The business of wellness is going well for 802-bed Mercy Medical Center, a health care system across three campuses in Des Moines, Iowa.

A concentrated program of health risk assessments and screenings for medical problems that reached into the surrounding metropolitan area and its employers realized more than $3 million in referral business to Mercy's orthopedic program in the last fiscal year.

At Logansport (Ind.) Memorial Hospital, a business that had been purchasing about $150,000 in hospital services increased that to $600,000 over a three-year period through prevention efforts, physicals, risk assessments and targeted coaching, says hospital CEO David Ameen.

As market forces reshape health care, employers are putting a greater emphasis on health and wellness. Hospitals and health systems, in turn, are revving up new service lines to partner with local businesses and prove that wellness does pay.

To work, though, health and wellness plans must track a significant amount of information to plot both the trends of employee health and the impact on employer financial health.

It helps to bring in the local payers of medical claims to supply utilization data. Logansport Memorial's program, Centric, gets data from insurance brokerage Consolidated Union. Data from ICD-9 codes describe the nature of employee medical conditions and services for which they were billed, and they are compared with findings of health risk assessments and biometric screenings.

The value of working with Consolidated Union as a partner, says Ameen, is that it can show the use of services beyond what Logansport Memorial's records can provide: the drugs people are on, utilization of services from other providers, and so on. Information comes from the insurance products that employees use. "You need that [partnership] or you don't have the data," he says.