Healthy returns

Onsite wellness programs lead to positive outcomes for employers

Posted on Sep 15, 2017 :: Back Office Operations
Jessica Thiel
Posted by , Insight on Manufacturing Staff Writer

When Great Northern Corp. added an onsite wellness clinic in 2016, the company’s nurse practitioner quickly became part of the team.

The Appleton-based employer had long provided an onsite nurse to promote health and wellness and treat work-related injuries, but the organization decided to expand its offerings. Through ThedaCare at Work, an occupational health service for employers and workers, the company now offers a clinic available to its 400 Fox Cities employees and their spouses.

Brian Diermeier, vice president of human resources at GNC, says the company ensures the nurse practitioner maintains a visible presence in the company, getting involved in safety meetings and creating wellness challenges for employees.

“As people come to see her, they’re building that relationship a whole lot more,” Diermeier says.

GNC’s experience is familiar to Chris Hess, vice president of market development and sales for ThedaCare. The company’s providers become a part of the culture of the workplaces they serve and get to know the people there.

As health care costs continue to increase, the move to add onsite workplace wellness options has grown in popularity. In the past two-and-a half years, ThedaCare has added more than 20 new workplace engagements with nurse practitioners, Hess says.

Hess attributes the growth to a rise in consumerism. With rising health costs, Hess says employers have been forced to share in that cost with consumers. This has led to cost shifting, more high-deductible plans than ever and an increase in health spending accounts.

“All of that’s driving consumerism, so consumers are more cautious with their health care dollars,” Hess says. “Bringing care onsite is a win-win for the employer and the consumer.”

Employers typically reap a 2-to-1 return on their investment for onsite care, Hess says. Consumers benefit because their deductible doesn’t take a hit and they can access care with no out-of-pocket expenses and receive it in the best cost environment possible.

Health care organizations offer a variety of solutions to employers. ThedaCare’s offerings range from health coaches at workplaces working on wellness to RNs to clinics staffed with a nurse practitioner or doctor working with chronic diseases, preventative services and acute care. Small to medium-size manufacturers may choose to have someone onsite eight to 20 hours per week.

Green Bay’s Prevea Health offers services through LeadWell, its corporate wellness program. Mark Hillesheim, director of client relations for the program, says Prevea’s Well Said educational program has been its most popular option.

With Well Said, providers conduct free informational sessions on topics such as nutrition, smoking cessation and biometrics. The organization also offers health coaches, occupational health services and onsite or near-site clinics, with all solutions tailored to company needs.

Prevea has been offering Well Said for eight years, and Hillesheim says he’s witnessed a change in the way employers view health care. “Over that time, I think more and more companies are focused on the health and wellness of their employees.”

Hillesheim says onsite care leads to better productivity and outcomes. Furthermore, it reduces barriers to people seeking health care. This is especially important in manufacturing environments, he says, which include demographics of people who aren’t as likely to seek medical care on their own.

More than 50 companies use a Prevea onsite or near-site clinic, and hundreds use its free programs. Hillesheim says many employers have been able to reduce or hold steady health care costs with onsite programs in place, with some saving hundreds of thousands of dollars. Incorporating these programs also can give companies a competitive advantage in the race for talent, he says.

Onsite care can mean less time lost. An average consumer spends two hours going to a primary care appointment, Hess says. If that employee accesses service at work instead, that figure gets closer to 30 minutes.

“That’s a big savings to our employers, especially the manufacturers,” Hess says. “People can leave the line without shutting down the line or causing any kind of production issues and be right back to work within 30 minutes.”

Perhaps the best outcome for these programs, though, is positive health changes, Hess says. He’s seen cases of people who, through lifestyle changes, can get off insulin for diabetes, discontinue use of sleep machines for sleep apnea, or stop taking cholesterol medications. All of these, he says, improve quality of life.

Hess says onsite care also leads to smarter consumers, which can in turn pay dividends to employers.

“They’re learning how to interface with health care delivery so when they do have to do it out of the onsite clinic, they ask better questions, they make smarter decisions, they do their research,” he says. “So, we’re basically seeing a rise in the knowledge base of the individual consumer when people access our care onsite.”