Why You Should Make Your Local Hospital Your Partner in Wellness

Over the last decade, as businesses large and small have struggled to contain healthcare costs, they've turned to health plans, wellness and benefits consultants, business coalitions, and a vast array of other experts for solutions. Yet costs have continued to spiral out of control, on a parallel track with the rising incidence of chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity and other markers of poor health among working populations.

Many employers may not have found the right health partners to help them engage employees in improving their health and wellness. Employers need a trusted partner who: a) has inherent credibility with workers; b) is an established expert in patient care, and; c) has a stake in patient outcomes and improving the health of the population.

Community-based hospitals are often perfectly positioned to partner strategically with local businesses to facilitate employee health improvement, manage chronic care issues and help contain healthcare costs. That is what inspired us to create our Workforce Health Initiative program two years ago.

Why Partner with a Hospital?

While there are numerous advantages for employers when it comes to partnering with a hospital and its medical staff for workforce health, I will share four that are particularly noteworthy:

1. CREDIBILITY - Hospitals offer employers a key benefit that is, trust. Hospitals have long topped the list of the most trusted health organizations in the U.S., according to the annual Harris Poll surveys taken over the last decade. They offer a largely untapped opportunity to enhance employee feelings of value about their health plans and to improve engagement in employer health improvement programs.

This trust often is rooted in hospitals' quality and longevity. The doctors and staff at hospitals have demonstrated for decades a commitment to fostering health and quality of life in the communities we serve. These are established institutions, created to provide compassionate care, promote health improvement and create healthy communities.

2. EXPERTISE - About 75 percent of today's healthcare costs stem from preventable illnesses caused by behavioral choices, which can be modified - such as poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, or mismanagement of chronic diseases, which can turn into serious and costly hospitalizations and surgeries. Missed opportunities to detect potentially catastrophic health issues, such as cancer and heart disease, negatively affect employees' well-being and employers' health-related costs.

Hospitals, with their physicians and vast array of health professionals, are well equipped to help employers establish effective health prevention, intervention and management programs. Hospitals inherently have a broad range of resources, expertise and experience to help motivate employees to improve their health, see their doctors, participate in annual checkups, and live healthier lives.

We work with local businesses, using tools provided by our partner Aegis Health Group, to identify and address health risks within the employee population. The information we gather allows us to link employees to the resources they most need and to provide personalized follow-up care. Hospitals, affiliated physicians and other community partners collaborate with employers to match solutions to their employees' particular health needs. We also have the capabilities to track and document outcomes and improvements across key health categories.

3. MOTIVATION - In communities across the nation, hospitals and their clinicians represent a cornerstone to good health and are valued for the many services they offer in the interest of the community-at-large, from free or low-cost flu shots to free health screenings. Motivated by our mission to serve others and create healthy communities, we also serve as key collaborators within the community.

For example, at St. Joseph we're collaborating with Santa Rosa Junior College's Health Sciences Department and with Empire College, enlisting their nurses to assist us with community health screening events. And we've partnered with fellow members of Health Action, a multi-disciplinary council of community leaders and volunteers working together to improve the health of all of us who live in Sonoma County. Through these partnerships and others, we're proactively helping create a healthier community - and by extension, a more attractive place to live and work.

4. LOW COST - Teamed up with health professionals like ours, employers can benefit from a low-cost, turnkey program that is easy to implement and which can impact employee health and well being within weeks of the program's launch. Popular health initiatives such as stress reduction, nutrition and exercise programs, as well as personalized health consultations with our nurses and affiliated primary care physicians, can motivate employees and their families to make healthy changes in their lives.

These changes further help to lower employer health-related costs.If your business is searching for more proactive ways to increase employee satisfaction, productivity and well being while helping to contain healthcare costs, turn to a trusted partner in your community - your hospital. It could be the healthiest decision you'll make for your business this decade.

About the Author

Kevin A. Klockenga is the President and CEO of St. Joseph Health System- Sonoma County in the North Bay area of California. He oversees a broad network of inpatient and outpatient services, including those provided at the 80-bed Petaluma Valley Hospital and 278-Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. St. Joseph is a wellness partner with more than 88 employer groups in the Sonoma County area.