Why hospital workers are sick
Hospital workers less healthy than others
Hospital workers spend more time and money on healthcare than other American workers, a Thomson Reuters study revealed. These employees use hospital care 8.6% more than average for the treatment of chronic illnesses, including asthma, diabetes, congestive heart failure and mental illness. The cost ing and care for employees must change. Administrators assumed that employees received the proper care because of their expertise in healthcare and access to resources. Hospital leadership long ignored employee needs with the belief that their workforce didn’t require special care or additional programs, he said. In truth, long hours and a stressful work- $3.27, while the cost of absenteeism falls by $2.73. The AHA released its own report in January, which was quoted in the Thomson Reuters study.
That underscores the importance of employee health, but there’s also a question of credibility, said Bluford, who’s also the president and CEO of Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City, Mo. It’s a hospital’s responsibility to keep its employees healthy, as they serve as a community role model.
“It’s most appropriate given the Accountable Care Act, and its emphasis on accountability,” he said. “Who needs to be more accountable than the employees of America’s hospitals?” But it’s not easy, Bluford acknowledged. Given the proliferation of wellness programs, hospitals must demonstrate patience, he said, and he has seen hospitals “throw in the towel” too early. It takes about three years after implementation to see major results, Bluford said.
Fabius said it would take even longer for results: seven to 10 years. Improving the health of their own employees, though, would give hospitals a jump-start developing accountable care organizations.
One healthcare system testing its ACO by enrolling its employees is Norton Healthcare, a four-hospital system based in Louisville, Ky. Norton implemented a wellness program in 2008 and has seen gains, particularly with its smoking cessation program, said Dr. Sandra Brooks, Norton’s system vice president of research and prevention, who oversees the program. Kentucky residents rank near the top 50 states when it comes to smokers. The system has been smoke-free since 2007, with other Kentucky hospitals following suit. Norton also installed walking paths and made other tweaks to the environment.
“I don’t think we have enough data to say (hospital employees) are at a greater risk,” Brooks said. “We believe our employees are similar to the general population, but given healthcare is such a demanding field, we feel very strongly we have to do whatever (it takes) to optimize our health so we can continue to provide healthcare to others.”
One way Norton is expanding its program is to set up a Web-based portal so employees can download and print forms to bring to their doctor. That launches in January and they hope to have all 11,500 employees registered next year. Smartphone applications also are part of the process.
Bluford said hospitals need to find innovative ways to reach at-risk employees. “The gym rats are going to take care of themselves.”