Wellness on the Factory Floor
Golden Flake’s potato chip factory provides the setting for Baptist Health Systems to present a practicum in employee wellness.
Baptist Health Systems’ Be Well van brings health care to employees at work.
Baptist Health Systems’ Be Well program offers a multi-prong approach to employee wellness, including innovative options such as on-site primary care via a rolling health care RV.
A number of Alabama employers, including Birmingham-based Golden Flake Snack Foods, have found the Be Well program helpful not only in keeping workers healthier but also in increasing job satisfaction. Baptist, one of the state’s largest employers, and its nearly 4,700 employees and affiliated physicians are benefitting from the Be Well program as well.
The health care system brought Dr. Anne-Laura Cook, an internal medicine physician with a graduate degree in health care management from the Harvard School of Public Health, on board about a year and a half ago to develop more effective health programs. As medical director for population health management and primary care innovation for Baptist, Cook looks at the big picture to find strategic ways to improve health within groups and reduce health care costs.
Be Well, which emphasizes preventive care and behavioral modification, is designed for employers to enhance workplace wellness, population health management and access to primary care, she says. “Not everybody goes to the doctor when they should, and when they don’t, a condition that could have been taken care of relatively easily can end up as a horrible medical problem down the line,” Cook says.
The Be Well program allows employers to offer a confidential health screening to employees to help detect whether they are vulnerable to five modifiable risk factors that often lead to expensive and burdensome chronic diseases. Those risk factors are tobacco use, diabetes and prediabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and excess weight and physical inactivity.
The on-site screenings performed by Baptist’s Be Well team include a body mass index measurement, blood pressure check and laboratory test for blood sugar and cholesterol levels. A questionnaire is used to assess to what degree each employee is ready to change high-risk behaviors such as smoking or inactivity. After the assessment, Be Well representatives work with employees on finding ways to address health issues and reduce risk factors.
While all employee information is kept confidential, employers do receive a Group Health Profile to get a picture of their workers’ risk factors. “How can an employer know what wellness initiatives would be most helpful for employees unless they have a sense of what their employees’ needs are?” Cook asks. “Be Well offers employers the ability to better target their wellness efforts to their employees’ real needs vs. just rolling out generic feel-good programs that only may benefit a narrow range of employees.”
Be Well is developing a variety of support classes and programs to help employers address specific risk factors, including diabetes education and tobacco cessation courses. “We are trying to go beyond what’s typically offered. The six-week tobacco treatment program, for example, starts with motivational interviewing to help participants learn what might be holding them back and finding ways to enable them to make a change,” Cook says.
The Group Health Profile also helps Be Well develop recommendations on health plan enhancements or modifications when needed. Employers learn whether they are getting the best value for their employees for the dollars they are investing in health care insurance or if different health insurance plan options might serve their employees better. “Unless you know the particular risk factors of your workforce, you may not have as much information as you need to make the best health plan choices,” Dr. Cook says.
Employers pay for the biometric testing of their employees and for the profile. “We see it as an investment in our employees. They are our most valuable asset and we want to help keep them healthy,” says Lori Redding, director of human resources for Golden Flake, which employs 750 workers throughout the Southeast.
Be Well Mobile, a medically equipped and staffed RV, is being provided through the program so that employees are able to provide on-site primary medical care to employees typically once a month. “It can be time consuming and difficult for employees to schedule health care appointments during the workweek, so needed medical tests or treatment may be delayed,” Cook says. “When doctor appointments are available at the workplace, employees get more timely treatments. That’s especially important for those with chronic conditions or acute issues.”
Golden Flake employees have been taking advantage of on-site medical care via Be Well this year. The confidential on-site office visits are covered by the employee’s Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance.
Cook has been visiting the Birmingham company headquarters and plant, where 300 employees work, on a monthly basis, first in at temporary conference room set up and now in the mobile unit. “Our employees love it because they don’t have to take time off from work or sit in a waiting room at a doctor’s office but can go about their business until they are called for their appointment,” Redding says. “Appointments for regular doctor visits and check-ups are made in advance, but Dr. Cook also sees employees that have health issues that suddenly come up.”
Redding points out that for the many employees who don’t have regular primary care physicians, the on-going relationship with Dr. Cook has improved their comfort level with attending medical appointments. They appreciate that she is willing to work with them, keeping their budget in mind when needed, to help them make health care choices they can live with. “I give them options, and I understand when they would rather pay a lot less for a drug that does an adequate job than a lot more for a different drug,” Cook says.
Now that the RV is up and running, the company is looking at opening up the mobile health care visits to Golden Flake employee family members. “It’s just been so popular with employees,” Redding says. “With the mobile unit, it provides the possibility of expanding the program to their loved ones.”
Golden Flake is benefitting from Be Well in general through greater worker productivity, less absenteeism and increased employee loyalty, Redding says. “They know we care about them, and that only increases their job satisfaction,” she says. “We have gotten so much positive feedback.”
Employers may also take advantage of another primary care program — Be Well On Call, a web-based video chat service that allows employees to have video visits with Baptist doctors, dietitians, diabetes educators, pharmacists and other health care professionals. “We are continuing to develop and refine innovative programs that provide employers and employees with better health care access and solutions,” Cook says.
Kathy Hagood and Cary Norton are freelance contributors to Business Alabama. Both are based in Birmingham.