Hospital System, Citing Costs, Hones In On Employees' Health

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , July 18, 2011

When hospital leaders look to lower costs, one place they're just beginning to explore is the rising expense of their employees' health claims. That means having some tough discussions about how to weigh their workers' personal lifestyle choices and privacy issues against the fiscal health of their own organizations.

That was the provocative topic of a session on the first day of the American Hospital Association's 19th Annual Leadership Summit in San Diego Sunday.

How does a hospital system convince its own workers that getting healthy and staying healthy is not just good for them, the employees, but that it also is essential for the organization's fiscal viability, and may help the system serve as a model for patients in their community as well?

"We don't make widgets; we take care of people. So let's take care of our own people and make sure that we demonstrate and model that behavior for the community," said Corey Heller, corporate vice president and chief human resources officer for Baptist Health South Florida, a 7-hospital system with 1,728 beds in Miami-Dade.

"Let's take care of them before they become our patients. Why wouldn't we want to have the healthiest workforce in America?"

So three years or so ago, Baptist, which is self-insured, launched Wellness Advantage, a program that seeks to better the health of its own 14,700 workforce. The program offers $150 annual credits on an employee's health plan premium if the employee fills out a lengthy annual health questionnaire and takes routine disease screenings, such as a glucose test to show predisposition to diabetes.

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