UPMC Susquehanna Promotes Employee Wellness

When a company’s employees are healthy, they can be more productive and happier in the workplace, but if employees are consistently calling off due to sickness or other chronic illnesses, it can impact a company’s bottom line.

UPMC Susquehanna is making the health of its employees a priority with its employee wellness programs. During 2017, the hospital earned a Gold Well Workplace Award from the Wellness Council of America for its programs, which have led to successful employee outcomes.

Healthy Me PA spoke with Jerrod Ferrence, the supervisor of health and wellness at UPMC Susquehanna, to learn more about these initiatives and the impact they’ve had on employees and the hospital.

What are employee wellness programs, and why are they important?

When employers seek to improve the health of their labor force, they may establish a program related to health and wellness with a goal of improving employees’ lives inside and outside the workplace.

“It’s a holistic approach working toward complete health and wellness. [It’s] all facets of health: mental, social, spiritual, and physical,” Ferrence said.

Companies who encourage their employees to take better care of themselves and their health will see employees who are more productive at work, take fewer sick days, and submit fewer insurance claims.

When employees are sick less often, companies also benefit by saving on health care and insurance costs.  Employers save $2.71 for every dollar they invest in wellness, according to the Harvard Business Review.

“Wellness is important for everyone. If our employees are healthy, they’re happier and will have better engagement with patients, peers, and departments,” Ferrence said.

What are some employee wellness initiatives at UPMC Susquehanna?

  • Guided care programs: These incentive-based programs are designed to serve employees with a number of conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, obesity, asthma, hyperlipidemia, and more. Preventive screenings are offered for yearly physicals, dental and eye check-ups, and gender-specific health care specialists.

With these programs, employees meet with staff to develop Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic and Timely (SMART) goals related to personal health and wellness. Then they create benchmarks and track progress over an established short- or long-term period of time.

  • Health fairs and preventive screenings: Employees can attend internal health fairs to receive preventive screenings. Staff can receive a biometric screening to review height, weight, body mass index, and receive a finger prick to check for fasting glucose levels, lipid panels, and more.
  • Weight race: This weight-loss challenge encourages employees to track their weight over a period of time (roughly 12 weeks, shortly after New Year’s).
  • Maintain campaign: Since the average American gains 6 to 8 pounds during the holidays, this campaign encourages employees to maintain their weight throughout the season.
  • Wellness portal: Employees can watch videos on health and wellness topics.

To encourage employee participation, UPMC Susquehanna provides incentives, which have been proven to be a successful tactic.

During years past, UPMC Susquehanna gave monetary incentives. Now that employees are under the UPMC Health Plan, they receive incentives through insurance with “take a healthy step” credits. Employees who participate in the programs earn credits that can be used toward their insurance.

The results? Healthy employees!

According to Ferrence, nearly 1,500 to 2,000 employees have participated in wellness programs over the last four years. Some individuals are recurring participants who may re-enlist in programs.

These programs have helped many employees regain their health. Over the years, UPMC Susquehanna has witnessed employees lose more than 50 pounds, take fewer sick days, and reduce, or even stop, hypertension medication. Some diabetic employees have even lowered their A1C levels.

“All together we have made some huge strides toward overall wellness,” Ferrene said.

For more information, visit www.susquehannahealth.org/in-the-community/employee-wellness.