For ev­ery­one’s ben­e­fit

Em­power em­ploy­ees to set ex­am­ple of well­ness in their com­mu­ni­ties

Modern Healthcare - - Opinions Commentary -

As health­care providers, we are com­mit­ted to help­ing peo­ple re­al­ize their full po­ten­tial for health. The best place to start is with our own em­ploy­ees. At Tru­man Med­i­cal Cen­ters in Kansas City, Mo., we put em­ploy­ees first in a host of well­ness ini­tia­tives be­cause we view each of them as a crit­i­cal health am­bas­sador who, in lead­ing by ex­am­ple, can greatly im­prove the health of our en­tire com­mu­nity.

TMC has an ac­tive em­ployee well­ness pro­gram. Our em­ploy­ees can trade paid-time-off hours for re­im­burse­ment for well­ness-re­lated ex­penses. This puts the em­ploy­ees in con­trol, em­pow­er­ing them to pur­sue the well­ness strate­gies that work best for them. It also al­lows TMC to make a big in­vest­ment in em­ployee health at no ad­di­tional cost. We also pro­vide a va­ri­ety of con­tin­u­ing-ed­u­ca­tion and life-skill classes for staff and their fam­i­lies. Re­cently, we launched a tu­tor­ing pro­gram for the chil­dren of our em­ploy­ees who need ad­di­tional sup­port in their school work.

Our ap­proach to build­ing a cul­ture of health is deeply rooted in the com­mu­nity we serve. Even though we sit in the mid­dle of some of Amer­ica’s most pro­duc­tive farm­land, res­i­dents of the city cen­ter have very lim­ited food store op­tions, re­duc­ing their ac­cess to fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles.

One of TMC’s ini­tia­tives to ad­dress this is­sue is our Healthy Har­vest Pro­duce Mar­ket. We of­fer not only de­li­cious and tempt­ing foods, but ex­perts to help shop­pers learn how to pre­pare them. Em­ploy­ees, pa­tients’ fam­i­lies and the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity all ben­e­fit from the mar­ket. And our next pro­ject, which we hope to launch in the next 18 months, will be a full-fledged healthy gro­cery store.

We all know that bet­ter man­age­ment of chronic dis­eases such as di­a­betes, asthma, sick­le­cell ane­mia and heart disease im­proves lives. So when TMC un­der­took a pro­gram to help pa­tients and their fam­i­lies make life­style changes that will help them bet­ter man­age their health, we started with our own em­ploy­ees and so­licited in­put from com­mu­nity ad­vo­cates.

Through ed­u­ca­tion and a coached ap­proach to life­style changes, our Pass­port to Well­ness care team helps em­ploy­ees with chronic dis­eases bet­ter un­der­stand and man­age their con­di­tions. The care team also works to re­move bar­ri­ers that pre­vent em­ploy­ees from fol­low­ing through with their care plans, such as prob­lems with trans­porta­tion, pre­par­ing for ap­point­ments or gen­eral health lit­er­acy. While the pro­gram is a pow­er­ful state­ment to our em­ploy­ees that we care about them, we are also con­fi­dent that it will have long-term ben­e­fits in at­tract­ing and re­tain­ing the best em­ploy­ees, im­prov­ing per­for­mance, and low­er­ing the num­ber of days lost to ill­ness and our health­care costs.

The ini­tial re­sults have been phe­nom­e­nal. Our sickle-cell read­mis­sion rate has been re­duced by 26%. Our asthma pa­tients on av­er­age spend 25% fewer days in the hos­pi­tal and make 23% fewer vis­its to the emer­gency room. Care teams that in­clude a physi­cian, nurse, phar­ma­cist and so­cial worker pro­duced these re­sults with guided pro­to­cols and case man­age­ment.

The Amer­i­can Hos­pi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion’s Long-Range Pol­icy Com­mit­tee, which I chaired last year, has re­leased a re­port look­ing at cur­rent hos­pi­tal em­ployee well­ness prac­tices, ex­plor­ing promis­ing prac­tices and pro­vid­ing rec­om­men­da­tions. Sur­vey re­sults from 876 hos­pi­tals found that 86% have an em­ployee health and well­ness pro­gram. While most strug­gle to mea­sure their re­turn on in­vest­ment for em­ployee well­ness, those that have show very pos­i­tive re­sults. A re­cent meta-anal­y­sis of ex­ist­ing peer­re­viewed lit­er­a­ture shows that for ev­ery dol­lar spent on well­ness pro­grams, costs fall about $3.27 and ab­sen­teeism by $2.73.

In­cen­tives can be im­por­tant. For ex­am­ple, Ford Mo­tor Co. in­creased par­tic­i­pa­tion in health risk as­sess­ments from 4% to 85% by of­fer­ing a $600 de­ductible dif­fer­en­tial. Och­sner Health Sys­tem in New Or­leans gives em­ploy­ees who par­tic­i­pate in a vol­un­tary well­ness pro­gram a $500 ($2,000 for fam­i­lies) in­surance pre­mium dis­count.

The com­mit­tee made seven rec­om­men­da­tions:

Serve as a role model of health for the com­mu­nity, cre­at­ing ro­bust health and well­ness pro­grams as ex­am­ples to the com­mu­nity.

Cre­ate a cul­ture of healthy liv­ing, start­ing at the top with the CEO and board of trustees in mak­ing well­ness a strate­gic pri­or­ity for the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Pro­vide a va­ri­ety of pro­gram of­fer­ings, from health risk as­sess­ments to in­ten­sive coach­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. One size does not fit all, and mo­ti­vat­ing high-risk pop­u­la­tions is a chal­lenge.

Pro­vide pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive in­cen­tives to in­crease par­tic­i­pa­tion and im­prove out­comes.

Mea­sure and in­crease par­tic­i­pa­tion and then build sys­tems to track out­comes.

Com­mit to ef­fec­tively mea­sur­ing re­turn of in­vest­ment over sev­eral years to build the strate­gic case for sus­tain­ing the pro­gram.

Mo­ti­vate em­ploy­ees over time, con­tin­u­ally re­in­forc­ing well­ness as a lead­er­ship pri­or­ity.

Ours is an in­tensely per­sonal line of work, and those of us who work in health­care tend to think of our co-work­ers as fam­ily mem­bers. As a hos­pi­tal CEO, I know that em­ployee well­ness is good busi­ness; as a mem­ber of a hos­pi­tal fam­ily and a com­mu­nity that I love, I know that it is much more.

Mak­ing em­ployee well­ness a pri­or­ity is an im­por­tant way of de­liv­er­ing the bless­ings of health to the peo­ple we truly value. Em­pow­er­ing those same peo­ple to lead their fam­i­lies and neigh­bors to bet­ter health by ex­am­ple is the (sugar-free, low-fat) ic­ing on the cake.

John Blu­ford is pres­i­dent and CEO of Tru­man Med­i­cal Cen­ters, Kansas

City, Mo., and chair­man of the Amer­i­can Hos­pi­tal


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