Why hos­pi­tal work­ers are sick

Hos­pi­tal work­ers less healthy than oth­ers

Modern Healthcare - - Front Page - Ashok Selvam

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.”

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