When Dr. Jean Riquelme steps into her office at Adventist Medical Center, in Sandy, Ore., something is missing. There are the usual organized medical reference books, lab coat, and stethoscope. Her framed medical degree is on the wall, and carefully filed patient records await her review.
But there's no place to sit. That's because when Adventist Health revamped its employee wellness program about a year ago, with the help of Wellsource, Inc. based in Clackamas, Ore., Riquelme decided to take action. She dumped her chair for a treadmill desk and used the wellness program to jumpstart some major lifestyle changes.
"Dr. Riquelme joined our team in the midst of rolling out our new wellness program," says Adventist Health and Wellness Service Manager, Ed Hoover. "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 chair in her office. Now she does all her dictation while walking on a treadmill."
More and more employers like Adventist Health are launching wellness programs by partnering with Wellsource to lower health claims, reduce absenteeism, and increase morale and productivity. Health and wellness is already an $11.6 billion industry, according to market research by ISBI World. And demand for health and wellness services is projected to grow by at least 4.2 percent over the next five years.
"I think the wellness industry is poised to truly solve the healthcare crisis in this country," says Wellsource General Manager, Tom Moore. "Wellness is not just another fad that will dance around the problem. Wellness is what is going to help people be healthier. This is a booming industry and has the potential to really become center stage."
According to the Wellness Council of America, wellness programs produce an average of $3 return on investment for every $1 in wellness. The Harvard Business Review recently evaluated wellness programs at 10 major companies in the U.S. The study validated WELCOA's estimate of ROI for investing in wellness and identified key components every wellness program should include to be successful.
A basic wellness program includes a health risk assessment that all employees complete. It may also include a biometric screening that checks cholesterol and glucose levels, blood pressure, body mass index, and other risk factors for chronic disease. Then incentives and intervention programs are provided to help employees make healthy choices, minimize their health risk factors and track their progress.
"Think of the health risk assessment as the wellness report card," says Moore. "Wellsource has been at the forefront of HRA design for over 30 years. That's why we're well-positioned to help all partners involved in wellness do better. Our tools help wellness programs excel and help organizations see health improvements in their populations over time."
It's only been about a year since Adventist Health overhauled its wellness program. But it wasn't long before Hoover began hearing from employees about their successful lifestyle changes and weight loss.
"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."
Since Riquelme ditched her traditional desk and chair for a treadmill, she's lost more than 60 pounds by walking 4-5 miles a day.
"I was inspired on Day One – the day they took my employee ID photo by the healthy cafeteria," Riquelme said. "I knew this organization would support my efforts to be healthy."
By offering employees a discount on health insurance and other incentives, about 90 percent of Adventist Health's employees are now participating in the program.
Employers know healthcare costs continue to rise. That's one of the reasons employer-sponsored wellness programs are in high demand. Wellsource has helped thousands of companies like Adventist Health lower health claims, reduce absenteeism and improve productivity and morale.
"Our business is all about helping organizations improve and track the health of their population," says Moore. "And the healthier the population, the greater the cost savings for an organization. As the healthcare crisis continues, I think we're going to see more companies invest in wellness programs as a way to cut healthcare costs and save money overall."