October 21 2019 | 0 Comments | 93 reads Average Rating: 3

Employee Wellness Programs That Work

by Nicole Stec (Guest Author) in Health Analytics

Health plan with a choice of physicians. Check. Discounted membership fee to a local gym. Check. Industry-leading prescription drug plan. Check. In fact, you’ve checked all the boxes for a first-rate health plan. So why are your employees still missing more days than normal, and distracted by health matters when they are at work?

The answer is because it’s not enough to design a great, comprehensive health plan. You have to get your employees to use it. Which means figuring out what their potential barriers are and then devising a plan to overcome them.

That’s what my organization did when we were working with a municipality in the Southwest. Using big data and analytics from SCIO, we discovered that the plans being offered weren’t really customized, only took into account physical issues instead of all eight dimensions of wellness1, and weren’t very convenient. In fact, it would take so long for employees to get an appointment scheduled with their primary care providers (PCPs) that many just gave up and would go to the emergency department (ED) at the local hospital or acute care center when they were sick – the most expensive forms of “primary care” available.

We then began tackling each of these issues, using SCIO’s predictive and prescriptive analytics. Among the upgrades to a traditional plan we made were:

  • Opening the municipality’s own health clinic, with its own physicians, on the organization’s grounds. No more fighting traffic or having to take a couple of hours off to be seen.
  • Most employees and their families were able to obtain same-day appointments, or at the most have to wait three days. This was far better than the weeks they used to have to wait before.
  • Addressing all eight dimensions of wellness – physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, vocational, financial and environmental – within that same location. It became a one-stop shop for all the factors that could affect the health of employees and their families, whether they were tied to physical needs, social determinants of health, money woes, career concerns, achieving work/life balance or other issues.
  • All services were provided free of charge to the employees and their families. We removed money as an objection and the employees responded overwhelmingly by taking advantage of the program.

The other key aspect was the program’s flexibility, which enabled services to be added as needs were identified.

For example, employees using personal fitness devices could opt to have their information linked to their electronic health record (EHR). This was particularly important for those in the program with obesity or other chronic conditions. Their PCPs could monitor their activities to ensure they were as active as they should be.

To date, the wellness center has seen more than 5,000 unique patients, with an appointment utilization rate that rose from 50% prior to the program to 80% today.

In 2018, the municipality estimated that it had reduced absenteeism by $430,360 and reduced presenteeism by $171,910. The time saved came to $229,760, and the savings from retaining employees (rather than having to recruit, hire and train new employees) added another $223,780 in savings. In all, the city estimates the total productivity savings to be more than $1 million.

At the same time, by redirecting primary and preventive care, the city was able to reduce utilization of higher-cost providers, specialists and laboratories, resulting in more than $1.3 million in additional savings.

The key to getting employees to use health is determining what their obstacles are in the present program and then removing them, one-by-one. SCIO’s data analytics helped us with both.


1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5508938/

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Nicole Stec (Guest Author)
Senior Well-Being Manager, Banner Health

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