Increased competition, tougher regulations and reduced reimbursements are causing stress in the post-acute care industry. Many company leaders are concerned about growing their business to remain competitive. It may seem to be a strange time to talk about establishing a health and wellness program, but a well-structured program can produce measurable results for both the company and its employees.
What is a Health and Wellness Program?
There’s a lot of confusion when people try to define the term, "wellness program." Researchers published in the Harvard Business Review use this description:
“an organized, employer-sponsored program that is designed to support employees (and, sometimes, their families) as they adopt and sustain behaviors that reduce health risks, improve quality of life, enhance personal effectiveness, and benefit the organization’s bottom line.”
One very key part of that description are the words, “adopt and sustain behaviors.” What researchers have found is that there are many types of wellness programs that don’t work, including:
- Just providing health assessments. Some programs consist of asking employees to answer questionnaires intended to identify opportunities for improvement, and performing standard screenings to identify problems with blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. Unless employees are given the tools to make the necessary changes, no real progress will be made.
- Paying employees to change their habits. It’s true that an employee may change their habits to get compensation. But, people don’t always do what is good for them, and immediate gratification is often a stronger motivator than long-term results. For example, when it’s a choice between eating a pizza and abstaining for some monetary reward, people will often choose the pizza.
- Sending employees to the company’s health plan provider website. Some programs depend on their insurer’s website to provide feedback and motivation. Unfortunately, providing access to information isn’t enough motivation to sustain change.
Can a Wellness Program Benefit a Company’s Bottom Line?
Since creating an effective health and wellness program isn’t always easy, why do companies bother? It’s done because there is proof that a wellness program can positively impact a company’s bottom line. Doctors studying the issue of health programs have uncovered some interesting statistics:
- One study followed 185 employees and their spouses who received cardiac rehabilitation and exercise training, even though they weren’t heart patients. Risk factors for the group fell significantly and the company found that every dollar they invested returned $6 in health care savings.
- At the MD Anderson Cancer Center, a six-year old health and wellness program resulted in an 80 percent decline in lost work days, and workers’ comp insurance premiums that declined by 50 percent.
- Johnson & Johnson, a leader in establishing wellness programs, has found that after six years, their wellness program returned $2.71 for each dollar invested in the program.
Establishing a wellness program is a natural thing for companies in the post-acute care industry because it fits so well into their overall mission. In addition, there are tax incentives and grants available to help companies defray the costs.
What Makes a Health and Wellness Program Successful?
There are a number of things that work together to make a wellness program successful. These three are among the most important:
- Management support. Management at all levels in an organization need to be enthusiastic supporters, and hopefully participants, in the health and wellness program. Seeing the boss take a 20 minute walk around the building goes a long way toward encouraging others.
- Mission integration. Wellness needs to be part of the company culture and part of its mission. Sharing statistics showing employee participation and bottom-line benefits on a regular basis is one way to reinforce a wellness culture.
- Easy access. Low-cost or no-cost onsite access is critical. If managing wellness isn’t convenient, employees won’t stay with it.
Now is the time to consider investing in the health and wellness of your employees. When done correctly, it can not only improve the health and productivity of your team, but boost profitability as well.