A huge hospital system enjoys certain advantages in the big but important task of running an effective wellness program.
Take Community Health Network, for example.
The Indianapolis-based hospital system with 13,000 employees has at its fingertips advanced analytics to help it constantly fine-tune its wellness program, said Steve Zetzl, vice president of Community Employer Health.
“We have access to all types of data that help us identify gaps in care,” said Zetzl, a pharmacist by training who grew into the role of managing the wellness group. “We can identify gaps in care and figure out where patients are getting hung up and not getting the care they need.”
If a patient has a big medical event, Community is able to look back and see how that event might have been predicted or avoided, Zetzl said.
In an assessment of heart attack patients, for example, Community, with help from outside vendors who can analyze the data, learned that the two biggest risk factors were a high body mass index and low HDL, or good, cholesterol.
That caused Community to question whether people understand what to do with those measures even if they are getting regular screenings. What was discovered in the case of HDL cholesterol is that people tend to focus more on whether their LDL, or bad cholesterol, is high and disregard the HDL number regardless of what it is.
Community can then adjust its wellness program to address how the HDL number is regarded by patients. And that can make a big difference, not just for Community employees but for the thousands of employees of other companies that hire Community to run wellness programs.
Community’s health promotions and disease management group is 40 people strong and offers coaching, nutrition education, disease education and monitoring services. It offers an Employee Assistance Program and provides fitness specialists. But it all starts within the Community system, said Zetzl. The hospital uses its internal wellness program to test what will work externally. “We know we need a healthy workforce to take care of our patients,” he said. And “if we can do it internally we can help others.”
So far, so good.
“Healthcare workers are wired to care for others and often neglect caring for themselves,” Zetzl said, but Community has been able to coach them into being more responsible for their own health by offering a variety of innovative programs, incentives and competitions.
Programming is pretty consistent across all Community facilities, but certain campuses have their own walking or other groups created by their own staff. Healthrageous, a digital health management company that Community partners with, is supplying Community employees with a device called a pebble that helps track movement. They are waterproof so they can be used to detect a wide range of activities, including swimming. The pebbles download data wirelessly to a Website, making it easy for groups at different Community facilities to measure their progress against one another in various fitness competitions.
The biggest challenge for Community, as with all large employers that have multiple facilities, is communicating wellness opportunities to everyone. “Every quarter we modify our messages to motivate employees,” Zetzl said. The wellness program uses the results of a general system-wide survey that asks how people prefer to be communicated with and adjusts its methods accordingly. A newsletter distributed in a variety of ways is the main component, along with an internal Web page, and generous use of social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook.
But Community doesn’t overlook old-fashioned face-to-face communication to spread the wellness gospel. It’s not uncommon to see an information table set up in the entryway of Community’s largest facilities.•