Outpatient surgery center targets worker wellness

Outcomes-based incentives for employer-sponsored workplace wellness programs are expected to become more common as a result of provisions in the Affordable Care Act that encourage their use, but some employers aren't waiting.

Texas Health Surgery Center Denton has added a wellness program that includes health risk assessments, biometric screenings, and a wellness portal for employees to monitor and improve health and wellness credits.1 Employees who participate are given reduced health insurance premiums.

The center worked with two companies on its wellness activities. Cooper Consulting Partners in Dallas helped design the wellness plan and worked one-on-one with high-risk employees. The Vitality Group in Chicago provided tools to employees to manage their health.

Monthly webinars have been added to cover healthy living topics. Recent topics have included strength straining and flexibility. "In addition, we have had several speakers come to speak to our employees this year to provide education on fitting exercise into your busy life, nutritional eating, financial health, etc." says Lynne Parris, RN, BSN, director of clinical and surgical services. Some of the speakers have been provided by United Healthcare as part of the center's benefits package.

Reduced costs for gym memberships are provided through the agreement with Vitality and through United Healthcare. A fitness center is located on the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Denton campus. "Our employees can join this fitness center and make payments via payroll deduction," Parris says.

Additionally, the center is surveying employees to gauge interest in a 10-week exercise class program. "Options we have provided are fitness classes such as Zumba, yoga, or bootcamp," Parris says. "Our goal is to have an instructor come to our employees twice a week after hours and lead a private class."

Staffers can monitor their exercise level by wearing Fitbugs (https://usa.fitbug.com/sales) to track their steps and calories burned. The Fitbugs link to a coaching website that provides personal weekly targets. The Fitbugs were $40, and the surgery center paid for 50% of the cost.

This summer, the center started an eight-week "Lost and Found Challenge" to encourage five health habits: eating breakfast, drinking at least 32 ounces of water daily, exercise at least 15 minutes per day, eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and participate in one "bonus activity." "The idea is to do three of the five daily habits each day and have three scheduled weigh-ins during the challenge … the end result being to start healthy habits that continue on beyond the end of the challenge," Parris says..

Several employees participated in a 5K race this summer. As a group, staff participated with five other facilities managed by Texas Health Partners in a contest named "Battle of the Bulge" and came in third place. The winning facility received $250 from the other facilities to go toward the charity of its choosing as well as a monetary award to celebrate with staff.

With the emphasis on wellness, one employee has quit using tobacco products. Healthy employees can reduce sick days, which are disruptive to the staff, sources point out.

Parris says, "Our ultimate goal is to help our employees manage their health and in turn, hopefully, see a leveling off of medical premium increases."

Reference

1. Healthiest Employers: Texas Health Surgery Center Denton. #5, Small Companies. Dallas Bus J. April 13, 2012. Accessed at http://bit.ly/HO4jc6.

Resource

The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has a new training program on worksite wellness designed for employers, human resource professionals, benefits managers, and occupational health professionals. The program presents a step-by-step approach on how to implement a successful worksite wellness program. The program is titled "Worksite Wellness: The Healthy Worker Advantage." For more information, go to http://www.acoem.org/courses.aspx.