The idea sounds simple enough: Have a company host an onsite flu shot clinic for workers and reap the benefits when the flu season hits and your employees are protected and your company's productivity doesn't suffer.
An onsite flu clinic is just one of several successful initiatives that have helped Miller Electric Mfg. Co. in Appleton, Wis., improve employee health and lower healthcare costs.
In 2004, officials at Miller Electric, a division of Illinois-based Illinois Tool Works, knew they had to do something to keep healthcare costs from spiraling completely out of control. Like many companies, Miller Electric had seen the percent of its premium increase by double digits.
The welding equipment manufacturer partnered with ThedaCare Inc., an integrated health system serving northeast Wisconsin, to develop a multi-faceted plan to improve employee health, which would eventually lead to lower insurance costs. In the three years after signing the agreement with ThedaCare, Miller Electric saw the percent of its premium increases significantly decline. The percent change from 2003 — before Miller Electric worked with exclusively with ThedaCare — to 2004 — once the agreement was implemented — decreased by more than 10 percent.
As a first step in working with Miller Electric, Ingenuity First, a division of ThedaCare dedicated to employee health, offered health risk assessments or HRAs to Miller Electric's workforce of 1,500. About 80 percent of workers complied. Employees then saw a health coach to help them understand their results and develop ways to help them improve.
For example, if an employee's HRA showed he or she had high blood pressure, the health coach would share information on diet, exercise and advise them to visit either onsite or personal physician to determine if medication would be needed to bring the condition under control. By taking care of high blood pressure before it becomes a bigger problem, employees are able to save on healthcare costs down the road. Miller is also now in the process of providing self-service blood pressure stations throughout their facilities to make it even more convenient for employees.
Sandy Panzer, vice president at Ingenuity First, said Miller Electric then took the next step of bringing in onsite a full-time nurse from ThedaCare. Previously, Miller Electric had a registered nurse on staff three days a week. The nurse was able to not only serve as a resource to employees and provide first-aid if necessary, but also provide onsite case management to employees with chronic conditions.
Registered nurse Michele Skoglund sees firsthand how her presence has made a difference. “Any time someone comes in, I take their blood pressure. In 2007, I checked 2,000 blood pressures. Depending on what it is, we may talk about lifestyle changes or perhaps make a referral to a physician to help get it under control,” she said. “We closely monitor employees and since we know them and see what they're doing on a regular basis you learn a lot more and we can apply that knowledge to helping them become healthier.”
Since Skoglund is onsite to treat everything from an injury to a sore throat, she is a familiar site among employees. That familiarity leads to a higher level of trust between herself and employees, which in turn, leads to getting some real changes implemented.
“Some employees worry about going to the doctor because they have high blood pressure or maybe they smoke and they are fearful of being lectured,” Skoglund said. “They can come here for a sore throat or maybe something else that's small and we can develop a relationship and level of trust that allows us to get at some of those larger healthcare issues.”
Miller Electric also partnered with ThedaCare to continue the practice of having a physician onsite for four hours a week. The physician and registered nurse offer other onsite services such as educational seminars, drug services, injury treatment and occupational medicine.
Skoglund and Dr. Tom Zoch, the physician assigned to Miller Electric, have access to ThedaCare's electronic medical records, they can make any notations on the patient's chart and the employee's primary doctor can see it all in real time. That includes using the medical record system to track chronic disease management at the employee level.
For Skoglund and Dr. Zoch, the next step is to compare the performance between how employees are managing their chronic disease — whether it's high blood pressure or diabetes — against healthcare providers in Wisconsin through the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality and see how they are measure up.
“Something like that is unheard of, but it's a way for us to really see how healthy our workforce is and to track how they are doing,” said Patty Leiker, the company's corporate health and wellness manager.
The initiatives have led to a healthier, more productive workforce and provided Miller Electric with a constant return on investment, Leiker said.
For every $1 Miller Electric has spent on having an onsite nurse and doctor, it has seen an ROI of $1.48. Once increased worker productivity is factored in — healthier employees miss less time on the job and are more productive than a co-worker who is sick — the ROI increases to $2.52.
The savings were found in several ways — from employees seeking care onsite for ailments like sore throats and not having to leave the workplace for a doctor visit, which cuts into productivity as well as incurs an office fee charge to Skoglund working with employees to make healthier choices, such as exercising more or stopping their tobacco use.
The partnership has led to the improved health of many Miller Electric employees. For example in 2004, 54.3 percent of Miller employees scored in the good and fair categories on their HRAs while 18.2 percent scored in the excellent categories. By 2007, 57.3 percent of employees scored in the good and fair categories and 18.8 percent scored in the excellent category. Ingenuity First estimates that for every one-point increase on an HRA average, there will be a 1.8% improvement in claims overall.
For more detailed information and a breakdown on Miller Electric's ROI, please contact Leiker directly at (920) 735-4087 or [email protected].
While Miller has seen much success by partnering with Ingenuity First, ITW now has a nationwide agreement in place with a national vendor to conduct their HRAs. Leiker predicts that the combination of continuing their partnership with Ingenuity First in addition to the new online tools will help employees become even more engaged with improving their health.
Miller Electric also still grapples with an issue familiar to many employers — not all workers participate in HRAs. Typically these workers are those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Although they may not participate in the HRA, having Skoglund onsite provides an opportunity for her to meet with them and develop strategies to get their condition under control. Miller Electric continues to look at ways to increase HRA participation and hopes by getting more employees involved, health costs will continue to decline.