Health Plans

Motivating Employees. More Than Providing Direction

By DrScott – Posted on February 6, 2014 on www.compassphs.com

Fifth in the How to Switch On Your Employees Series

An employee from a remote office location stopped by the office of her President at the corporate headquarters. Unsure of the exact purpose for the visit, the CEO thanked her for stopping by and her years of loyal service. Once seated, he paused and asked “how can I help you today?”.

She looked at her hands folded in her lap and said, “Two years ago you announced that we were going to have to get our biometrics done, see our doctor, and get our cancer screening done to qualify for the best health plan. I was really angry. I am 28 years old, a single mother of two children, and frankly, I can barely get everything I need to do done and catch a few hours of sleep at night. To tell me I had to do more felt unfair. But I also could not afford to pay more for my health insurance, so I complied. At my exam the doctor found a breast lump and sent me for a mammogram. I then found out that I had stage one breast cancer. To make a long story short, it was a real hassle, but I got my treatment and the doctors say that I am now cured.”

She paused, obviously straining to maintain her composure. She looked at him directly and continued, “I can tell you that without you requiring me to get my screening I would have put it off another five years. The doctor told me that if I had waited even one more year my cancer would have spread and my chance of surviving would have been a lot less. So I came here today to tell you thank you. Thank you for caring enough to require me to do the right thing, even though it costs the company more money and you didn’t have to. Thank you for saving my life, and thank you for giving my kids their mom; they are still young and would have been alone if I had died.”

Surprised, the President expressed his appreciation at her stopping by to share her story and the great news that the doctor thought she was healed from her cancer. This was the second time in a month an employee had contacted him to thank him for helping discover early cancer.

Their health plan had gone from just another requirement, to a campaign to catch disease early, and to save employees lives. Employees were inspired, and morale was better than ever. They had even begun a program to support “Health Champions” who encourage and support their employees in taking the ‘Baby Steps’ to go from reactive to proactive lifestyles, and to create a culture of wellness.

Chip and Dan Heath in their book, Switch – How to Change Things When Change is Hard, point out the need for three major principles to be honored in order to promote successful change (see previous blogs). The rider must be directed, the elephant must be motivated, and the path must be clear.  In this instance, the company provided employees motivation to move down a different path to a new destination. The employees not only understood the task at hand, but also found the feeling that motivated them to change. The change had been broken into realistic small steps, and employees gained more knowledge and experience in proactive wellness. A new mindset was emerging. It had taken two years but success was no longer in question.

Making the Turn – Changing to Outcome Based Wellness

By DrScott – Posted on January 28, 2014 on www.compassphs.com

Third in the How to Switch On Your Employees Series

Recently an HR team met to plan next year’s health benefits. It started with a review of last year’s changes and outcomes. Health costs went up 5%, but the projection for this year was closer to 10% with the new Accountable Care Act changes. Their President made it clear that the company could not tolerate a 10% increase and they had to find a way to better manage the situation.

There was a general sense of frustration around the table. Catastrophic costs driven by diabetes, surgeries, cancer, and heart disease again were the top challenges, and little headway had been made. The wellness program had paid out thousands of dollars to encourage employees to eat better, exercise more, and get their biometric screenings, but participation was still in the low 30% range. The HR team knew they had to make a significant change to make progress.

They studied other companies that had been successful in managing costs and decided that the keys for success were for every employee and their spouse to do the following:

  1. Get their biometrics and normalize any that were not to goal,
  2. Get age and gender appropriate wellness tests and exams recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) performed by a high quality primary care doctor (preferably a patient centered medical home), and
  3. Get the USPSTF recommended screening for cancer and treatment for diabetes, and heart disease performed at high value providers

All employees were to be moved to a high deductible health plan to increase their involvement and to create a personal investment in making sure they took care of their health and had “skin in the game.”

The HR team was really concerned about the reaction by the employees when this was announced. They appreciated their President wanting to save money on health care and wanted to have this go off without a hitch.  Therefore, they reached out to the HR staff at several companies that had successfully made this change and got their advice on how to roll out the plan.

In the next few blogs we will review how they decided to roll this out to insure success. To make it more accessible, and interesting, we will use the paradigm laid out in the book Switch by Dan and Chip Heath. We will explore how to change the direction of the “elephant” walking down the old familiar path, directing the rider, motivating the elephant, and re-shaping the path.