By Kelley Weiss | December 4,2012
As if fitting into your favorite pair of “skinny jeans” isn’t enough…your boss might give you a discount on your health insurance if you do.
It’s a growing trend these days for companies to offer incentives – or the proverbial carrot – to get workers in better shape.
Don Powell is the CEO and president of the American Institute for Preventive Medicine. He advises about 13,000 corporations around the country,including unions and the military,about implementing wellness programs.
Powell says that the majority of businesses today offer some type of wellness program. These can range from having a health fair or flu shot clinic at work to building an on-site gym.
He says what’s driving this is ever-rising health care costs. Worksite wellness programs can translate into fewer sick days and increased productivity. But more importantly it can save businesses money,he says. For some companies Powell says for every dollar they spend on a wellness program,they get back three dollars in return.
Powell says when workplace wellness programs started in the 1980s they usually consisted of a smoking cessation class or a dietician offering tips for healthier eating.
Now,times have changed. He says employers will give out prizes like airline tickets to Hawaii or a mountain bike if you lose weight.
And the Internet is playing an increasing role in these challenges as well. Employees can track their progress online and compare it to their co-workers.
“It could range from drinking more water per day to eating five helpings of fruits and vegetables to climbing Mt. Everest to swimming the English Channel,” Powell says.
Your boss might also give you a discount on your health insurance costs. This can add up to 20 percent of the total cost for your insurance. Under President Obama’s health care law this will increase to 30 percent in 2014.
Powell says bosses are also wising up to the fact that to really save money they have to focus on more than just the employee. He says 70 percent of employers’ health care costs are due to dependents,kids and spouses.
“If you’re only working with worksite wellness with the employee you’re only getting at 30 percent of the problem,” he says. “So allowing dependents or even children to participate in the wellness program is a growing trend.”
That could mean taking your child along to the gym to workout on the company’s dime.
Powell says while carrots are by far more popular,the stick is gaining popularity. The same provision under the federal health care law that allows employers to give workers a 30 percent financial incentive if they get in better shape goes the other way too. If you don’t work at lowering your cholesterol or losing weight you could be paying 30 percent more in penalties come 2014.
Our self-care guides have been extremely effective in lowering health care costs and absenteeism by reducing unnecessary doctor and emergency room visits. In 26 independent studies involving over 15,000 participants,they have demonstrated an average savings of $83.15 per employee in 8.3 months. More importantly,our self-care guides can save lives as evidenced by the stories below. They are representative of the many case histories we receive.
1) Lowe’s,Mooresville,NC – Distributed Health at Home® to all employees on their insurance plan.
One Sunday,Dr. Don Powell,President of the American Institute for Preventive Medicine,was in the Lowe’s home improvement store in Bloomfield Hills,MI. Jeff Bilbrey,a sales specialist in the plumbing department,was helping Dr. Powell purchase a new kitchen faucet. Without identifying who he was,Dr. Powell asked Jeff if he remembered receiving a copy of Health at Home® and,if so,had he used it. Jeff replied, “Not only did I use the guide,it saved my life.” Dr. Powell asked him how.
“One evening about 11/2 years ago,I was experiencing stomach pain and vomiting. When the symptoms persisted until the next morning,I used Health at Home® to determine what I should do. The guide stated that with my symptoms,I should see a doctor which I promptly did. My doctor said my body’s systems were shutting down and I was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis. Within one hour,I was hospitalized for the condition and spent 30 days in intensive care. My physician said I would have died had I not been treated when I was. When Dr. Powell identified himself,Jeff said,“Your book saved my life.”
2) Fairview Health System,Minneapolis,MN – Distributed Health at Home® to all 20,000 employees.
A nurse who received the guide writes: “I had been experiencing severe abdominal pain. I consulted the Health at Home® self-care book,called the NurseLine,and was advised to go to the Emergency Room. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Luckily,it was caught early and after surgery and chemo,my prognosis is excellent. I credit the book for helping me decide the right thing to do.”
