Show employee health’s return on investment
Greatest value is staff satisfaction
Hospital employee health directors often find it difficult to quantify a return on investment (ROI) for hospital leadership because much of their department’s value cannot be measured.
"We bring a sense of trust into the workplace, a sense of caring, and people feeling valued," says Karen Mastroianni, EdD, MPH, president of Dimensions in Occupational Health & Safety in Raleigh, NC.
"That’s where the greatest value is for hospitals because if you’re not taking care of your staff, and they don’t feel valued and trusted and recognized, then that will show in the work they perform," she says. "I truly think that’s what occupational health nurses influence in all industries, and — in my mind — that’s even more important in hospitals."
From a hospital employee health perspective, the key is to demonstrate this value to hospital leaders through ROI indicators that can be measured or at least described.
For instance, job satisfaction surveys measure staff’s sense of well-being in the workplace. Some questions could be added to address employee health services in particular.
The employee health office could give each employee receiving services a short patient satisfaction survey to complete.
"So every time someone comes in you will receive feedback," Mastroianni says. "With this information you can make changes and see how well you are fulfilling your mission, goals, and objectives."
Another possibility for demonstrating ROI involves collecting data on case management of employee injuries and illnesses.
"There are disability manuals that indicate — for whatever condition — how long a person could be expected to be out and what the medical cost is for those cases," Mastroianni says.
Employee health case management programs that strive to bring employees back to work and good health can show a cost savings by limiting lost work days and medical costs.
"A lot of times for case management we use the disability manuals to show an average of what it would cost if we didn’t manage that case, showing a significant cost savings," she says.
For example, there might be an employee who is scheduled for back surgery but who had not tried injections or physical therapy. An employee health case manager could discuss non-surgical options with the employee. As a result, the employee might choose to try injections first, a strategy the surgeon also would approve. This would cut costs and return the employee to work sooner, Mastroianni says.
For hospitals with onsite employee health clinics, convenience is another ROI.
"Convenience really saves money," Mastroianni says. "People are more apt to come to work when they’re not feeling well if they know they could see a physician or nurse practitioner who would help them feel better."
Data show that onsite clinics can reduce absenteeism and time away from work, she adds.
Ergonomics programs can provide tangible ROI for employers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has an online tool involving ergonomic assessments, called Safety Pays (http://1.usa.gov/THK9ah).
"This OSHA tool can show direct costs and indirect costs," Mastroianni says. "It’s an online calculator, and it can show significant savings."
Employee health programs can further impact costs through workplace ergonomics programs or by routinely assessing workplace ergonomics whenever an employee reports pain related to the job.
"Nurses can teach them exercises or how to change the work area to address the cause of the pain and make it better," Mastroianni says. "Maybe it was the employee’s posture or the device they were using to do the lift. If you help with it you can relieve that back pain and prevent back injury — showing significant cost avoidance by doing that."
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