Your Boss Wants You to Think Twice About That Back Surgery

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Corporations typically use data mining of personal information in order to sell more stuff to their customers. However, corporate wellness programs are mostly used in an effort to sell less stuff to their employees. For example:

Based on data such as an individual’s history, the firms can identify a person who might be considering costly procedures like spinal surgery, and can send that person recommendations for a second opinion or physical therapy.

Spinal surgery, which can cost $20,000 or more, is another area where data experts are digging in. After finding that 30% of employees who got second opinions from top-rated medical centers ended up forgoing spinal surgery, Wal-Mart tapped Castlight to identify and communicate with workers suffering from back pain.

To find them, Castlight scans insurance claims related to back pain, back imaging or physical therapy, plus pharmaceutical claims for pain medications or spinal injections. Once identified, the workers get information about measures that could delay or head off surgery, such as physical therapy or second-opinion providers.

So what do you think? Programs designed to lower health care costs are a good idea. Providing useful health information to employees is a good idea. But how about providing information specifically designed to influence a course of treatment? Is this an attempt to steer employees away from fly-by-night doctors who recommend back surgery for everyone? Or just another green-eyeshade attempt to persuade employees to forego expensive procedures?

Hey, those are good questions! Answers will be forthcoming some day.

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TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

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That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

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