Improved employee health saves Sentara $3.4M

Sentara Healthcare has saved $3.4 million in healthcare costs by improving employee health, the company announced. Essentially, for every dollar put into its employee wellness program, the healthcare organization was able to save $6.

Since its "Mission: Health" program launched in 2008, significant clinical improvements have been recorded in risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass index, exercise and tobacco use.

Of the more than 11,200 Sentara employees in Virginia and North Carolina eligible for the program, 80 percent participated, Sentara officials said in a statement. In order to keep those employees motivated, "Mission: Health" offered significant incentives, like annual premium discounts of $500.

Sentara said it created the program, in partnership with Optima Health, to avoid increasing employee co-pays and premiums.

"We would expect that 'Mission: Health' will continue to see cost savings for the next three to five years, and after that we'll reach a plateau where the costs will remain relatively flat," said Optima Health Vice President of Clinical Care Services Karen Bray, PhD, RN. At that point, the program will prevent costs from rising, she noted.

Many healthcare companies have been experimenting with the idea of using workplace wellness programs to combat growing costs. And for good measure, wellness programs have decreased healthcare costs for companies by about 26 percent, and reduced sick leave by an average of 28 percent, according to a recent report in the American Journal of Health Promotion, notes KUNC.

For more:
- read the Sentara press release
- read this KUNC article