Wellness Service Lines Boost Hospital Revenue

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , August 18, 2010
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In a report issued last year, the hospital found that it exceeded many of its goals in wellness programs. For instance, while the hospital had a goal of 500 participants, it found more than 200 additional people participated. In addition, the hospital admission rate increased, and there was much more satisfaction expressed in patient and community surveys about the hospital, says Hino.

Part of the reasoning behind improving the wellness program was to “rebrand our facility. Our hospital is a small facility, but in a destination area, a resort where people travel from all over for a vacation,” Hino says. “The community has embraced the effort, and people are interested in alternative types of approaches. That interest is showing up in renewed interest in our hospital. People are starting to come to our facility.”

In addition to the paid wellness programs, each hospital department uses simple education tools for patients and families and “tap in to their individual capacity for health in a healing environment.” In the admitting department, staff offers a free health assessment while cardiopulmonary, laboratory, and radiology staff members teach diaphragmatic breathing to reduce stress during tests. The surgical team offers a free guided imagery CD to help healing before, during, and after surgery. Many of the nurses are trained in healing touch, which incorporates more than 30 different healing techniques.

The initiative follows a program known as the Healing Hospital model, created by Kelly Mather, a onetime CEO at several hospitals.

“This program is an extension of our wellness strategy,” says Hino. “The Healing Hospital program gives us the ability to add meaningful depth to our existing program through its emphasis on a holistic approach to achieving and maintaining good health. It also enables us to extend our reach farther into the community.”

Success Key No. 3: Try nontraditional areas
Grinnell Regional Medical Center is taking a snapshot of the wellness of the community it serves. Along the way, the hospital sees wellness programs as a key means to improve the community’s health, enhance the hospital’s reputation, and set the stage for ROI, says Todd C. Linden, CEO of the 49-staffed-bed private nonprofit hospital located outside of Des Moines, IA.

Grinnell operates two fitness centers and has developed a range of wellness programs—from massage therapy to acupuncture to reflexology. Its fitness classes include aerobics, yoga, Pilates, spinning, and strength training. In the meantime, it is teaming up with the local college to evaluate the state of wellness in the community, concentrating on stress reduction studies. All those actions can lead to dividends for the hospital in the future, Linden says.

As far as Linden is concerned, the ROI for the hospital is “not huge, a small margin.” But there is a more significant issue involved, he says. “Really part of the ROI is how you are spreading your brand around a community; it’s building brand awareness,” Linden says. “We’re continuing to explore what we can do to add to our integrated health approach with nutritional programs.” The hospital is having discussions with retailers to be part of a joint venture and offer nutritional food as part of a restaurant or store in the community, he says. In addition, the hospital is exploring other possible business arrangements outside the building to focus on various therapies to enhance wellness, he says.

Linden says the hospital has been interested in wellness programs since 1999, when the local county, Poweshiek, was evaluated in a study about integrated medicine. The results showed there was great interest in wellness programs in the community at that time.

More than two years ago, Grinnell teamed up with the Institute of HeartMath, a nonprofit research and education organization that researches stress and emotional management to evaluate stress levels among people throughout the community and also deal with any problems on an immediate basis, Linden says. The program, known as the Heart of Grinnell: A Communitywide Wellness Initiative, has a first-year budget of $250,000, with most funds allotted by the federal government, and the rest from the community. The hospital has requested a second year of federal funding of $567,000. Community leaders are proposing a five-year $4.5 million intervention plan.

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