By Teresa Pulvermacher, MSN, NP-C, Director of Program Development/Operations Manager, Riverside Corporate Wellness
The mission of Logistics Health Incorporated (LHI), in La Crosse, Wisconsin, is to “take care of the people we serve through innovative health care solutions.” This starts at the roots, their own employees, because without roots, branches do not flourish and sprout leaves.
Six years ago, Don Weber, founder and CEO of LHI, which helps their clients meet occupational health goals, began talking about planting the seeds of wellness and cultural landscaping to create a company-wide focus on health that could be transmitted to their clients.
Weber piloted small-scale health and wellness initiatives, i.e., the seeds, such as a wellness committee to get a feel for what employees might appreciate, influenza immunization programs and weekly wellness tips, which have sprouted into a health in all policies approach to decisions and client services.
LHI’s offices are in the La Crosse Riverside Center, which is co-occupied by Riverside Corporate Wellness (RCW), an organization dedicated to promoting health and wellness through fitness, education programs and primary health.
Over the years, LHI has grown alongside their wellness partner, RCW, which has merged the pilot programs begun by Weber with an on-location primary care clinic at no cost to LHI employees and their families.
The primary objective of LHI and RCW is what forces a continual cultural shift towards a healthier, more balanced life. The goals are clear: improve employee health habits; develop and maintain a recognized corporate culture of wellness; develop and maintain the Corporate-Advance Wellness Home Model; and ensure sustainability. More simply put, LHI advanced wellness because employees are the corporation’s most valuable resource — a healthy employee and family is happier and more productive.
The idea of merging an established and comprehensive wellness program with a clinical component is new and unique. The resulting services are specifically designed to meet employee and business needs—they are convenient, accessible and comprehensive.
In a business community, this kind of care maximizes opportunities for preventive care and health promotion, while reducing unnecessary reliance on specialized, urgent and emergency care.
The most important factor is convenience. If employees can have their health care needs met in less than one hour on a consistent basis, rather than having to use hours of personal time to visit a provider, their productivity, absenteeism and adherence to doctor/ practitioner recommendations and health will improve.
LHI lives its company mission daily: always take care of the people they serve by providing innovative healthcare solutions that exceed expectations, are ethical and compassionate and fulfill the promises to employees, customers and communities. The combination of primary health services with a comprehensive wellness program, which includes frequent opportunities for health education, a readily accessible corporate fitness facility and specialized health risk programs, has transformed our sick care model into a true health care system, wherein we prevent disease from occurring rather than treating people after they become sick.
That said, it doesn’t happen overnight or with a snap of the fingers. Lifestyles that are more healthcare cost-efficient, satisfying and balanced, and that lead to wellness and good health are difficult changes to initiate and/or maintain when financial resources are strained and other life issues take precedence. So we try to make it as easy as possible for employees. For example, employees and their families can access no-cost health promotion and primary care services at the workplace. A visit to the onsite primary health clinic is no longer just a visit for a sore throat; but an opportunity to address lifestyle and health promotion.
Finding time for physical activity is no longer a burden, but a cultural workplace norm: employees can take paid time away from their desks to go to the gym or take a fitness class. In addition, primary care in the context of corporate wellness facilitates early detection and prevention of problems, even when there is not a heavy demand for such services involved in primary care. In every interaction with a health care provider, participation in wellness is carefully monitored and tracked. Extended visits to providers for traditional episodic care, and annual exams over an hour or longer, or even divided visits, afford the opportunity to address adherence to primary prevention strategies at all ages; well-infant and child exams; sports physicals; counseling on contraception, sexuality, drugs and alcohol for adolescents and young adults in the reproductive years; lifestyle management, nutrition and exercise in metabolic syndrome; and the prevention of diabetes and cancer. These visits provide time for assisted priority referrals to fitness coaching, alternative and integrative therapies, weight management, and tobacco cessation. Education regarding and access to recommended screening such as colonoscopy and mammography are coordinated and managed. Preventive care in this relaxed yet comprehensive environment has the potential to improve poor health, reduce risky behavior and address social and other determinants of health, as well as assisting parents in early childhood development.
