The Well-Being Journal

Reflections from The HERO

Jennifer Rudloff

A couple of weeks ago the Health Enhancement Research Organization, also known as HERO held its bi-annual Think Tank meeting and Forum (the HERO version of a conference) in Phoenix Arizona. After having some time to reflect on both of those meetings, I would like to share some of my reactions with you. Let me start with the Think Tank.

The Think Tank brings employee health management (EHM) experts together bi-annually to exchange ideas, expertise, and recommendations in an effort to solve problems and react to opportunities. Members of the think tank have a major role in the creation and dissemination of national EHM policy, strategy, leadership and infrastructure. During the most recent session we addressed three subjects: (1) the role of consumer directed initiatives and personal responsibility in health care, (2) the impact of an aging workforce and actions that must be taken both domestically and internationally, and (3) the role of financial incentives in the health management industry. As you might imagine, the use of incentives drew significant debate so let me expound upon that discussion.

Overall the field is fairly supportive of the use of financial incentives to drive participation in health management programs. However, we also agree that while financial incentives can drive participation, little evidence exists to show that financial incentives alone change behavior. The lightning rod seems to be the use of incentives to reward “health outcomes” as it is defined in The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Such incentives reward people for keeping biometrics such as cholesterol, blood pressure, and body fat within reasonable limits. The opinions on this issue varied widely at the HERO Think Tank.

From my experience I know that all employers are different. As the result, I believe America’s employers need the latitude to put in place the incentive programs that work best for them, based on their cultures and their business environments. We do not need further regulation regarding incentives. Instead, the pros and cons of various incentive programs should be evaluated so that employers can make discriminating choices that support the needs of their people and culture. Others may disagree with my perspective. For instance, American Heart Association has distributed position statements taking the view that outcomes-based incentives tied to health plan or self-insured company premium costs are unfair and discriminatory, instead advocating for ‘‘participation-based’’ incentives. Their fear appears to be that such incentives could lead to the mistreatment (including greater cost burden) of people with existing disease. While an understanding view points, current law already provides many safeguards and people who take good care of themselves already pay a disproportionate amount of the health care cost burden.

Regardless of our individual views, the one thing that the think tank fully agrees on is that as an industry, we must speak with a united voice. Articles by Michael O’Donnell, and by Paul Terry and David Anderson have done a nice job of advocating for the “one voice” approach.

The HERO Forum was also an enlightening experience. Highlights were the following:

  • Many companies are going back to the basics. Part of the format at the HERO Forum is to have “How To Do It” workshops where best-practice health management programs are highlighted. This year many of the professionals guiding these programs described how they were getting back to the basics of superior program planning, setting clear objectives, communicating their programs effectively, generating engagement through creative approaches, and measuring outcomes effectively.
  • People were networking and discussing some of the most timely topics in health management. Many good ideas were discussed in areas like the broader view of well-being, program integration, and the impact of work culture on health management success.
  • The research showing the efficacy of health management is continuing to advance and HERO is leading the way.
  • There are many breakthroughs in the area of participant engagement that involve superior communications, incentives, program positioning, and the ability to use new media and technology in the effort.
  • The use of small actions and social media in effectively advancing behavior change was addressed by Chris Cartter, General Manager of MeYou Health, in the closing keynote. Chris provided deep insights into this topic.

Both the HERO Think Tank and the Forum were well attended and the sessions and debate were provocative. If you are not a member of HERO, I urge you to consider getting involved. If you were there, what were your impressions and biggest takeaways?What are your thoughts on the incentive debate? Please share.

Topics: HERO Think Tank Workplace Well-Being Healthcare Engagement Business Performance Health Financial Incentives for Health Management Program Events Health Enhancement Research Organization

Well-Being at Work, Healthways Style

Jennifer Rudloff

What would you think if you saw a co-worker walking to the printer sporting workout attire and wearing a camelback? At Healthways, it happens weekly. We encourage our colleagues to spend time during the day doing something to improve their well-being. In this video one of our colleagues talks about the culture at Healthways and how he gets involved.

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To learn more about some of the health and well-being initiatives we offer our colleagues, click here.

Topics: Healthy Living work Work Environment Workplace Well-Being Engagement Health Health in the Workplace Wellness Culture Wellness Program

Healthways Garden: Planting Seeds for Well-Being

Jennifer Rudloff

After spending months talking and dreaming of putting together an edible garden at Healthways Headquarters we finally pulled the trigger. In February we gathered landscapers and gardeners together with colleagues from our facilities department, our property management company, and the onsite café to talk about what we wanted out of the garden. (I am Wendi Micheletto, Healthways colleague and Davidson County Master Gardener.)

Once the landscaper came up with a design for the garden, we took it to the property owner for her sign off. Once we got her approval it didn’t take us very long to get excited about the garden! In early May, the landscape team cut out the garden and created a border out of heavy pavers. Knowing that everyone doesn’t have the space to create his or her own in ground garden at home, we wanted to provide another option. To show colleagues what they can grow in a container, we added a large pot to our courtyard for vegetables. In Mid-May I went with our Chef and another colleague to area stores and nursery’s to pick out plants. We choose a wide variety of herbs and a few summer vegetables. Shortly after purchasing the plants, we announced to the building we were planting and invited colleagues to come out and help. We had a few colleagues come and help us get everything in the ground. Though to be honest, with the hot summer sun and steamy Tennessee weather it has been a bit of a challenge to get help, though I expect this will change for our fall season. Once the plants were in the ground we mulched in an effort to avoid the weeds and keep in the moisture. (As an aside, it took us a few weeks to get the mulch in the garden, and during that time it got very weedy).

Then came the maintenance. Since colleagues are encouraged to wear workout attire and do something active on Wednesdays (dubbed "Workout Wednesdays"), we scheduled time in the garden every Wednesday morning. It’s nice to begin the day with fresh air and good company and seeing what has happened throughout the week with both our plant and people friends. While we work, it gives us a chance to chat about what’s going both personally and professionally, providing ample opportunities to build community and increase collaboration.

It has been a very good season for our inaugural garden. Though we grew mostly herbs along side just a few vegetable, we have harvested and delivered more than 210lbs of produce that our chef has been able to use daily in meals prepared in the café. While there are only a couple ‘regulars’ at the weekly weeding and harvesting, there are others that drop in when they have time. Even some of our remote colleagues from out of town have dropped in to help while in town.

Since we’re based in the south, we are able to have three full garden seasons. We’re beginning to plan for the fall season, some greens, beets and turnips perhaps. We also plan on doing some additional outreach to colleagues and offering some of those brown thumbed folks some classes so they can begin to reap the benefits gardening has to offer. In months to come, we hope to get a commitment from each department to adopt and care for the garden for a month. It’s a great way to plant the seeds of teamwork, see the rewards, be active, and build a tighter sense of community between colleagues.

Topics: Healthy Living Well-Being Workplace Well-Being Engagement Health Community Healthways Garden

Well-Being: Move the Needle, Reduce Costs

Jennifer Rudloff

John Harris, Chief Well-Being Officer at Healthways, talks about the correlation between the well-being of employees and an organizations costs, productivity, engagement, and performance. In this video blog, you will learn about how impacting well-being will return results.

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Topics: Basic Access Work Environment Workplace Well-Being Healthcare Engagement Physical Health Business Performance High Performing Teams Health Well-Being Index Employee Satisfaction Competitive Advantage Cost Reduction Cost Savings Productivity Healthways Reduce Absences Well-being Assessment Performance/Productivity