Program targets disease, high costs - East Valley Tribune: Business

Program targets disease, high costs

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Posted: Sunday, April 11, 2004 7:23 am | Updated: 5:37 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

An ounce of prevention is supposedly worth a pound of cure — but our medical system isn’t set up that way.

We occasionally screen for cancer, or get our blood pressure taken at a health fair. But for the most part, we visit the doctor when we’re sick and then we’re treated and — if we get better — off we go.

Enter John Sperling with an idea to shake things up. Sperling became rich and relatively famous with outside-the-box thinking such as founding a for-profit university and trying to make marijuana legal for medicinal purposes. Oh, yes and cloning a cat.

The 83-year-old founded Kronos Optimal Health Centre in Kierland on the Phoenix-Scottsdale border, designed to use state-of-the-art medical science for "aggressively" anticipating age-related diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer, before symptoms occur. The center has been a going concern for about four years.

The price tag is kind of high — around $4,000 for a two-day exam — so that has limited the folks who could use it. In an effort to reach a broader audience, Kronos worked up a version for companies that would cost about $26 to $32 per employee per month.

Kronos was searching for a company to run a pilot program, said Kelly Byrd, product manager, when the center was approached by the insurance broker for Tempe-based Insight Enterprises.

Insight was looking for a way to avoid more double digit health care cost increases for employees as well as provide an extra benefit, said Kaylene Moss, Insight senior vice president of human resources. Insight noticed that despite a youthful work force, the utilization of health insurance claims was relatively high, she said.

The best way to control insurance is to cut down on claims. Insight and Kronos teamed up.

"It’s been a huge success," Moss said. About 1,200 of the 1,700 eligible employees elected to participate.

Some were reluctant to participate for fear the results wouldn’t be confidential, Moss said.

Kronos took a detailed medical history online for each employee, did blood work and conducted fitness tests. Employees will be given a plan by a health care professional and the opportunity for follow-up calls. Kronos keeps the individual results private but gives the company an aggregate report.

Kronos is also helping Insight create a healthier workplace.

"One employee said they gained 10 pounds in the first six months they worked here," Moss said.

Vendors often brought donuts, and ordering pizza was popular for the troops. Now vendors are encouraged to bring healthier snacks such as fruit. The cafeteria will begin producing Kronosapproved menu items, Moss said, adding that french fries will still be available for those who want them.

The real test comes in the coming months and years. Will employees follow the advice? Will the program pay for itself?

Jonathan Thatcher, CEO of Kronos, is confident. He said companies that have invested in wellness or prevention programs have shown $4 return on each dollar invested.

That could buy a lot of pounds of cure.

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