3) Great Clips Salon,West Bloomfield,MI – Kathy Mojet,a stylist at Great Clips Salon,was experiencing heart palpitations and went to see a physician at a local hospital. The doctor did not feel that Kathy’s situation was serious and sent her home. The next day,Kathy was still experiencing the palpitations.
“I looked in Healthier at Home® to see if this physician was correct with his diagnosis and also the right one for me. After reading the sections on Heart Palpitations and Choosing a Health Care Provider,I realized I did not receive the proper care and went to see another physician. The second doctor diagnosed me with atrial fibrillation and successfully treated me. Had this not occurred,blood clots could have formed in my body and potentially killed me.”
4) Aurora Health Care,Milwaukee,WI – Distributed Healthier at Home® to all 25,000 employees through their Wellness Works program.
Marijo Parsons,pharmacy supervisor at Aurora Sheboygan Memorial Medical Center,thanks the Healthier at Home® Self-Care Guide,her quick action,and first-rate medical care for helping save her husband’s life.
Marijo’s husband,Jay,felt unusual back pain after laying flooring in the couple’s garage. For relief he took Advil and a hot bath. Unable to sleep that evening,Jay noticed pain in his left shoulder and elbow. He got up,sat in a recliner,and felt better.
On the coffee table was a copy of Healthier at Home®. As Marijo sat up with her husband,she paged through the guide. On page 387,she noticed her husband’s symptoms matched those for a heart attack. Using the self-care/first aid section of the guide,she knew exactly what to do.
“You’d better take an aspirin and we’ll go to the emergency department,” Marijo said. Jay had quadruple bypass surgery the following morning.
Thanks to Marijo’s use of the guide and the excellent care Jay received,he experienced a speedy and complete recovery. Not surprisingly,the Parsons are very thankful for their Healthier at Home® Self-Care Guide. “It was a real lifesaver,” she said.
5) Ford Motor Company,Dearborn,MI – Distributed to employees who attended UAW/Ford health fairs.
“My husband initially ignored the chest pain he was having,but after I read Health at Home®,I insisted he go to the emergency room. At the E.R.,he was diagnosed with having a heart attack due to advanced coronary artery disease. A triple bypass operation was performed within the hour. Had my husband not received immediate treatment,he would not be alive today. I credit Health at Home® with saving him.”
The term “Medical Self-Care”can be defined in a variety of fashions but our CEO,Dr. Don Powell (biosketch) put it best when he was asked to define it by the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA) as part of their expert interview series.
“Medical self-care is a series of behaviors that a person engages in when they experience physical or psychological symptoms. Medical self-care enables consumers to make a more informed decision about whether they can treat their symptoms themselves or if they should seek professional medical care. Medical self-care tends to be utilized more for everyday health problems as opposed to chronic conditions. I also distinguish medical self-care from medical consumerism. I view medical consumerism as helping people to better understand and interact with the health care system,rather than what to do for specific symptoms.”
Fundamentally,Medical self-care is a type of wellness program that encourages employees to decide what to do for themselves with or without provider assistance. These various programs are unique in that they are rather inexpensive to provide but the savings they can produce are enormous;such is evidenced by the return on investment (ROI) analysis described in the myriad of journal articles on our website. It’s not uncommon for companies to experience anywhere from a 3:1 to as much as an 11:1 return-on-investment for a medical self-care program.
Additionally,the savings associated with medical self-care tends to be rather immediate in nature. Self-care is unlike a comprehensive wellness program,where we caution employers that they may have to wait two to four years before realizing a cost savings. The cost savings from a medical self-care program begins with the very first time an employee picks up the book and makes an informed decision,such as not going to the ER when they could perhaps wait 12 hours and go to the doctor’s office the next day. So a $788 visit now becomes a $206 visit—that’s $582 saved right at that moment for the employer. Some of the benefits that go along with the implementation of a self-care program are:
- Reduced Physician and Emergency Room Visits
- Reduced Health Care Costs
- Reduced Absenteeism
- Increased Productivity
- Increased Patient Satisfaction
- Increased Patient Empowerment and Self Efficiency
These benefits occur because medical self-care programs teach members/employees and their dependents to become wiser health care consumers. They learn to make better decisions about when to go to the doctor or emergency room (ER) and when they can treat themselves using self-care procedures. One of the unique things about a self-care program is that you don’t have to offer a financial incentive to increase participation. That’s because an employee saving time by not having to wait in a doctor’s office or emergency room and saving money by avoiding a co-payment,are incentives in and of themselves. With no incentive at all,research shows that anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of people will use a self-care book within the first six months of receiving it. Visit our website to learn more about the self-care books and guides that we currently have to offer and how they can be beneficial for your business.
