Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!
In the eyes of a CEO, businesses create jobs, innovate, manufacture and provide the services that drive economic growth. Yet lack of inertia along the frontier of health and performance improvement (HPI), continuous value enhancement, is significantly restricting Corporate America's ability to accelerate growth to achieve a sustainable global competitive advantage.
Imagine the Unimaginable
CEOs view the meaningful use of health improvement as a strategic imperative and serious economic strategy. They also demand that C-Suite executives optimize the total economic impact of employee health to maximize an individual's health achievement potential and job satisfaction expectations through personal and organizational performance results.
Their population health framework focuses on improved health, enhanced on-the-job professional experiences, proactive meaningful productive interactions and reduced per capita cost of a company's defined population, which includes employee satisfaction and total rewards initiatives that enable employees to define their own needs and expectations as distinct choices.
In order to yield hard returns on employee and family population health programs and "bend the health care cost curve", CEOs must lead by example and steer cross-functional work teams toward relentlessly fostering a value-centric culture of health, which becomes a self-perpetuating competitive advantage.
This is accomplished by engaging disengaged employees, embracing meaningful use of health achievement benchmarks and metrics, creating C-Suite visibility for innovative health and wellbeing indices, supporting individual financial security aspirations, aligning meaningful incentives and helping people get the best out of life.
Transformation Life Cycle at Work
Sounds great. So why hasn't the worksite wellness industry taken off? Something is amiss. CEO's are not accelerating the meaningful use of health improvement best practices and transforming their work force into thriving wellbeing people that yield triumphs in on-the-job engagement rates, declines in presenteeism, accolades in health and wellbeing index resiliency scores and upticks in profits.
Why? CEO's don't' believe the pitch. To make matters worse, the business case doesn't resonate with disengaged employees, many of whom resent being told just how healthy, productive, well, at-risk, flexible, disengaged, or empowered they should be in a climate of substantive cost-shifting and work-life imbalance. The term "value creation" can be a misnomer, but for CEOs it is simple: delivering additional value to the bottom line through a new wave of breakthrough ideas that empower people to improve decision-making and business performance.
Value is in the creation of getting things done. Savvy CEOs focus on execution and breakthrough ideas that create real-time meaningful distinctions in their companies and promote team achievement and insightful exchange of information for sound decision making. CEOs believe value is built on four essential elements: trustworthiness and trust, engagement and incentive alignment, relevant information and distinct choices.
According to a recent study of the Informed Opinion Leadership Action Group - Employer Market Sector, value creation is defined as meaningful productive interactions and personalized experiences of employees, their families and caregivers. Population HPI means that consumers will have greater control over decisions affecting their health affairs and be inspired and motivated by the aforementioned four essential elements. [See Table 1]
Higher profits from a healthier work force elude most CEOs, because they don't have a straightforward C-Suite measurement of value scorecard to improve their day-to-day worksite wellness monitoring system to sustain a competitive advantage. The complexity lies in drawing that value out of evidence-based approaches to meaningful use of work life health and wellbeing scorecards, dashboards and cockpits that contend with real-world settings.
CEOs are faced with an overabundance of tangible and intangible metrics, as well as distinctive secondary employee benefits data, that challenge health and human capital executives.
New Era of Population Health
Population health is an employer-employee collaborative that seeks to realign the neighborhood health care delivery system, which is widely recognized as fragmented, ineffective, poorly managed, wasteful and economically inequitable. The IOLAG: Employer Market Sector report recently profiled its population health vision in interviews with 20 informed opinion leaders:
Putting the needs of employees and their families first in the context of neighborhood health assurance will potentially unleash disruptive improvement in the workplace and will drive "The Triple Aim" advocated by Dr. Donald Berwick when he was president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. What do population health and the Triple Aim have in common?
A focus on the improved health and wellbeing of employees, enhanced worksite engagement, personalized experiences of employees with their trusted family clinician and reduced per capita health benefit costs, as well as employee satisfaction and wellbeing benchmarks through which employees define their own personal needs and concerns as a core component. [See Table 2]
The Triple Aim business model engages the foresight of the definition of optimal health. More importantly, the population health triad approach to employer cost avoidance of health benefits trend, evidence-based care coordination while reducing the per capita costs of an employer's benefits costs resonates nicely with CEOs who are scrambling to bend the cost curve.
Accelerating Rules of the Road
Industry experts and researchers agree that today's No. 1 critical business issue is to initiate and maintain employee population health and incentive programs without putting significant financial burden on the company. It's all about execution and C-Suite strategy to increase employee satisfaction and retention, bend the cost curve and recruit and retain people who meet or exceed both pay-for-performance and personal objectives - thus, creating aligned incentives for employee and employer, alike.
