Ornish says that as his programs have gained acceptance among commercial payers and Medicare, providers have asked to be trained in the Ornish methods. "We've been looking for several years for the right partner to help us scale this quickly." Healthways, which has a global presence and serves about 45 million people worldwide, "has the capacity to help us create a paradigm of healthcare instead of sick care," Ornish adds.
As part of this partnership Ornish says data, including clinical outcomes, will be collected on "millions of people to provide ongoing evidence of the power that these simple lifestyles changes can make."
Healthways sees the partnership as a way to differentiate itself from competitors such as Aetna's Active Health and Optum at UnitedHealthcare. Leedle sees a unique value that others "will have a difficult time" replicating.
Under the terms of the contract, health systems, health plans, hospitals, and physician groups will be trained and certified for Ornish programs exclusively through Healthways. The training will assure that providers will be eligible for Medicare reimbursement as they use Ornish programs to improve patient health.
Leedle says Healthways will reach out to Fortune 500 companies that he describes as "desperate to find credible, science-backed ways to be able to effect healthcare claims costs in the near term but also performance, productivity and engagement of their work force." He expects health plans to look at the Ornish programs as ways to "engender deeper relationships with their provider networks." Integrated delivery systems will look at the Ornish programs as "accretive to their brands."
Healthways declined to release contract details, but Leedle and Ornish acknowledged that the agreement is exclusive and open-ended in terms of duration.