The financial value of leading by example

What is it worth to have leaders who ‘walk the talk,’ and lead by example?  Although notoriously difficult to quantify, some research studies offer clues.

One such example comes from a study of health risk appraisals by Michael Taitel and colleagues, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. (Health risk appraisals are voluntary assessments organizations encourage their employees to complete in support of maintaining health and reducing healthcare costs). The study involved 124 organizations that varied widely in the size of incentives they offered as well as the participation rates they ultimately achieved. The researchers also measured the extent to which senior leadership visibly supported the programs.

Their findings? To reach a participation rate of 50 percent, the average organization with low leadership support needed to pay out an incentive of $120 per participant.  For high leadership support organizations, that figure dropped to $40.  Said differently, the high-support organizations required only a third the amount of participation investment to yield the same results.

For many healthcare organizations, their employees are the starting points in developing competency in managing population health. Ideally, healthcare organizations should themselves lead by example in emphasizing prevention as a critical part of high-value healthcare. Taitel’s research suggests that if we are to get there as efficiently as possible, healthcare executives will need to personally lead the way.

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About Andrew Garman

Chief Executive Officer, NCHL; Professor, Health Systems Management Department, Rush University

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