Any organization's healthy performance strategy requires a strong commitment from the C-Suite to optimize the total economic impact of employee health, as well as clinical and functional outcomes. The next generation of population health programs should be built around the meaningful use of health benefits design and total wellbeing that pinpoints healthy living and working strategies, as well as designates healthy performance best practices to improve individual and corporate performance.
Employers must focus in order to foster a caring corporate culture that enables employees to achieve these results, regardless of personal health status or multiple risk factors. Innovative business coalitions and savvy employers have found that the creative and intensive use of population health programs and other tools, techniques and best practices can help prevent many chronic conditions and delay the onslaught of mortality, as well as improve outcomes and quality of life.
New consumer-centered "neighborhood culture of health" programs are emerging worldwide and occur when a proactive population or community of covered lives bands together to make the right lifestyle, health and wellness choices as a result of a convergence of interests and alignment of employer, employee and provider support systems, structures and processes for the benefit of employees and their families.
With the emphasis on consumerism and the associated cost and risk shifting to the employee, the idea is to embrace a business approach that satisfies what matters most across each diverse talent pool: employee health, job satisfaction and pay for performance. Executives that utilize these employee-centric, population health improvement initiatives also must recognize that the cost of absenteeism and lost productivity, including impaired performance on the job, is much bigger than the cost of health benefits in terms of having an impact on organization-wide results.
The thinking behind this new population health strategic imperative and serious economic strategy is to implement a built-in culture of health enabling benefits design and integrated employee health interventions that include a performance-driven focus on the recruitment, retention, engagement, deployment and optimization of all involved. Employee health and optimal performance has more to do with a conducive environment, healthy behaviors, beliefs, attitudes, job satisfaction, compensation and work-life balance than solely affordable access to health insurance benefits.
The overarching goal is to foster the vision that keeping people healthy is a community-based, economic imperative and business strategy for employers, employees, government and taxpayers alike. Employers must step up to protect, engage sustain and promote the health and well being of their employees, as well as reward healthy behaviors and optimal individual performance.
As a result of consistently taking care of their people, employers will benefit from thriving wellbeing people via better on-the-job engagement rates, execution-centric human capital deployments to achieve company goals, rewarding corporate training investments in people opportunities, appropriate retention levels and improved profits for the company.
In order for this new thinking to really pay off, employees must also benefit from their investment in their improved personal performance and the economic wellbeing of their employer of choice.
Next-generation population health initiatives require a collaborative effort that includes an employer employee partnership, array of providers, value-focused vendors and community resource groups. The role of the employee is vital in terms of creating health and performance-based talent management programs, since these are the very people who need to be engaged in order to live healthier and to personally perform at optimal levels at work and home.
The key to success in an increasingly competitive global economy will be integrating a model with performance-focused talent-management strategies that lay the groundwork for a wiser investment in human capital. What attracts employees to jobs and keeps them from looking elsewhere also results in improved health outcomes and optimized job performance.
It's more than healthy people equating to healthy bottom lines. It's recognizing that people should be paid for better performance. And when they feel better, they perform better. When they perform better, everybody wins. How can current worksite wellness programs be retooled to inspire healthier living and peak performance to yield both personal and corporate gain?
It is not easy to change organizational cultures and to achieve sustainable health improvement. The time has come, however, to acknowledge in the C-Suite that population health is the silver bullet we have been hoping for all along. CEOs view the meaningful use of health improvement as a strategic imperative and serious economic strategy. It will take a nation to raise population health to the next level.
About The Author
Les C. Meyer, MBA, a seasoned health care strategist and vice president of HealthNEXT, senior fellow, Jefferson School of Population Health, Thomas Jefferson University, chairman, Informed Opinion Leadership Action Group (IOLAG): Employer Market Sector, and can be reached at (303) 916-0017 or Les.Meyer@HealthAndPerformance.info. Ron Parton, MD, MPH, is the chief medical officer of Symphony Corporation and is responsible for steering the direction of Symphony's capabilities and service offerings in the healthcare sector.
With over 20 years of operational experience, Dr. Parton is a physician executive with a proven track record for innovation in population health improvement and improving quality that results in lowered healthcare costs. He is leading the development of the new Symphony Care Management System, designed to interface with electronic health records and help accountable care organizations and health plans target high risk populations, improve care and reduce unnecessary medical costs. Dr. Parton can be reached at (608) 237-7890 or email@example.com.