Finding Dr. Right

As Consumers, ,most of us spend more time and effort researching the latest television sets for purchase than we do in finding the best doctor for our medical care.    Isn’t our health worth the effort?  Below are some tips to help you find the best medical providers:

1. ASK YOUR FRIENDS AND WORK COLLEGUES WHO THEY SEE FOR MEDICAL CARE.  Your firends and work associates will often be the most honest, as they do not stand to gain from any recommendation, and will often care enough about your welfare to be honest about any faults or issues the provider may have.

2. ASK YOUR CURRENT PHYSICIAN.  This works best if you need a specialist, or if you ar transitioning a child from a pediatrician to an internist or GP.  Doctors usually know the scuttlebutt on who is the best in their fields.

3. CONTACT A TEACHING HOSPITAL.  As with #2 above, they usually know who is a good physician.

4. USE THE INTERNET.  There are many websites devoted to physician reviews, such as ratemds.com and vitals.com.  Keep in mind that most people comment on these sites when they are dissatisfied with a provider, and not to commend one.  It would be good to know if there are many complaints, so you can avoid this doctor.

5. CONTACT AN ADVOCACY GROUP.  Organizations such as The American Cancer Society will be able to advise who is the best in their field, as they work closely with physicians and are on top of the latest research and advancements.

6. DO A BACKGROUND CHECK.  Contact the Federation of State Medical Boards at fsmb.org  for information on licensing and complain history.  Also check out the American Board of Medical Specialties at abms. org to check board certification status.

7. GO WITH YOUR GUT. Since you may be spending a lot of time with this person, you have to feel that you are a team and that you can work together.  You know who you feel a kinship with, and who you dislike.  If you don’t like the doctor, don’t use him/or her as your provider!  Can you imagine being sick and vulnerable, having your health and future in the care of someone you don’t like?

Of course, any doctor you choose doesnt have to be your provider for the rest of your life.  As your needs change you may also want to reconsider your choices.  Do not be afraid to change doctors.  As in life, not every relationship is meant to be permanent.  If you were meant to stay with the same doctor all of your life, there would be many elderly patients at the pediatrician’s office. 

Walk Toward Health!

Employee poor health and well-being comes at a hefty price in terms of increased health care costs and decreased productivity for employers.    Irvine, Calif.-based KimStaffHR has actively sought to change this by helping their employees to get motivated to lead a more active lifestyle, both on and off the job. 

They looked at various optios to assist their employees, including weight loss management programs but decided to put a process together themselves, spearheaded by Management.  A a top-down approach is the key to success of any wellness program offered by organizations, but particularly for smaller companies the size of KimStaffHR, which has about 25 employees. ”

Their program was inspired by the  book: “ICount: 10 Simple Ways to a Healthy Lifestyle,” authored by Susan Parks and Patricia Bonavia. “ICount” argues that the failure to engage in an active lifestyle can result in a huge hit to organizations across the country in terms of health-related costs, lost productivity and employee attrition.  The premise of the book is that even with busy schedules and hectic lives, individuals can still engage in simple activities that will lead to a stronger mental and physical condition.

KimStaffHR used the apprach that walking would fit into the lives of their busy employees and would lead to health and wellness. They did not require any of its employees to take part in the program, recognizing that some might not feel comfortable.  They introduced the idea to their workforce and supported those who expressed interest. Weekly meetings were held to focus on not just weight loss alone, but on how employees could incorporate more movement into their day.  With the goal to march 10,000 steps daily, employees walked at home, at work and all points in between. The company recognized that it needed to incorporate this new wellness routine into the workday. To accomplish this, meetings are now held outside, with workers walking while discussing items that normally would be handled in a conference room setting. During the winter months, the halls of the office became the walking grounds, as the employees refused to let weather interrupt their wellness efforts.  Some workers tracked their progress with pedometers and walked with their families, fostering a healthy lifestyle in the home as well. And with members of employees’ families likely participating on the health plans of KimStaffHR employees, the cost savings from reduced health care claims can multiply time and again.

There has been significant weight loss noted, but their workforce has benefited from becoming a more cohesive healthier unit as a result of their program.

