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7 best practices for boosting employee well-being in health systems

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Duration: 4 min. read

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Management & Operations

If you’re looking to engage your hospital teams in their own healthcare and demonstrate the connection between wellness programs and key workforce metrics, you know that a singular approach isn’t sufficient. You need multiple strategies, many of them working in parallel, to show the health and performance impact of wellness efforts. That can be a tall order given all the stress most of our healthcare colleagues are carrying these days.

Here at Quest, we are always looking to improve engagement in our colleagues’ health. That requires a 2-pronged focus on simplifying complexity and managing cost. Here are a few of the tactics and strategies I recommend based on the successes we’ve seen within our organization.

1. Conduct annual wellness screenings. For us, an annual screening experience has been critical to healthcare impact. Each year Quest offers our employees a health risk assessment, a lab panel, and biophysical measurements. The data give employees a great point-in-time check about their health status. This is a foundational activity that I would encourage all health systems to consider.

2. Spotlight senior team modeling of positive health behaviors. Employees notice not only when senior team members encourage people to engage their benefits but also when they make a public show of accessing healthcare benefits themselves. At Quest, everyone sees their senior leaders getting their annual wellness screenings, receiving immunizations, and making healthy food choices, if in the office. This strategy is all part of building intentionality into your operational culture around health and well-being.

3. Offer robust behavioral health benefits. One positive effect of COVID-19 is that the stigma around behavioral health in the workplace is receding. When I look at our employee medical claims, ER visits, and hospitalizations (with the names anonymized, of course), I see many typical diagnoses: musculoskeletal, diabetes-related, cardiovascular, metabolic, and endocrine issues. But now behavioral health issues like anxiety and depression also run across every employee group. We’re very focused at Quest on making people in the workplace more comfortable with this topic and offering the best possible behavioral health services.

"To our leadership's credit, a portion of any savings we realize from our population health approach gets plowed back into new and more comprehensive benefits, so Quest remains competitive as an employer. "
- Steven Goldberg, MD

4. Use incentives to promote action. Many health systems host screening events or similar health campaigns, but we’ve formalized it at Quest by offering a very significant annual healthcare cost deduction for individuals and families to participate. That way, we not only get the right people routed into care, but both the company and the employee get a longitudinal view of performance and progress year-over-year. I attribute these campaigns and incentives to our 80% participation level among eligible employees.

5. Communicate consistently. Outbound messaging to make people aware of resources makes logical sense. This communication should include post-screening consultation with employees who may need extra consultation about their results. Not all people self-correct when presented with evidence that they should, so by providing the option of communicating with a professional to get prioritization and insight on prevention, or to get routed into care, we’re finding that we can create powerful impact in helping people reduce their health risk.

6. Deliver timely access to care. Communications, of course, is only half of the equation. You must ensure that your colleagues have timely access to what they need, when they need it, and where best to receive it. Virtual-first healthcare access has proven increasingly popular among employees since 2020. As the Bipartisan Policy Center recently reported, 80% of adults say that e-visits resolved the issue they were primarily concerned about.1

7. Take a population health approach. Increasingly, the best care means the highest-quality care at the most favorable unit cost. At Quest, we've put a focus on looking at healthcare data in an aggregate level with a population perspective. This allows us to see the overall health of our population and the disease burden we carry in areas such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular risk. Employees have had good experiences and we’ve seen better cost trends. Between 2017 and 2021, our Blueprint for Wellness program has surfaced 15 previously undetected cases of kidney disease, 29 previously undetected cases of diabetes, and risk for colorectal cancer among 67 employees, as well as generating 55 engagements and telehealth referrals to primary care providers and $.5 million in lab test savings (per 1,000 population).To our leadership's credit, a portion of any savings we realize from our population health approach gets routed back into new and more comprehensive benefits, so Quest remains competitive as an employer.   

Not all of these practices may be possible for your health system right now, but I’d recommend that you take a serious look at all of them. Quest’s employee population regularly gives our health and wellness programs high marks, and satisfied employees are a key to long-term retention.

Sutton J and Social Sciences Research Council. Telehealth visit use among U.S. adults.
Bipartisan Policy Center. Published August 2021. Accessed September 1, 2022. https://bipartisanpolicy.org/download/?file=/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/SSRS-Telehealth-Report_confidential_FINAL_08.02.21-1.pdf

2 Data on file. Program data 2017-2021. Quest Diagnostics, 2017-2022.

Page Published: 09-Sep-2022