March 8, 2012
Company: Adventist Health
Wellness Program: LivingWell
No. of Employees: 2,000
Participation Rate: 90%
Results: Reduction in risk factors in first year
Lessons Learned – Adventist Health wellness program
- Incentives make a positive impact on participation rates
- Financial/systemic support from leadership is essential to success
- Employees will support each other to achieve health/wellness goals
- A quality program is always evolving/improving
- Risk factors can be reduced in as little as one year
Improving Employee Wellness Step by Step
Hospital garners 90 percent participation rate in wellness program
When Dr. Jean Riquelme steps into her office where she is a family practice physician for Adventist Health, something's missing. Her medical reference books are neatly organized. A white lab coat hangs from the back of the door with a stethoscope draped over the collar. Her framed medical degree from the University of Wisconsin is displayed on the wall, and carefully filed patient records await her review.
But there's no place to sit. That's because when Adventist Health partnered with Wellsource about a year ago to revamp its wellness program, Dr. Riquelme decided to take action. She dumped her chair for a treadmill desk and used the wellness program to help jumpstart some major lifestyle changes.
"Dr. Riquelme joined our team in the midst of rolling out our new wellness program," Adventist Health Wellness Services Manager Ed Hoover said. "She had some personal health issues she wanted to work on. She dramatically changed her diet, got involved with an online vegetarian group, and got rid of the traditional desk and chair in her office. Now she does all of her dictation while walking on a treadmill."
Today, Dr. Riquelme walks 4-5 miles a day in her office and has lost more than 60 pounds in the past year, step by step. She's one of an estimated 2,000 employees who work for Adventist Health which has garnered a 90% participation rate in its wellness program.
"I was inspired on day one – the day they took my employee ID photo by the healthy cafeteria," says Dr. Riquelme. "I knew this organization would support my efforts to be healthy."
About Adventist Health
Adventist Health, located in Portland, Oregon, is a non-profit care facility with multiple locations, offering a full range of inpatient, outpatient, emergency, and surgical services. With more than 2,000 employees, AH is one of the largest employers in southeast Portland.
In 2009, AH treated 11,010 inpatients, 128,412 outpatients and 44,155 emergency room patients. Doctors and nurses delivered 1,195 babies, and provided 26,909 home care visits and 173,735 primary care visits in the greater-Portland area.
LivingWell – Adventist Health's Wellness Program
For almost 30 years, Adventist Health has supported an employee wellness program, beginning with Dr. Don Hall, founder of Wellsource Inc., the first developer of a computerized HRA in the United States.
"Dr. Hall was intimately involved with the early roots of our program," says Hoover. "The life of our wellness program has been an evolutionary process. … Over the years, our wellness program has expanded and contracted depending on funding resources, leadership, and a variety of other things."
Today, Adventist Health's newest wellness program, LivingWell, has garnered significant support from employees throughout the organization. And Wellsource is still an integral part of it. Hoover credits the success of the current wellness program to AH leadership, better incentives for participation, encouragement among employees to live a healthy lifestyle, and utilizing the Wellsource® Personal Wellness Profile Advantage™ (HRA) – the backbone of the program – to the fullest.
Adventist Health employees who choose to participate in the LivingWell program complete the HRA and biometric screenings, either online or in paper format. Using these tools, trained staff members review the HRA reports and results right away and offer recommendations for lifestyle changes and risk factor preventions. Online educational resources, workshops, and a variety of interactive health tools are also available to participants.
Promoting the Program
"At first you might expect all the employees within an organization like ours would be totally healthy," Hoover says. "But we're just like any other part of the community or culture. We've got the full spectrum of employees who are very involved and active in the wellness program, and some who aren't."
In order to maximize participation in the wellness program, Adventist Health offers its participants a $360 yearly discount off their personal contribution to health coverage. It has proven to be a successful incentive, because Adventist Health has close to 90% participation in LivingWell. In previous years, Adventist Health offered less attractive incentives and noted lower participation rates. Marketing efforts have also been stepped up, Hoover says. For weeks leading up to their revamped wellness program kickoff, Adventist Health published announcements in their company newsletter, on their intranet site, and via company email. Adventist Health also used a message area where employees sign-in for work to encourage participation.
Promotional efforts for the wellness program also included department head meetings, a wellness seminar at AH's quarterly leadership retreat, and the organization of Team LivingWell Champions.
"These are employee representatives from different departments of the hospital, clinics, and offices within the system," Hoover says. "They're our eyes and ears and allies for the wellness program. We meet with our LivingWell Champions on a quarterly basis and encourage them to share information with their co-workers. They have been a real plus in terms of answering questions about the wellness program, health appraisal, and biometric screening."
The Adventist Health LivingWell program has gained employee interest and support by hosting an annual health fair, regular lunch-and-learn events, and wellness-related activities. In addition, Adventist Health created an event called The Great Race, where teams of employees compete against each other in wellness challenges.
"We have over 400 employees actively participating in The Great Race," Hoover says. "That's way more than we've ever had in team challenges. There seems to be a real team spirit of fun and competition. It's a cultural kind of thing that has become part of our organization, and we're excited about that."
Making Assessments Available to All Employees
The logistics of making the biometric screenings convenient and available to all employees is one challenge Hoover and his staff considered early on.
"We knew this would be a challenge, because our employees work a lot of different shifts in different locations," Hoover says. To help boost participation, Hoover arranged biometric screenings at different locations within the AH network of offices and clinics. Screenings were also offered at different times to accommodate the diversity of employee schedules.
Dr. Riquelme has lost 60 pounds and counting, and she's not alone. Since launching the newest version of LivingWell, many AH employees have reported successes with weight loss and reduction in risk factors identified during their screening.
"It's still early on to see all of the success from this program," Hoover says. "But we know we've already seen decreases in risk factors for body mass index, cholesterol, blood sugar, and stress levels. We're also getting a lot of anecdotal stories from our employees about what they've accomplished."
One participant recently reported a total weight loss of 94 pounds in the last 10 months. Hoover hears regularly from employees celebrating their weight loss and other successes credited to LivingWell.
"One employee who came through the screening didn't know she had high cholesterol," Hoover says. "She was able to work with her doctor to get her cholesterol level back to normal with medication, diet, and exercise. We keep hearing good things about the wellness program from our employees."
Adventist Health plans to continue the LivingWell program and increase incentives to encourage more employees to participate. To qualify for the incentives, AH employees will need to complete the HRA and biometric screenings and earn points by completing activities outlined in the wellness program.
"There's been a real resurgence in support for our wellness program from our employees and our leadership," Hoover says. "Because of the growing commitment we've seen, this program is evolving as we speak."
The evolutionary process of LivingWell is evident in the growth and changing dynamics of the program. Already, Adventist Health offers a range of health and wellness-related classes, workshops, and independent learning opportunities. Efforts to create a healthier workforce also include a Weight Watchers® at Work program and financial guru Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University™ program. But even with a resource-rich wellness program already in place, Adventist Health is still looking for ways to continue to improve LivingWell and make the program even better.
"This is really part of a deeper, broader, cultural effort to try and create a better environment for serving patients, as well as serving each other," Hoover says.