For this incentive, only teamwork wins
Kaiser takes a group approach to health
Imagine health as a team activity. What matters most isn't whether one person achieves personal health goals, but how well everyone does as a group.
With a population-based approach, Kaiser Permanente has bucked the trends in wellness. Employees achieve financial incentives if their entire region meets goals for participation in health risk assessment and biometric screening and health improvements.
Kathy Gerwig, vice president for Employee Safety, Health and Wellness at Kaiser Permanente
Oakland (CA) calls it "people in their day-to-day jobs working together to create an environment where they can thrive."
The program was developed in a labor-management partnership with the unions that represent 100,000 Kaiser employees. It builds a collaborative spirit and a culture of health and safety throughout the organization, Gerwig says.
"There aren't any penalties associated with not achieving the goals or not participating," she says. "When you talk about creating a culture, it might be undermined by having very individualized incentives and disincentives. We want to get away from that and create an environment in which teams will work together toward improving everybody's health."
Region's employees must improve
To win an incentive, at least 75% of eligible employees in a region must complete an online health risk assessment, measured over a three-year period. The first payment is $150 per employee. About 133,000 employees are eligible.
In the next tier, employees can earn another $150 if, over a two-year period, 85% of the region participates in biometric screening. If those two levels are achieved, then employees can earn another $200 by collectively improving in four measures: non-smoking status, body mass index, blood pressure and total cholesterol.
With the Total Health Incentive Plan, employees promote health and wellness and encourage participation because everyone wins together. "Union representatives are wellness champions. Their job is to recruit and train other champions," says Gerwig.
"Your co-workers will encourage you to take a walk at the lunch break, or hold a build-your-own salad potluck," she says. Healthy options take the place of pizza parties, fruit bowls replace candy bowls.
'Instant recess' adds moves
Meanwhile, Kaiser has added health-oriented improvements to their campuses, with walking paths and healthy items in vending machines. Some Kaiser cafeterias have eliminated deep fryers and limited or removed sugary beverages.
Kaiser also promotes "instant recess," a five-minute respite in which employees move to music. A website features some simple movement routines and music.
"It gives people a chance not just to move around, but to do that in their team," Gerwig says. "We found it actually can bring some joy to the day, as well. When people are moving to the music, they're smiling and it enhances their mood."
The physical activity program is based on teamwork. "We want to encourage people to build more movement into their day every day," she says. "If we're doing instant recess three days a week, maybe on alternate days there's a walking club."
It's too soon to know the outcomes from the program. The measurement period began January 1, and the first incentive bonuses will be paid in 2015.
"Behavior change is a combination of how hard something is to do and the level of motivation," says Gerwig. She hopes teamwork will be the right inspiration for healthy habits.