Traditional health care often presents numerous obstacles to continuity, access and convenience that impact the corporation. For example, clinic schedules require frequent attendance, a heavy cost in time, travel expenses and lost wages, which ultimately affect a patient’s motivation to visit the provider. These obstacles to care have been carefully considered in the scheduling of office visits at RCW Primary Health. To increase access and ensure a timely visit, we have taken a revolutionary approach. Visits to the provider can be scheduled over extended hours during the week with shortened waiting times. All clinic appointments are at a minimum of 30 minutes for episodic and acute care, and one hour for an annual exam, allowing the extra time for provider-member interaction and health education.
Our alternative, convenience-focused approach to appointments is working—serving a population of approximately 800 employees, the clinic has seen an average of 92 visits and nearly 80 unique members each week since its opening in February 2012. The model facilitates the improvement of the health of employees and their families, without any detriment to the operation or efficiency of the company. One employee recalls a recent visit to the onsite clinic: “My child was sick. I called, got in. I would have had to have taken four hours, if not the whole day off from work to have my child seen elsewhere.”
RCW has also engaged multiple corporate and community stakeholders in the implementation of this model. This includes previously underused communication technologies to ensure confidential exchange of health information to all local health providers that Riverside Center employees know and trust.
Health care providers using electronic medical records over protected data lines, unaffiliated with LHI human capital, deliver effective and safe care with tools like the electronic medical record support prescribing systems and clinical decision aids. RCW and contracted providers are committed to developing new policies and communication methods.
Community partners from local health systems and hospitals participate in the corporate model as contracted service providers that may include the professional staffing of nurse practitioners, physician assistants, behavioral health specialists, dietitians, purchasing, and clinical operations. All providers must support the practice model, mission and vision, and wellness philosophy of RCW and LHI. Third party providers also participate in information and data tracking technologies and other services essential to the operations such as cleaning, facility maintenance and laboratory services. There are tangible benefits to both the service and practice model providers.
The most unique component of the RCW and LHI comprehensive approach that has significantly affected workplace culture is compensated wellness time. As a matter of policy, LHI employees may use up to three hours of paid time per week to utilize all sponsored wellness activities. These hours do not incur overtime, and may be used in the corporate fully staffed fitness facility and personal training, or group exercise. Members may also attend educational lunches, tobacco cessation services, mobile screenings such as mammography, and appointment times in the clinic for themselves or a child. Employees may also participate in a supervised walking program, and a more independent yet highly structured running club. Additional paid time is allowed for attendance at an annual Health Expo, flu shot, and biometric screening event, and various community activities that fall under corporate sponsorship in the realm of social wellness, such as blood drives. These activities are carefully monitored and audited to maintain compliance with workplace rules and ensure accountability, while meeting business needs. Every hour is carefully tracked and categorized, and usage statistics are carefully maintained and detailed in a dashboard, which maintains data regarding biometrics, paid time off usage, worker’s compensation, family medical leave, health care costs, days of hospitalization, sick days and unplanned paid time off.
Routine culture audits, self-health reports and personal health assessment data, along with detailed dashboard data, allow RCW to draw significant conclusions about the health and wellness initiatives. Trending indicates that employees have improved or greatly improved participation in physical activity and lipid and glucose levels have normalized or remained normal for a significant portion of the population. We have also seen impact on the overweight population with a decrease in BMI for those with BMI in the 26 to 30 range. In addition, tobacco use is decreasing. Perhaps the most important cultural indicator is that ninety eight percent of LHI employees feel that LHI emphasizes wellness, and ninety nine percent rate wellness programming as good to excellent, with a participation or activation rate of up to eighty percent.
CEO Don Weber is often quoted speaking eloquently about the cultural impact of wellness on not only the employee, but the family as well. “My dream is that every employee will be motivated by our corporate culture of wellness, and become a stronger and healthier part of the LHI family. In turn, I hope that our employees take that culture of wellness home with them at the end of the day and infuse it into their family lives.
Healthy employees create healthier families, and ultimately, a healthier community for us all.”
At RCW and LHI, we practice the 100/0 rule that Dr. John Izzo, a behavior change consultant, proposes as a business principle—and apply it to health and wellness—one hundred percent responsibility, zero excuses. Excuses to not participate in wellness or health promotion and disease prevention activity may be legitimate, but when an employee of LHI takes one hundred percent responsibility, excuses are no longer useful—and the cycle of inaction is broken. It is a very strong business concept that translates very well into wellness. The 100/0 rule can work to positively change everything—from health to personal relationships and business practices. RCW, LHI and Don Weber have taken responsibility for their employees at a level rarely seen in the corporate world and it has benefited employees, their family, the community and the bottom line.
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