Though its wellness-by-walking program still is in the early stages, KimStaffHR is convinced the benefits of the simple, yet diligent, work of their employees will pay off in its own health care costs. For example, chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure are coming under control, and execs ultimately believe the program will lead to less office visits and medication needs.

“One of the key points is that you have don’t have to spend tons of money to start a program like this. We have a lot of clients, and we have to walk the walk, literally.” The enthusiasm has also spread to other businesses that surround KimStaff in its business complex. Seeing many of the same faces walking outside day after day has inspired other organizations to take the same steps toward physical and mental fitness. And employees have connected on social sites, such as Facebook, to build a community supportive of their goals and one another. “We’ve built a culture here, and it’s recognized here,” Dillard says. “It helps to build self-esteem. Our personalities are positive, and it goes from the top down. Walking is the easiest thing to do, there is no excuse. If people stay committed to it, this will change their lifestyle. It did not cost us money and was a simple, but effective change in the workplace.”

For more information or ideas on on wellness programs, contact Gary Whiddon at 888-474-6627 ext. 116.

Gary Whiddon Added to Faculty of WELCOA University

 Gary Whiddon, President of Health Plans Online/Westlake Employee Benefits has been added to the faculty of WELCOA University.  This designation, only awarded to the best trained wellness professionals in the United States, allows Gary to assist Companies in workplace wellness training.  In order to receive this honor Gary had to complete multiple levels of training through WELCOA.  Only 141 individuals acheived this status in 2011. 

WELCOA , the Wellness Council of America, is one of the nation’s leading non-profit organizations in workplace wellness, and provides resources to more than 4,000 member companies.  Located in Omaha, Nebraska, WELCOA has been in operation for more than 25 years.

With this designation Gary is able to assist your Company in building a results oriented wellness program.  Please contact him at 88VISIONARY (888) 474-6627 so he may assist you. 

 

 Congratulations Gary!

Well Workplace Level 4 Certification

Understanding how to help employers establish and mange their wellness program takes education. That is why I have let WELCOA teach me extensively about wellness programs.  Level IV was about “How to Demonstrate a Return-On-Investment”.   I have now completed all four levels 1, 2, 3 and 4 and feel ready to help our clients.

Remember that 70% of health claims are “lifestyle driven”, so firms that establish “results-oriented” wellness plans that provide employees financial incentives for results, means thousands saved in lower health claims and improved on the job productivity.

Workplace Wellness Success – zero premium increase

Kalamazoo County wellness success holds premium increases to zero 

By Anne Conn

March 1, 2011

I don’t mean to brag (OK, maybe I do just a little), but health insurance premiums for Kalamazoo County, Mich., employees didn’t increase this year – not one penny.

Even better, our dental and vision premiums actually dropped. So what’s our secret? The key is a healthy employee population, thanks in large part to our wellness program.

We are in the fifth year of our wellness program. We’ve discovered through experience that a successful program takes leadership support, empowered employees and the right wellness consultants, coaches and communication partners.

Our wellness journey began in 2006. Back then, we wrestled with ever-increasing health care costs, and wanted to rein in those costs for our employees and the county’s bottom line. We had a bare-bones wellness program, but weren’t seeing measurable results.

I realized I was kidding myself if I thought the county could do wellness, and do it right, on our own.

We needed expert help, so we turned to health promotion consulting group Holtyn & Associates, LLC, which provides program development and consulting, biometrics screenings, one-on-one coaching, reporting and follow-up. Holtyn provided everything we thought we would need and more.

When I approached the County Commission and Administration about wellness as a way to positively impact benefit costs, I received their full support.

The leadership backing was critical to create the necessary culture for wellness to work. Employees have greater buy-in when they know it’s a management priority.

With leadership go-ahead, the HR department worked with Holtyn to create a wellness team comprised of employees from various departments. Empowering employees gives them ownership of the program.

Once the program was in place, communication became paramount. We needed to get the word out about programs, but there was more to it than that. Other messages could reinforce and expand on what we wanted to accomplish.

We discovered that it takes a mix of media – both print and electronic – with simple suggestions presented in fun and engaging ways, so employees don’t just “get” what they need to do, they “want” to do it. We’ve partnered with an experienced, innovative company that specializes in easy-to-read, print and electronic health and lifestyle content.

