Embracing wellness in the workplace

By: 

Dr. Dean Gruner, Special to the Leader

What keeps people healthy and productive? How is disease prevented? And most importantly, why should employers care about those questions?

At ThedaCare, we’ve been probing those ideas for two decades. What we’ve learned about preventing illness drives our approach to workplace wellness for our own organization, and for increasing numbers of employers in the region.

Nothing energizes me more than the news that area employers are beginning to more deeply understand and embrace workplace wellness and preventive care as strategies for generating long-term employee productivity and improved bottom lines. It is why I went into family practice in the first place — to help keep people healthy and prevent disease — rather than other specialties that focus more on fixing health problems that have occurred.

In 2015 alone, ThedaCare at Work added 15 new on-site employer partners. That’s a 56 percent increase in one year, and that’s big! It tells us that employers increasingly appreciate the connection among disease prevention, health and cost reduction — and they are committing to effective ways to achieve those aims.

Importantly, many of our on-site partners have been recognized on the state and national levels for their health and wellness improvement initiatives. The Kimberly Area School District is approaching the one year anniversary of its on-site health clinic — a clinic that ThedaCare staffs, and that is saving the district significant dollars. We also are preparing for the opening this fall of a joint clinic that will serve more than 5,000 people who are eligible members of the city of Appleton’s and the Appleton Area School District’s health plans. Let’s hear it for every employer who invests in workers’ health!

When an employer opens an on-site clinic, partners with a health coach or engages a nurse in employee health, the results are astounding. Here are just a few of the benefits employers are telling us make the difference for them:

• Improved ROI. Employers with a ThedaCare at Work on-site clinic experience, on average, a two-to-one or greater return on their investment. Because we take responsibility for an employee’s overall health, not just a knee or hip or heart, employees get and stay healthier, avoiding expensive surgeries and potential (and even more costly) complications.

• Increased productivity. On average, a person spends two hours on a visit to the doctor, including travel and wait times. With flexible 30-minute appointments at a workplace clinic, employees are back on the job sooner.

• Greater efficiencies. Because on-site care is connected to our local health system, including our computerized medical records and doctor’s notes, employees avoid redundant tests, gain quicker access to specialists and experience streamlined care both on-site and in other settings.

• Better connectivity. With connections to many other local care providers, including primary care and specialist doctors, as well as lifestyle and wellness resources and organizations, ThedaCare attends to the whole person.

We’re all about healthier people. Sure, we need a state of the art hospital and great physician clinics. It turns out that many people get healthy during the work day, at their work place. If that describes you, you’re part of the future of health care. Thank your employer or give yourself a pat on the back — and keep living healthfully!