One of the most popular books on business transformation today is “Patients Come Second.” It is aimed at health care providers and espouses the premise that you cannot take outstanding care of your patients without first attending to the needs of your employees.
This is a radical concept in health care as the patient had always been considered the nucleus for organizations. What is becoming clear is the tenet that without a workforce at its peak in performance, providing an exceptional patient experience is quite difficult.
It takes the three “E’s”
Ensuring your workforce is healthy and well so that every associate can perform at his or her peak level means more than just providing a brochure rack with health information in the lunchroom. It takes engagement, education and empowerment.
At Akron General, we have engaged our employees by offering a comprehensive Be Well program that provides easy-to-follow steps including wellness screening and health risk assessment. Employees have their body mass index measured and are screened for high blood pressure, cholesterol, nicotine use and other indicators.
Through the use of an internal website, employees can access the latest educational materials on an entire range of medical conditions that offer encouragement and advice on getting and staying healthy. The website keeps track of their progress and tallies point toward their wellness goal.
Finally, employees are empowered through incentives to actively participate in activities that will lead to their better health. By completing simple steps and collecting the required points, employees save real dollars off their organization-sponsored health insurance premiums.
Over the course of several years, enhancements to our Be Well employee wellness program have helped to increase participation in many of the free and low-cost resources offered to employees including an on-site fitness center, on-site massage, wellness lectures and the annual wellness screening. Comparative data from 2011 and 2012 shows aggregate improvement in certain categories for employees who have participated.
Fully embrace the program
Some say programs like this are unsustainable. That is true only if an organization does not fully embrace a wellness culture starting at the top of the leadership chart. Everyone, from the CEO down, needs to walk the talk.
It takes engagement, education and empowerment, and a major commitment from the organization to embrace its employees and create a culture of wellness.
Our country is experiencing a sea change in health care, a major transformation away from the concept of focusing on sick care to preventing illness through wellness initiatives. Since 1997, Akron General has led this charge. Now, the nation is noticing.
The first step in creating a culture of wellness and ensuring a healthy workforce is by making a commitment. We are committed to working with employers to help them create a culture of wellness and prevent sickness and injury within their organizations.
While much has been debated about the cost-benefit ratio of wellness programs, it is important to remember the words of American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson who is quoted as saying, “The first wealth is health.”
After all, isn’t good leadership all about doing what’s right?
Dr. Thomas “Tim” L. Stover, MBA, is president and CEO of Akron General Health System. Contact Dr. Stover at email@example.com. For more information, visit www.akrongeneral.org