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To avoid disasters, be ready to answer these questions
Don't act without support
A company with 100 employees dedicates an entire floor of the building to a fitness center, but like many companies, has had financial setbacks due to the recession. Suddenly, the employee gym looks like a very bad investment.
As an occupational health professional, you could have seen this problem coming and saved the day by suggesting a different approach, says Robert R. Orford, MD, CM, MS, MPH, president of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and a consultant with the Division of Preventive Occupational Medicine at Mayo Clinic Arizona in Scottsdale.
In the above case, Orford says, it would have made more sense for this particular company to contribute toward employee membership at a local health club or even pay for memberships outright. For 100 employees, a $300 membership would be $30,000, or $15,000 if the company paid half the cost. "That is a lot less expensive than taking up a third of your building, and when the downturn comes, you can't get rid of it," says Orford. "Once you have invested 5,000 square feet in wellness, that infrastructure is not easy to get rid of."
Before you ask for specific resources needed for wellness initiatives, be sure that what you are asking for is appropriate. "Otherwise, you could easily be misled and do things that are not appropriate," warns Orford.
According to Eileen Lukes, PhD, RN, COHN-S, CCM, FAAOHN, health services manager for The Boeing Company's southern region, based in Mesa, AZ, "Failure to anticipate the questions that upper management will ask will prevent you from having the answers needed to sell the program." Be sure you are ready with answers to these questions:
Are there any champions in upper management or at the executive level?
Without knowing this in advance, you might end up in a dangerous position, without leadership buy-in or support of stakeholders such as the benefits department, says Grace K. Paranzino, MS, RN, CHES, FAAOHN, national clinical manager for Kelly Healthcare Resources in Troy, MI. "The heads of finance or benefits may have data to support the development of a program," adds Lukes.
You can identify champions informally through lunches, says Lukes, but it might require formal appointments to lay out your case and get a real commitment.
What's in it for them?
To obtain buy-in, Paranzino recommends answering the question "What's in it for me?" for all stakeholders, both leadership and employees. "Ultimately, if leadership support is not strong, this message does trickle down to the employee level, and programs will fail because they will not be viewed as organizationally important."
Do you have the support of employees and/or unions?
"Employees are the company's greatest asset. Getting and keeping good employees is the goal of every human resource professional and manager," says Lukes. "Further, companies strive to have good relationships with unions."
If employees, unions, and the company are working together toward a common goal, a company can expect greater employee engagement, says Lukes, leading to strong productivity.
What has been done elsewhere?
Benchmark with your counterparts at other companies to find out what programs have resulted in success. "This will provide the framework for creating a program that is likely to get support," says Lukes.
In addition to basic questions about what the wellness program consists of and how much is being spent, Lukes says to ask other companies these questions about measured outcomes:
Have you saved money?
How do you know money has been saved?
Has there been any measurable impact on disability costs or medical care costs? How are you measuring those things?
Has there been an improvement in employee satisfaction or employee engagement scores?
If you have a program but it's relatively new, what are the outcomes that you are measuring?
How is the health of the employee organization?
Catherine M. Pepler, RN, ASN, MBA, COHN-S/CM, FAAOHN, director of site operations at Take Care Health Systems, a Conshohocken, PA-based provider of worksite health and wellness services and in-store health clinics, says this can be gleaned from the types of clinic visits, reasons for lost time from work, and health and wellness surveys of the employees.
"One other thing to consider is benefit utilization of the employees," says Pepler. "This is tricky, as companies do not readily share this information. But it is worth trying to obtain for analysis."
Before making a business case, "be cognizant and well versed in disease prevalence and severity for the target population," advises Paranzino. "Review the utilization data to determine costs of users, and prioritize programs accordingly."
For more information on making a business case for occupational health programs, contact:
Eileen Lukes, PhD, RN, COHN-S, CCM, FAAOHN, Health Services Manager, Southern Region, The Boeing Company, Mesa, AZ. E-mail: email@example.com.
Robert R. Orford, MD, CM, MS, MPH, Division of Preventive Occupational Medicine, Mayo Clinic Arizona, Scottsdale. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grace K. Paranzino, MS, RN, CHES, FAAOHN, National Clinical Manager, Kelly Healthcare Resources, Troy, MI. Phone: (248) 244-3894. Fax: (248) 244-4483. E-mail: email@example.com.
Catherine M. Pepler, RN, ASN, MBA, COHN-S/CM, FAAOHN, Director, Site Operations, Take Care Health Systems, Conshohocken, PA. Phone: (603) 424-5565. Fax: (603) 424-2815. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.