When Dr. Powell was asked –“Given the dramatic increase in health care costs and the emphasis in organizations on escalating costs,more and more people are beginning to pay attention to medical self-care initiatives. How important from your perspective is a medical self-care initiative for the business community?”he responded by stating:
“I think medical self-care should be a core component of any wellness program. There is a variety of data that supports this from a business perspective. For the coming year alone,health care costs are set to increase by eight to nine percent (to about $11,000 per employee). We also know that there’s a great deal of excessive use of the health care system. The latest statistics suggest that at least 30 percent of all doctor visits are unnecessary. According to National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey,there were 956 million doctor visits in 2008. So,you’re talking about 287 million unnecessary doctor visits at an average cost of $206 per visit. You also need to take ER visits into account. According to the 2010 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey,there were 124 million ER visits,and it’s estimated that about 55 percent of those are for non-emergent care,at an average cost of $788 per visit. So,when you consider these numbers,that’s a lot of money that could be saved for both employers and employees. Medical self-care is really a win-win-win scenario. When employees avoid unnecessary health care utilization they win because they save time and money on co-pays. The company wins because they’re saving money on health care and absenteeism costs. And lastly,health promotion practitioners and benefits professionals win because they receive a great deal of credit and thanks for implementing the medical self-care program.”
These are some of the reasons why we think medical self-care should be a core component of any wellness program and there is a variety of data to support this from a business perspective. Self-care initiatives should be offered to everyone,not just the 10 to 50 percent who fill out an HRA. Think about this for a moment: Even if half of your employees never use the book,the other half who do will still product an overall return-on-investment for your organization. Don’t be discouraged that not ever employee uses a book that you’ve spent $6 to $7 on,because the employees who do use the book are likely to save you 3-10 times that amount.
Organizations have been successful at reducing healthcare costs by helping their employees/members become wiser health care consumers and live a healthier lifestyle. One effective way to accomplish this is by providing a self-care and wellness guide. It teaches consumers to make better decisions about what medical symptoms require professional assistance and those that can be treated at home using self-care. This is in light of the fact that approximately 25% of all doctor visits and 55% of all emergency room visits are deemed to be unnecessary.
A number of organizations,particularly those that provide Consumer Driven Health Care (CDH),are putting self-care and wellness information solely online as a way to reduce costs. They rationalize that “everybody” uses the internet and it is a low cost way to reach employees/members. Unfortunately,this view has many flaws. Not only will the organization reach less than a quarter of its people,but it will not save any money.
Organizations should provide a self-care and wellness guide in print to each employee/member and only use online content as an adjunct to it. This is the best way for a company to reach the majority of its employees/members and to reduce healthcare costs.
To read the ten facts that reinforce all of this —Please visit http://bit.ly/RdVad5
1. Pick a self-care publication.
Whether it’s a brochure,a booklet,or a full-length book,a self-care publication should answer a few basic questions:
- Is this a medical emergency?
- Do I need to see a doctor?
- Can I treat this myself?
- How can I treat myself?
A basic family self-care book is appropriate for most employees,but you may want to explore a targeted self-care program for specific populations,such as seniors,pregnant women,students,or members of the military.
2. Host a self-care workshop.
Not surprisingly,a self-care program works best when people actually use their self-care book or booklet. An instructor-led seminar,webinar,or video will orient your employees to the principles of self-care. Workshops on identifying a medical emergency,doctor/patient communication,using a self-care guide or financial wellness can help your employees get the most out of their medical self-care program and encourage them to use their self-care book as a reference tool.
