For over a decade, Viverae, Inc., which has nearly 1,000 employees and associates, has been providing wellness programs and health management services to hundreds of thousands of employees throughout the United States. I joined Viverae’s executive team nearly eight years ago as Chief Clinical Officer and have served as the company’s subject matter expert in the areas of health promotion and wellness. I have overseen the development of coaching and disease management programs, led the NCQA certification process, and represented Viverae as a speaker at numerous conferences and health-focused events. I have over 20 years of experience in the health promotion industry, and am honored to be considered for Top 100 professional status.
1. Professional Development
After leading hospital-based preventive health programs for over a decade, I turned my focus to population health management and corporate wellness. I served as a member of WELCOA’s National Panel of Advisors and became a Certified WELCOA Faculty member in 2012. I also currently serve as a member of the Willis Clinical Advisory Board and the SMU Applied Physiology and Enterprise Board. I have a Ph.D. (Health Education), M.P.H. (Health Policy & Management) and M.S. (Health Promotion), which have all been instrumental in getting me to where I am today.
2. Demonstrated Success
a. One of our most memorable “wins” with a client was with an 800 life marketing services company who was struggling with high healthcare costs and poor participation in their multi-year wellness program.
b. We were able to shift their program from “awareness” to one focused on year-long engagement. In addition, we worked closely with the company to tie the program incentive to an annual premium credit. Along with the change in how the incentive was earned, we were able to get the incentive increased by over 65% to closely reflect our best practices recommendation. And finally, we implemented a strong communications campaign that included messaging for preventive care, biometric screening events, health coaching, and both peer and corporate challenges. All of this helped the employer generate a great deal of enthusiasm for the program.
c. As a result of consistent and targeted messaging, high program visibility and a change in incentive, our client realized a healthy return on its multi-year health management investment.
i. Program participation increased by nearly 27.8%, while medical and pharmacy costs decreased by 31.9%.
ii. The company’s HR Department said that employees were always comparing notes, and there was department accountability. Employees were described as “just doing it.”
iii. The client reported a shift toward healthier thinking in their work culture. An example of how health became part of the culture was that employees began reporting their weight loss successes and conducting informal gatherings to share their weight loss tips with others.
d. Several of WELCOA’s 7 Benchmarks proved to be critical in this client’s long-term success. 1) Capturing CEO Support: The company’s management team modeled cultural support and enthusiasm for the program by visiting each location across the U.S. 3) Collecting Data to Drive Health Efforts: The client had tracked their health claims cost and realized that they were spending over $400 per member per month, which they knew wasn’t sustainable. By having this data, they were able to build a strong case for implementing a comprehensive health management program. 5) Choosing Appropriate Interventions: Working closely with us, our client chose interventions that were designed to produce meaningful outcomes. This ranged from biometric screenings to online behavioral health programs to telephonic health coaching. 7) Carefully Evaluating Outcomes: By continuing to monitor participation and measure results, our client was able to make changes throughout the program’s lifecycle that had a significant impact on the program’s outcomes. One of the most impactful changes was the substantial increase in the incentive and when it was delivered. This resulted in a huge return on investment through increased participation and lowered health care costs.
My “role model” responsibilities begin at home with my family, and continue throughout the day at work with my co-workers and our clients. Ensuring that fruits and vegetables are included with our meals, playing outside with my children, and encouraging participation in organized youth activities are quintessential elements of keeping my family healthy (and happy). At work, I participate in daily group exercise activities, take the stairs to my office on the 7th floor, and use a walking treadmill desk throughout the day.
My years of working with student interns from universities throughout the country have required me to stay current with the health promotion industry and kept me “in the know” as to what is relevant to the next generation of health promoters.
My advice to future wellness leaders is to become adaptable, be willing to do more than is expected, and never forget what drove you to want to spend your life promoting health and wellness.
Five years ago, I was tasked by our CEO to develop a company-wide exercise program that would involve all employees, wouldn’t negatively impact productivity, and could help sustain the culture of wellness that had been created. My idea was the 2-Minute Drill. The 2-Minute Drill occurs every day at 10 am and 2 pm. Quarterly volunteers – who receive points towards their wellness program incentives - lead the two minutes of activities - which depending on the day, may include wall sits, crunches, stretching, and many other types of physical activity. Clients who happen to be visiting our corporate offices during either of these times end up participating in the 2-Minute Drill, and many have incorporated it at their own worksites.
The 2-Minute Drill has helped improve the morale and productivity of our employees. Most importantly, it has become a permanent fixture of our culture.
5. Compelling Vision
While one of the biggest challenges facing the health promotion industry over the next 5 years will continue to be proving ROI in the “traditional” sense, a tremendous opportunity exists if we can change the idea of how ROI should really be measured. By moving the focus to employee engagement and its impact on long-term lifestyle and behavior change, health promotion programs stand a better chance at softening the impact of rising healthcare costs and securing their place as an essential corporate benefit. Programs must be willing and able to deploy a variety of engagement strategies - from financial incentives to peer competition to gamification – to reach a maximum number of employees within an organization and sustain high levels of participation. I plan to examine what types of health promotion activities, such as coaching and web portal use, are most responsible for driving and maintaining positive health results.