Hospitals focus on worker wellness savings, population health

Hospitals increasingly are formalizing population health management programs with most health leaders planning to launch such programs in the next two to five years, according to a white paper from business solutions provider Aegis Health Group.

Hospital leaders are making the health of the community a priority in the organizational strategy, promoting well care rather than sick care, Aegis Health Group noted. Because they are the logical central coordination point, hospitals are in the position to manage population health and therefore control costs.

For instance, Baptist Health System, a four-hospital system based in Birmingham, Ala., targeted a wellness program at its own 4,500 employees.

"It was critical that we first engage our own workforce in a wellness initiative before going out into the community and encouraging other businesses to partner with us," Alan Bradford, chief human resource officer for Baptist Health System, said in an announcement Wednesday. "We now have first-hand experience with the tremendous impact such a program can have, not only in terms of cost savings but also in improved health, productivity and morale."

Baptist's WOW, short for Working on Wellness, work-site program started in 2008 and has since saved the health system $1.6 million. Baptist and Aegis Health Group used survey data about employees' tobacco use, exercise frequency, cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and preventive medical care to target efforts to the appropriate workers.

"Like any other employer, Baptist recognized a need to improve the health of its workforce and, in fact, wanted to serve as an example to other employers in the area," said Pearson Talbert, president of Aegis Health Group. "Worksite health programs are a proven approach to lowering health-related costs and deliver a triple win for hospitals, employers and employees."

Wellness programs have been linked to reduced health costs, better productivity and morale, decreased absenteeism and fewer workers' compensation claims, according to the white paper.

Ninety three percent of hospital leaders reported currently having community outreach initiatives, such as health fairs or educational lectures, according to 2011 Aegis Health Group data. More than half (55 percent) have a formalized population health management program, and another 17 percent said they planned to add one within the next year and 28 percent in the next two to five years.

For more information:
- read the announcement
- check out the white paper (.pdf)

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