reason than the chance to stop a gross waste of time and money: How can doctors, dentists, dieticians, chiropractors, acupuncturists, personal trainers and physical therapists - the agents of wellness, so to speak - eliminate the problem of no-shows, where people suddenly cancel previously scheduled appointments or forget ever having made such an agreement?

The answer to this question alone tells us more about the challenges confronting corporate wellness than, say, current disputes about health insurance reform or the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Those issues are important, to be sure, with long-term implications for the nation - the topics are also, to a degree, part of an endless argument - but these grand debates do not offer a solution today for measurable success as soon as tomorrow, thanks to incremental innovation. Indeed, we applaud the efforts of all parties, while separating ourselves from these parties, as they seek to address matters of grand historical, political economic and judicial significance.

But the promise of today, for the good of tomorrow, is unachievable, unless employees keep their medical appointments. The appointments are a chance for these same workers to have a customized weight-loss plan, a regimen or medication to lower cholesterol, a daily series of milestones to reduce the risk of diabetes, stroke or heart disease, and maintain follow-up visits with a specialist. Health, for one employee or an organization in its entirety, begins and ends with behavior.

Changing behavior at the macro-level is extremely difficult; it involves the willful defiance of human nature, which is all about our shared aversion to change, along with proactive conduct of the highest order. In a word: Improbable. But at the micro-level, by offering people an easy way to confirm or reschedule appointments through an SMS notification, we can transform wellness - corporate wellness, to be precise - by giving patients and physicians greater control through incremental innovation.

I write these words from experience, as the Co-Founder and President of  Notif.ly, which reduces the trouble of no-shows by over 65 percent, thereby increasing revenues (for healthcare professionals) by at least 20 percent. The related savings for companies are also substantial because fewer no-shows mean fewer penalties, including fees (billed to insurers, and passed on to employers) for missed appointments and procedures.

The cumulative decrease in no-shows is so financially significant, and the ability to calculate the recouped money is so rapidly apparent, that incremental innovation is another way of accomplishing prosperity-by-punctuality.

All of which proves that corporate wellness does not require costly investments, huge budgets and massive marketing plans. Nor does it entail running training seminars or one-on-one meetings with HR personnel. My advice, therefore, is to make no-shows the enemy of corporate wellness.

More specifically, I want to remind companies that workers are corporate ambassadors - they represent a brand, in word and deed - so repeated cancellations or no-shows by these employees can weaken that brand's reputation. For, if employees routinely miss, fail to acknowledge receipt of or attempt to reschedule (and then cancel again) appointments with a doctor or healthcare professional, the message - from workers - is very clear: We do not respect you, period. Unintentional or not, the consequence is the same: Frustration (by doctors), fees and penalties (billed to insurers), added costs (absorbed by employees) and the fading dream of making corporate wellness a reality.

Thankfully, there is a convenient solution to this situation. Incremental innovation makes practical achievement a coveted prize, because the benefits - to physicians and patients alike - are financially clear. Or: Given the chance to get guaranteed money by ending no-shows, everyone would keep their appointments. The money is real, and it can fund and protect a culture of corporate wellness, which is all the more reason to be a show-yes rather than a show-no.

A simple SMS message will begin this path to success.


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