By Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N.
Corporate Wellness in the 1990’s now called Employee/Worksite Wellness in 21st Century
Before I started Kentuckiana HealthFitness Magazine in 1997, I taught employee wellness programs on weight management, cholesterol management, stress management and exercise at Anthem, Jewish Hospital Healthcare Services, PNC Bank, Bank of Louisville, First National Bank, Citizens Fidelity Bank, Brown Foreman, Ford, and an assortment of smaller businesses. When the stock market dropped, many businesses cut their employee wellness programs as a result. At the time, very little data was collected on outcomes. As a result, no one knew if the health education really helped to create a healthier employee which in turn would help to decrease the cost of health care over time.
A number of years ago, Humana had an educational seminar for Human Resource Departments who businesses had Humana Health Insurance Coverage. Mike McAllister, CEO of Humana, detailed the fact that well executed & effective employee wellness programs would help to bring the cost of the premiums down.
Fast forward, in today’s world Employee or Worksite Wellness is term that is HOT. Health Insurance companies are racing to get a corner of the action in terms of offering all aspects of employee wellness: Behavior change, Health Risk Appraisals (HRA), personalized goals, health coaching, online access, health costs statistics, effectiveness of programming, an array of incentives, online & apps for an assortment of devices and unlimited health resources . Health insurance companies are busy buying up smaller companies that will help to make employees take better care of their health to decrease health costs and increase productivity at work. If the employee buys into managing their own health, both the business and the health insurance company benefit.
ROI (Return on Investment): Health Enterprises Network Workshop
On March 31, the Health Enterprises Network (HEN), a Greater Louisville Affiliate, held a workshop for businesses regarding how worksite wellness can affect their business’ bottom line in a positive way. A panel of experts was assembled to discuss R.O.I. Wellness. The panelists included Rishabh Mehrotra, CEO & President of SHPS, Inc, Stuart Slutzky, Vice-President of Product Development, Humana-Vitality, Dr. Louis Heuser, Executive Director & CEO of Heuser Clinic, Sean Stovenshi, CEO of Humana-Vitality and Tom Gettelfinger, President & CEO of Zeon Chemicals. Each panelist discussed their area of interest and then questions were entertained as Jean West, Anchor WAVE-3, asked audience questions to the panelists.
Key Principles of a Comprehensive Program
Stuart Slutzky began the conversation with the Key Principles of a Comprehensive Program. These include: Behavioral Economics, Personalized Goals & Activities, Broad & Affordable Access, Verifiable Results with Seamless Integration, Intelligent Incentives and Supportive Culture, Tools and Resources. Slutzky explained that incentives could be cash or merchandise. In his experience the merchandise works better because the cash is gone but the merchandise like an I-Pod Touch is a constant reminder of the program.
Although Slutzky elaborated on the Humana-Vitality experience, many health insurance companies around the countries are offering very similar products. It’s in the best interest of the health insurance company to provide strategies to keep their clients healthy because it costs everyone less money in the end!
Most programs include an interactive website, complete Health Risk Appraisal (HRA), a determination of your health age, a method to select your goals and steps to improve your risks or maintain your health, and then the actual engagement of the employee in their own personal path to health.
Personal pathways to health include: disease management, smoking cessation, mental health, preventive care, and physical activity. As a result of positive steps to achieving their personal health goals, employees can earn Vitality points and enjoy Vitality rewards.
Most programs like Humana-Vitality want to assess what employees did before the HRA and how the intervention has impacted the health of the employee. What the business wants to know is: how does this intervention help control my healthcare costs such as less sickness, fewer hospital admission and shorter hospital stays.
According to Slutzky, for every $1 spent on wellness, the company can save $3 on productivity. If that is true, an effective wellness program may cost a few bucks but in the end it will help to increase the company’s bottom line!
Creating a Well Movement in Your Business
Next up to bat was Rishabh Mehrotra, CEO & President of SHPS who is also the Chair of the Board of Directors of HEN. Mehrotra said that you cannot show a ROI unless you have an actual claim. Each business needs to create a culture of wellness/health at the business. By creating an internal culture of wellness & adopting effective wellness programs, a company can reduce their total claims. In fact, Mehrotra said at SHPS, they had a 28% reduction in total claims as compared to 15% in prior years without a wellness program.
Mehrotra said the US spends $2 trillion on health care which is 16.5% of GDP. He said $.95 per $1 is spent on disease with 75% of the costs allocated to treat chronic conditions that are preventable or reversible. The cost of disease after it happens is expensive! The cost of the sick economy is unsustainable according to Mehrotra. However, he suggested the “sudden transformation to good health will result in massive recession,” a recession America does not need in our frail economy. He thinks we need “to raise an awareness for building a new ecosystem based on health, vitality and sustainable consumption.”
Since America is no longer a manufacturing country healthcare has been the economic engine in America for job creation and job growth. Pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies, health insurance companies, nursing homes and large hospital companies have impacted the economy in a positive way in terms of job creation but if the country turns from a SICK ECONOMY to a WELL NATION an entirely new infrastructure will need to be built. But of course, this change would require hard work on the part of Americans to change from bad health habits to good health habits. This change will not occur easily or smoothly since behavior change and maintenance of the change long term is very difficult.
Mehrotra described a change is needed in our government farm subsidy programs. Currently the Federal Government subsidizes corn which is turn makes corn syrup which helps to sweeten many products that help to encourage obesity.
Farm subsidies have made it less profitable to grown fruits, vegetables and healthy grains. There is a major price gap between healthy choices and processed foods. Mehrotra suggested that large companies need to change from a culture of health to a community of health. Two-thirds of PepsiCo profits are now from smart food rather than high fructose corn syrup beverages they were once know for, according to Mehrotra.
One comment that Mehrotra made however was refuted by Barbara Hawkins, RN with LG & E. Mehrotra indicated that Obamacare offers a 30% discount on premiums based on companies offering wellness programs at the worksite. However, Hawkins said in their experience there are so many “hoops to jump through, and so many regulations that need to be followed it is impossible to get any discount from the Federal Government.” Hawkins has been in employee wellness at LG & E for over 20 years.
Building a WellNation
How do we create a WELLMOVEMENT? Mehrotra suggested you can start by joining the conversation. A website and Facebook presence was developed by Rishabh Mehrota and the folks at SHPS to begin the conversation. You can share what you will do to build a community of health as a consumer, business, educator or policy maker. In order to develop a new ecosystem around a WELLNATION, leaders from all industries need to mobilize to begin the conversation. Visit wellnation.net or facebook.com/wellmovement. Maybe we can all come up with some solutions to change the culture and dynamics of a SICK NATION and turn our country into a WELLNATION rather than just talk about what needs to be done. We need achievable action plans not just a bunch of HOT AIR!
Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N, is a registered dietitian (www.DayByDayNutrition.com) who has been teaching healthy lifestyles strategies to consumers for over 35+ years.
Image from: www.benefitsdoneright.net