April 5, 2016

How Cleveland Clinic gets employees to participate in wellness programs

Daily Briefing

With employee health costs on the rise, some hospitals are turning to incentives to motivate their employees to stay healthy—and selling their expertise to other employers, Lydia Coutré writes in Crain's Cleveland Business.

According to 2015 survey from Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., about 90 percent of employers across all industries increased their employee health plan premiums, and about 25 percent implemented double-digit increases. 

Should healthier employees pay less for health insurance?

Financial incentives

Cleveland Clinic is among the large health system  experimenting with new wellness initiatives.  It offers employees several wellness options, including disease management programs for employees with chronic conditions such as hypertension or asthma.

Employees receives incentives for participating. For example, if an employee joins a program and meets established health goals, he or she could save up to $1,000 in premiums for a family health plan.

The system has already commercialized its wellness programs for other employers to use, and it is considering also selling its hard-won expertise in benefit plan design. Its tweaks to benefit design have yielded about $75 million in savings since 2010, says Paul Terpeluk, medical director of the Clinic's employee health services.

Cleveland-based University Hospitals (UH) allows employees to earn bonuses for meeting wellness goals such as obtaining preventive care, maintaining certain activity levels, and participating in classes for weight and nutrition management. After successfully implementing the wellness initiatives in an employee ACO, UH began offering similar services to commercial ACOs.

Meanwhile, Summa Health System is taking the opposite approach: It is applying the lessons learned from its Medicare ACO to its own employee program, with the goal of eventually offering wellness services to other employers.

"We've realized we've kind of had some success and feel a little bit more comfortable in the Medicare space," says Mark Terpylak, president of Summa's ACO. "But what is it we can do for commercial populations? ... Frankly, there's no better way to do that than with our own associates."

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The system is testing approaches such as providing an employee-dedicated nurse and offering specialty disease management programs. Summa, which has borne employee health cost increases of between 4 and 5 percent in recent years, hopes the new initiatives will keep costs flat this year.

Terpylak says that the system already has received early interest from other employers. "They're all very interested, I would say, and anxiously awaiting to see how this works," he says (Coutré, Crain's Cleveland Business, 3/27; Shinkman, FierceHealthFinance, 3/28).

Promoting healthy habits among your employees

understanding the employee wellness spectrum

Programs aimed at promoting healthy habits among employees are likely to lead to improved employee engagement and productivity—but they're unlikely to reduce the total cost of care. To do that, you'll need to take a population health approach.

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