Improving Employee Health and Well Being
By Alvia Siddiqi, MD
As the pandemic rolls on, workplace health has expanded to include a broader range of well-being offerings that can take place in an office, at employees’ homes or anywhere else. Here are some thoughts on how to achieve and maintain employee health in a rapidly changing environment.
Advocate Aurora Health’s purpose is to help people live well. Guided by our values of excellence, compassion and respect, we care for others. This includes patients, our communities and our own 75,000 team members. Team members are our most important asset. Their ability to provide consistently excellent, safe medical care to others depends on maintaining their own mental and physical health. We are making significant investments in workplace health, keeping a special focus on frontline health care workers.
Incentivizing health screenings
Our workplace health programs include incentivizing health screenings and encouraging employees to select a primary care physician who will provide health screenings and wellness visits. We also incentivize health screenings for employees’ partners, to improve overall health of our employees and their families.
EAP services support employee health
Advocate Aurora’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offers customized solutions centered around counseling for mental health concerns, substance abuse, parenting and family issues and much more. Our program goes beyond traditional EAP offerings. It includes wellness coaching and work-life balance resources such as financial consultations and child and eldercare referrals.
Effects of the pandemic linger on
Research confirms that many employees are still struggling with the pandemic’s aftereffects. COVID-19 clearly took a toll on both employees and employers. Businesses should consider expanding EAP benefits and encourage counseling support for employees to address stress, grief, family problems, psychological disorders and alcohol and substance abuse. These issues negatively affect health and workplace productivity.
The pandemic highlighted the direct connection between employee health and overall business performance. With organizations changing their business models and work environments to embrace more flexible solutions, traditional medical care delivery quickly needed to transform, too. In 2019 Advocate Aurora completed about 3,000 virtual patient visits. By the end of 2020, that number exploded to more than one million virtual visits.
We launched the LiveWell app, a first-of-its-kind digital ecosystem that combines a patient’s integrated medical record with features such as guided meditation, healthy recipes and health news. LiveWell quickly reached more than one million downloads. Further transformations are underway to handle employer requirements for employee COVID-19 vaccination and/or testing.
The pandemic showed that having a trusted health care partner with population health expertise helps employers navigate in a complex health environment. Health costs continue to rise for employers. The cost-sharing burden for employees does, too. Finding new ways to manage employee health — using a population health framework— can reduce total costs of care and improve overall health of a workforce.
A population health approach leverages data to produce results. Harnessing data from employee health screening assessments and claims data helps stratify employees and identify their health risks. This data is then used to create programs tailored to employees across the risk spectrum. Successful population health management strategies include health outreach, care management and chronic disease management.
Advocate Aurora’s population health efforts are further supported by:
• preventive services, vaccinations, cancer screenings
• routine diagnostic testing
• metabolic screenings
Using a robust population health approach will help businesses stay productive and keep their employees on the job, while containing health care costs. The traditional definition of “workplace” continues to evolve because of remote work. Employee health strategies need to adapt, too. Employers should make sure their entire workforce is engaged in the process, regardless of where employees are physically located.
A holistic approach to health
Caring for the whole person, and not just their disease, is fundamental to managing the long-term health of any group of people. An organization’s success depends on having motivated, productive, engaged employees. Employers need to ensure that employees get the right care at the right time. Integrative solutions that keep businesses productive and their employees healthy will pay substantial dividends. This will only increase as health care costs continue to rise.
To look for a robust EAP for your organization, check out Advocate Aurora Employer Solutions. A solution customized to your company’s culture could also include employer clinics, wellness, occupational health, executive health programs and more.
Alvia Siddiqi, MD, serves as vice president - population health for Advocate Aurora Health, one of the top 12 not-for-profit health systems in the United States.