Our communications partner has developed creative, effective ways to reach and inspire our employees.

Currently, 82% of eligible employees participate, exceeding the best practice standard of 75%. One of the first questions new employees ask during orientation is how soon can they join the program.

Employees continue to make dramatic lifestyle improvements. The decline in sedentary behavior is significant. The latest survey showed 91% of participants were active.

There are numerous testimonials that give life to these numbers, such as the one from the weight-management participant who had never run in her life before she joined the class. She went on to run in the Chicago Marathon and now serves on the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness.

The county is seeing more employees with fewer lifestyle risk factors. In October 2006, 48% of employees had low or no lifestyle risk factors. By October 2010, the percentage had increased to 64%. That’s powerful. It’s hard to put a price tag on a heart attack that hasn’t happened.

I don’t want to give the impression that it’s easy to put a program like this together, but nothing worthwhile is.

If you’re smart about how you approach wellness, if you get support from leadership, empower employees and find the right program and communication partners, the results can be amazing.

 


Anne Conn is the assistant human resources director for Kalamazoo County Human Resources in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Health CAN Increase Wealth!

In order to maintain comprehensive employee health benefits while controlling rising health care costs, employers are now increasing their reliance  on an array of wellness programs aimed at creating a healthier workforce.

As wellness incentives are now part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, this is a trend that should continue to gain attention.  According to a survey from the National Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investments, many employers have implemented these programs without first developing an integrated strategy that clearly outlines targets and goals.

The survey revealed three key findings:

1. Employers are investing in numerous health improvement programs.

2. Few employers set measurable goals or are able to calculate the return on their investment in these programs.

3. Employers underestimate the investments they make in health improvement programs.

The survey shows that employers have invested in an average of 21 different health improvement programs, administered by several different vendors.  Programs include disease prevention, lifestyle change, condition management and educational campaigns.

Employers are spending roughly the same on programs that help maintain and improve health, such as prevention and lifestyle efforts, as on programs that help manage health after onset of an illness or disease.

The challenge for employers is determining what the right mix of spending is. For example, a strategy focusing on condition management is logical if an employer has a large population that has particular chronic diseases or illnesses.  However, if the employer’s workforce is relatively healthy, then focusing more heavily on lifestyle modifications might be a wiser investment, considering the impact that likely lifestyle changes could have on the health of the workforce as it ages.

Measure The Program Goals

In the study 35% of employers indicated they have measurable goals and/or targets. As a result, few employers know the return on their investment across all their health programs, and many (42%) rely on a collection of vendor assessments to measure success.  As a result, it is difficult for employers to assess the success of their program.  Employers should consider determining the outcomes that they want before they decide on the programs. Knowing your intended focus should help to determine which types of programs you should implement.

Employers should include common sense metrics, such as number of health screenings, adherence to medications for chronic conditions or percentage of the population that is tobacco-free.  If you have a population with a high prevalence of a particular disease such as asthma, focusing on decreased emergency room visits among a constant population in the program is a logical program choice.

Track Your Investment

Accurately tracking the investment in health improvement is perhaps an employers greatest challenge, since many programs are often bundled with other services. The study quantifies the employer investment in health improvement, based on employer responses about which programs they offered and market data on the cost of these programs.

It is estimated that employers spend an average of 1.8% of medical claims on health improvement programs. These investments were consistent across companies of different sizes.

The 1.8% estimate represents the average level of investment that employers are currently making. However, the level and focus of investment that is right for one employer may not be appropriate for another employer, and individual company characteristics should be considered when deciding how to invest.

Investing in employee health has the potential to reap substantial benefits for employers, but there are numerous challenges – including coordination of multiple programs, communication to engage people in the program, and development of measurable outcomes and accurate financial calculations – that must be addressed before the best outcomes can be realized.

Employers who are able to identify desired outcomes, and implement strategies and programs to achieve these outcomes, will ultimately be the ones that see improvement in their workforce’s health profiles.

For additional information about implementation of Wellness Programs, please contact Gary Whiddon at (888) 474-6627 or at gary@hpo.biz.   Mr. Whiddon has received his well workplace certification from WELCOA (Wellness Council of America), and can assist you with any questions you may have.