Does Wellness Just Shift Costs as Opposed to Reduce Costs?

Whenever the discussions of healthcare costs come up, you always hear people saying that the reason healthcare costs are so high is because we have a sick care system as opposed to a healthcare system. If we’d just focus our efforts on promoting wellness, we could lower the costs of healthcare dramatically.

I’ve long been interested in the idea of wellness lowering costs. On face, the idea seems to have merits. If I’m on a wellness program and avoid a sickness, then I won’t have to use our healthcare system to treat that sickness. However, I’ve always wondered if all that wellness programs do is shift costs as opposed to reducing costs on the macro level. In the case described, maybe my wellness program just delayed the sickness by 5 years as opposed to making sure it never happens again. This would mean it was just a 5 year cost shift as opposed to a permanent savings.

I’ll admit that this is just a concept that I’m considering. I’m happy to be proven otherwise.

For example, if a wellness program helps people avoid something like obesity, then it’s possible that we could permanently avoid a whole variety of sicknesses and diseases that are caused by obesity. Considering the discount insurance providers give non-smokers, my guess is that something similar could be applied to smoking.

I imagine if we researched this in depth we’d find a mixed basket of results. In many cases I think wellness programs do just time shift the healthcare costs. However, if you attack the right wellness issues, then you could permanently avoid healthcare costs for specific diseases.

Has anyone done or know of research on this? Which wellness issues can really help reduce healthcare costs permanently? If we knew this, maybe we could focus much of our mobile health efforts.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.