3. Provide a nurse advice line.
A 24-hour nurse advice line — staffed by live,qualified experts — can assess a person’s medical situation and recommend a course of action. Many nurse advice lines also offer an audio library of health topics to provide general reference information.
4. Incorporate online self-care,or self-care software.
Digital self-care has come a long way in a very short time. There are more options available than ever before,from smartphone apps to intranet databases to web-based portals. Health portals can save employees from cyberchondria and provide a reliable source of digital health information. But whatever tool you choose to use,make sure it’s in a format your employees will use (many people still don’t have smartphones — or even computers at home).
With a medical self-care program,communication is key. Keep medical self-care at employees’ fingertips by tying self-care tips into all of your wellness communications;newsletters,postcards,flyers,paycheck inserts,emails,and fridge magnets. (Here are five more tips for promoting self-care in your wellness efforts.)
6. Evaluate your self-care program.
After 9 months,distribute surveys and ask employees report how often they used self-care materials and whether they were able to avoid a missed day of work or an unnecessary doctor or ER visit. You’ll be able to use this data to calculate your ROI and make adjustments for the next year of your program. This is also a good opportunity to solicit feedback from your employees about how to make your program better.
Contact us for a free medical self-care ROI analysis.
Do you have a medical self-care program at your workforce? What’s working for you?
You may be thinking:What? This year just started! Believe it or not,wellness calendar season starts pretty early,with many of our clients placing orders as early as March. This is especially true for those who are looking for custom features,such as unique cover art or reminders for company events.
Maybe you’re also wondering:Who uses calendars these days? With the rise of the smartphone and digital timekeeping,a paper wall calendar might seem a little old-fashioned. But you might be surprised at how many people still use them every day,especially at their desk.
Some prefer to have information available at-a-glance. (Let’s be honest — we all lose track of what day it is.) Others like the physicality of a printed calendar,while some like the simplicity of having one calendar,in one place,that doesn’t require syncing across applications and devices. For whatever reason,calendars remain a popular item to give to your employees as part of wellness promotion efforts.
Here are 6 creative ways to use them in your workplace:
Offer wellness calendars as an incentive.
Want more employees to get a flu shot? Looking to improve attendance at a lunch-and-learn? Offering a free wellness calendar as an incentive to participate is a great way to bring more employees to your health-related events,or encourage participation in health risk assessments.
Give away wellness calendars as prizes …
…For completing surveys,winning contests or at health fairs,company parties,or achieving a health goal.
Promote calendars as a health tracking tool.
Many wellness calendars include space for tracking health information such as blood pressure,cholesterol,BMI,preventive screenings and health tests. Pick a calendar with plenty of room for vital stats tracking and encourage your employees to use it to get healthier!
Bundle wellness calendars with other communications.
Distribute wellness calendars with your first health newsletter of the year,with open enrollment packets,or with flyers for upcoming health events. Or include a healthy perk when you distribute the calendars,like a list of healthy local take-out options or a map of walking routes on your workplace campus.
Build in company events and healthy activities in your community.
It requires a little planning,but if you already have a schedule of next year’s events,why not print them in your wellness calendar so your employees can plan ahead? Include health fairs,open enrollment,company holidays,outings,retreats or seasonal events. Or make note of events in your community,like charity walks/runs,or contact information for local community fitness centers.
Celebrate National Health Observances.
Let your employees know when your company — and the rest of the country — will be observing Heart Health Month,Mental Health Month,American Diabetes Month and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
How do you use wellness calendars in your workplace? Do your employees like them? Let us know!
Eating right is an essential component of overall health and well-being. This National Nutrition Month,the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages you to Get Your Plate in Shape.
The aim is to encourage all of us to include a balanced selection of fruits,vegetables,whole grains,lean proteins and dairy on our plates every day. After years of education campaigns (and that ever-confusing food pyramid),many of us still remain fuzzy on serving sizes,recommended daily allowances,exactly what “sparingly”means,good vs. bad fats,and where things like sodium and processed sugars really come from (hint:the answer is usually “processed food”).
