Success stories: Motivate employees to lose weight, emphasize prevention

By Zack Budryk

Among the hospitals that offer an employee wellness program, the results are encouraging.

Lee Memorial Health System offers discounts for healthy cafeteria choices, Scott Kashman, chief administrative officer of Cape Coral Hospital, part of the Lee system, told FierceHealthcare.

"We started a program with a group called CHIP, the Complete Healthcare Improvement Program, and this was through the support of our health plan … we have put close to 150 people through that program and we pay for at least 75 percent of the cost for that program."

The program, he explained, focuses on increasing the percentage of plant-based meal options for employees. "What we've seen on that is, we had about a one and a half return on investment, financially, and that only came because we saw reduction in people's cholesterol, BMI, blood pressure and A1C levels," the latter of which correlates with a lower chance of heart disease and heart failures.

Similarly, in 2013, more than 400 hospitals joined the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), which brought the wellness fight to both patients and employees by pledging to eliminate deep fat fryers, increase fruit and vegetable options and use nutrition labeling and health food marketing.

El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, California, launched a program last year built around social sharing and gamification, or the use of game-like activities in non-game scenarios, to help employees lose weight. El Camino's staff, two-thirds of who were obese when the wellness program began, lost more than 1,000 pounds combined by late August.

"Employees feel motivated and supported to become healthier," El Camino Director of Employee Wellness and Health Services Barbara Love said. "This is evident by the comments we see posted. The sense of community has deepened as participants are motivated to set and conquer goals."

The system at Lee Memorial also tackles wellness from a preventive angle, Kashman said, offering preventive screenings and checkups through the employee health plan, as well as establishing onsite clinics in each of its campuses. Furthermore, Kashman said, the system is in the process of entering into relationships with other established fitness centers in the area. The systems is also considering a proposal to give employees partial reimburse

ment for fitness center memberships, "as long as they show a certain participation rate and improvement in their baseline biometrics," such as BMI and blood pressure.

Results are similarly promising at the Medical University of South Carolina, Director of Health Promotion Susan L. Johnson, Ph.D., (pictured right), told FierceHealthcare. "I've only 

been at MUSC for four years, [but] I am amazed at what we have accomplished and the that transformation I've witnessed in such a short time," she said. "Overall, we have seen an increase in participation in our programs and an overall shift in the culture of our institution."

Furthermore, MUSC received several accolades for employee wellness, Johnson said, including the South Carolina Hospital Association Gold Medal Designation for a Physically Active Workplace and the Prevention Partners Hospital Prevention Excellence Award.

Success stories: Motivate employees to lose weight, emphasize prevention