"Employee health will always be a shared responsibility of employee, employer and health care provider -- whether the parties choose to acknowledge it or not. Smart organizations will embrace responsibility for employee health and encourage workers to take their responsibility seriously as well."
-- William Whitmer, MBA, Health Enhancement Research Organization
Increasingly, corporations and other organizations across the country are realizing the correlation between a healthy bottom line and healthy employees. Today, more than ever, employers are willing to invest in services that help employees identify health risks that they might not be aware of and provide resources and education to assist them in improving their physical wellness profile.
Multiple studies at major corporations such as Steelcase and Johnson & Johnson have continued to show that providing onsite health management programs encourages economic health. These programs yield net savings of greater than $3 for every dollar invested in programming.
One of the most valuable programs, generally considered the first step in the health improvement process, is the health screening. The success of any onsite screening will be determined by the level of management commitment.
Personal participation on the part of the senior management and supervisors is critical. Personal participation and allowing employees time to participate sends a clear message that the organization is committed to their good health.
Effective and frequent communication will ensure high participation, which is critical to get the desired results. Adding incentives has proven to increase voluntary participation.
Providers of screening services range from hospitals to organizations that specialize in delivering screenings and other health management services. Understanding the culture of the organization is imperative in creating a process that gives you the most for your investment.
- Regardless of the vendor, screenings typically consist of:
- Physical measurements such as height/weight
- A collection of biometric data, including cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose
- Feedback on results
- Educational materials
Combining clinical data with a questionnaire that asks employees about diagnosed conditions and health behaviors will offer the most effective tool for identifying critical areas of improvement. The most effective screenings are ones in which participants have an opportunity to meet with a health professional or health educator to discuss their results and assist them in identifying areas in which they are interested in making changes.
The main benefits
Health management programs are designed to control health insurance costs by improving the overall health of a population. The greatest impact will be made when health professionals work one-on-one with employees by giving them an opportunity to participate in health screenings at the workplace.
Health screenings can:
- Identify conditions that are unknown to the participant
- Identify participants at greatest risk for being short-term, high-cost claimants
- Measure how well participants are managing chronic conditions
- Build awareness
- Provide educational materials for health improvement
- Encourage participants to make a commitment to improve their health
- Encourage participants to take an active role in managing their health
- Increase employee satisfaction
Getting the results you want
It is difficult to measure the complete impact that onsite health screenings can have. Clearly identifying individuals with abnormal clinical measures and encouraging them to seek professional care will avoid serious complications in the future.
In one case, an abnormal heart rhythm was discovered in a young male. Another man in his late 20s with an emergency level blood pressure was referred to his physician for immediate care.
These cases, if unchecked, could have resulted in major heart attack or stroke.
Placing a monetary value on these cases is challenging. The most effective way to measure results is through regular testing that shows changes in health status or risk. In the health management industry, it is well known that individuals with five or more risk factors, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, have 2.5 to 4 times greater chance of being a high-cost claimant in the future.
When cost follows risk, it makes sense that reducing risk will reduce costs. Sally L. Stephens, R.N., is president of Spectrum Health Systems. Stephens and her husband, Mark, founded Spectrum Health Systems, an independent health management company, in 1997 to provide Fortune 100 quality health risk management programs to middle-market employers. Reach her at (317) 573-7600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.