Employee wellness a growing hospital priority

Underscoring hospitals' interest in employee health, 84 percent of medical facilities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut that responded to a new survey offer workers a wellness program or activity.

And an additional 5 percent plan to establish a program in the next 12 months, according to a new survey conducted by Cammack LaRhette Consulting, a benefits and accountable care consulting firm based in New York City. Forty-five hospitals in the three states responded to the poll.

At the same time, only one in five organizations has or is committed to having an accountable care organization in the next two years. Most organizations are in the early stages with ACO and patient-centered medical home (PCMH) strategies and aren't sure how they will proceed.

The hospitals, however, are committed to keeping employees well. Their efforts include tobacco cessation programs, fitness and gym discounts for employees and their spouses, healthy cooking demonstrations, Weight Watchers at Work, and biometric screenings. One even has an on-site farmers market. On-site fitness classes and massage therapy are available at some hospitals.

However, only 35 percent rely on wellness programs from an insurance carrier. Fifty-eight percent have designated an internal wellness coordinator; 68 percent have wellness committees.

"Now that health care reform is here to stay, hospitals, which are in the unique situation of being both provider and employer, must understand the changing landscape of health care in order to make strategic decisions, like the implementation of wellness programs, to drive down costs," said Mary Clark, principal of Cammack LaRhette's Health & Welfare Services division.

The participating hospitals said medical and prescription drug plan costs are expected to rise by 6 percent, though the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) put that number at 7 percent for employers overall.

Employers across industries expect to raise wellness incentives by 50 percent in the next year in an attempt to reduce health insurance costs, according to a recent NBGH survey.

In addition to saving money, though, wellness plans bring other benefits. Cleveland Clinic Chief Wellness Officer Michael Roizen told FierceHealthcare employee engagement at the Clinic went up 33 percent after implementing its controversial wellness program.

To learn more:
- read the Cammack LaRhette survey (.pdf)