Bringing Healthcare to Work
The working world is collectively back to business for 2017. While you’re shaking off those holiday cobwebs, it might also be time to shake up your corporate wellness and employee health. I was inspired lately by stories of how an onsite clinic is making a difference at welding manufacturer Miller Electric.
ThedaCare At Work has had a presence at Miller Electric for more than 10 years and currently staffs an onsite nurse and doctor part time. If employees need medical treatment during the work day, they just walk down the hall versus driving to an off-site clinic. The accessibility means faster care, better productivity, and proactive care seeking.
“It’s convenient and saves so much time,” Miller employee Meghan Smits told me. “People are more likely to get things checked out because they don’t have to cover time off with vacation or sick pay. It can prevent minor health concerns from turning into something major because you were ‘too busy’ to go to the doctor, and it leaves more time for me to spend with my family at night.”
Talk about a great outcome! This is exactly what healthcare strives for: getting people back to their lives, sooner. Folks at Miller also mentioned the skill of onsite providers to connect employees with specialty docs and the existing Employee Assistance Program.
One really neat result is the ability to improve employee health in real time. When Dr. Judd Pulley started seeing more shoulder and elbow injuries during his onsite visits, he coached Safety leads Tim Kinney and Corey Mullard about what workstation movements might be causing those injuries. Tim witnessed the exact movement Dr. Pulley described and worked with employees to eliminate it altogether. Combined with onsite stretching and strengthening programs, it reduced shoulder injuries by 40 percent.
Nurse Christine Diestler also helps employees set up ergonomically healthy work stations, and the company hopes to roll out a program aimed at quantitatively assessing an employee’s hearing protection fit.
Overall, Miller Electric’s Living Well program achieved 89.9 percent participation in 2016 and resulted in fewer employees in the High Risk category. “The support we get with our clinic is essential,” Health and Benefits Manager Linda Pintar told me. “We can better manage health and claims because we have a physician and nurse who understand the work component of injuries and are trusted by our employees.”
That also helps the company better determine when people can return from short-term disability.
Some companies worry an onsite clinic opens the door to more OSHA inquiries, but the Miller Electric team doesn’t see it that way. “Our bottom line is to get people the care they need,” Tim said. The company has decreased long-term injury rates and netted an ROI between $3-4 per dollar spent. It also encourages business leaders to look for value-adds beyond ROI: life-changing stories from patients like Jeffrey Luedtke, for example—who lost 50 pounds.
“I attribute some major personal achievements to our onsite staff here at Miller,” Jeffrey shared. “I’ve built a trusting relationship with them, and I believe this helped me become more in-tune with my personal health and the benefits of staying active and getting fit. After a year and a half, I continue to enjoy the benefits of a lighter, healthier me.”
I think we can all apply one lesson from Miller: start small, customizing to your employees. In healthcare, we tend to fall into the habit of talking about “population health” at the macro level—what are we doing to improve health for cities, states, communities—but there’s an everyday level of population health too. It starts with you, in your companies and among your workforces. I’m glad we have local businesses like Miller Electric to lead the way.
— Dr. Dean Gruner is president and CEO of Appleton-based ThedaCare. To send your thoughts to him, email email@example.com.