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Wellness, A Novel Approach

Through the March of Dimes, Bank One launched an on-site healthy pregnancy program.

July 25, 2001
Related Topics: Health and Wellness
The health-care strategy at Bank One is to change our benefits in ways thatmake our employees better consumers," says Dr. Wayne Burton, senior vicepresident and corporate medical director. A big part of this technique is teachingemployees how to stay healthy. Bank One started focusing on wellness and diseasemanagement in 1982, in an effort to lower health-care costs. "It was a novelapproach back then," he says.

Name:BankOne Corporation
Location:Headquartersin Chicago

    Because 70 percent of Bank One's workforce is female, Burton began with a seriesof programs targeting women's health issues. Research showed that pregnancywas the most common reason for a disability claim, and it was the most commonhealth-care cost. So, through the March of Dimes, he launched an on-site healthypregnancy program to educate employees and their spouses about things like healthyeating and how to avoid complications and pre-term labor. "We found thatemployees who participated had far fewer incidents of low birth weight and C-sections,"he says.

    In response to increasing mental-health costs in the 1980s, senior managementdecided to cover only outpatient mental-health treatment instead of inpatientcare. The reasoning, says Burton, was that employees would remain on the jobwhile being treated, the cost of care would be less, and people would be morelikely to pursue help sooner. They also employed psychologists and counselors,giving employees confidential access to mental-health professionals at the office.

    "The idea," Burton says, "was not to cover mental health butto manage it." And it worked. Costs came under control, people didn't endup in the hospital as frequently, and they took better care of themselves, hesays. "We saved a lot of money."

    In the late 1980s, as the population began to age, Burton added on-site mammographyprograms, because "even though we covered mammographies, employees weren'tgetting them." Mobile mammography equipment was brought to work sites,and breast cancer screenings were offered at no cost to the employees. Burtontracked the results and found that breast cancer diagnoses were made earlier,which meant the cost of treatment was less and employees missed less than halfas many workdays.

    Programs for asthma and diabetes management had similar results. Three monthsafter a five-session diabetes awareness program was offered on-site for diabeticemployees, their overall blood sugar levels had dropped dramatically, he says."The participants felt like they had more control over the disease."Participants in the asthma awareness program also had fewer missed days andshowed fewer symptoms.

    "Not only are these programs good for the employees, but they manage costsand reduce disability. When you control the disease, you save money and peopleare more productive."

Customization cures what ails you
    Whatever the combination of programs, these HR professionalshave discovered that customizing healthcare to the needs of employees resultsin happier, healthier users and a more cost effective solution. From wellnessprograms to cafeteria style packages, these approaches give employees controlover their health management and eliminate unnecessary costs and treatments-- up front and down the line.

    "It's dangerous to take a silo view of controlling healthcare costs,"says Parry. "When companies just try to focus on making premiums smaller,they end up with lower quality care and the loss of key employees."

    But, when you look at the true costs of healthcare, including disability andproductivity, choosing wellness programs and opting for niche services thatappeal to the user population is the solution that leaves the most people satisfied.

Workforce,August 2001, pp. 82-83 -- SubscribeNow!

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