In 2011,MyPlate replaced the food pyramid -- and provided a simple visual solution to recommended daily nutrition
The added challenge in the workplace? Stressed-out employees who are constantly on the run,prone to skipping breakfast and ordering take-out for lunch.
During National Nutrition Month,make it easier for your employees to eat well while they work well. Here are some programming tips:
- Hand out healthy snacks. Curb the mid-morning dash for the vending machine by giving out whole-grain crackers,apples and bananas,low-sugar granola bars or trail mix,100-calorie snack packs or veggies with low-cal dip.
- Praise breakfast. We all know we should eat breakfast,but inevitably we run out of time or forget! Inspire employees to start their days right and host a weekly continental breakfast with whole grain bagels,low-sugar bran muffins,yogurt cups,fruit,and coffee.
- Help with health on-the-run. Gather menus from popular take-out spots and use them to provide a “healthy lunch”guide,with each restaurant’s most nutritious choices highlighted. Think Eat This –Not That.
- Teach a class. Invite a local chef or culinary student to teach an on-site cooking class. Focus on simple weeknight recipes that are quick to prepare and include a few inexpensive ingredients. Or try a Top Chef-style cook-off for your workplace’s most talented gourmands. If your site is too small or has no kitchen,organize a free or subsidized cooking class at a community center.
- Tour the grocery store. Hire a local registered dietitian to take a group on a tour of a local grocery store. An RD can teach people to read ingredient labels,find healthy bargains,plan menus,and accommodate dietary requirements (e.g.,high blood pressure,low-sodium diets,diabetes).
- Take-home,not take-out. Assemble healthy take-home dinner kits with fully prepped ingredients and an easy-to-follow step-by-step recipe,like vegetable fajitas. You can choose whether you provide kits for free or ask employees to pay a small fee ($10 for a meal that feeds four people).
- Publish a company cookbook. Ask employees to share favorite healthy recipes,or pick a theme,like a specific ingredient,recipes for entertaining,weeknight meals or seasonal food. Celebrate its publication with a potluck lunch.
Access healthy recipes,tip sheets,and other National Nutrition Month educational materials here.
Learn more about MyPlate,plus tips for healthy eating on a budget,bilingual materials,a Super Tracker and sample menus,at ChooseMyPlate.gov.
For a full year of National Health Observances, download our free 2012 Wellness Activity Planner.
We hope some of you were able to attend our webinar on Wednesday 2/29 about teaching wise health care consumerism in the workplace.
Whether you missed it,want to hear it again,or just want to hang onto the slide deck for your reference,we’ve made this webinar available to download:
Download the slides
Download the audio recording
We enjoyed sharing our expertise with the employee wellness community,and interest in our program hugely exceeded our expectations! So we’ll be doing it again soon. If you’d like to stay informed about upcoming webinars,sign up here,or simply subscribe to the Working Well Blog.
We look forward to talking with you again soon!
Dr. Powell shares his expertise in a free webinar!
WHAT: Power to the Patient:Teaching Wise Health Care Consumerism in the Workplace
WHEN: Wednesday,February 29,1:00 PM EST*
LENGTH:About 30 mins.,plus time for questions
HOST:Dr. Don R. Powell,President and CEO,American Institute for Preventive Medicine
REGISTRATION:Completely free! Sign up here — space is limited.
WHY:Wise health care consumerism is the missing link in most wellness programs.
Escalating health care costs have burdened both employees and employers. The average cost of a visit to the doctor is about $199;a visit to the ER costs about $922,according to AHRQ. About 25% of those visits are unnecessary,costing billions of dollars every year.
Teaching employees to make wise decisions about their health care empowers your employees and saves your company money. It can even improve an employee’s general health — whether or not you have a wellness program in place.
In this to-the-point,engaging webinar,our President and CEO,Dr. Don R. Powell,will discuss compelling reasons to incorporate wise health care consumerism in your wellness program. He’ll also share practical,creative and budget-friendly ideas for giving your employees the tools they need to navigate an increasingly complex health care system.
Join us on Wednesday,February 29,at 1:00 PM EST*. This program is FREE,but space is limited,so register today.
We look forward to speaking with you on 2/29!
*Please note new date!