LifeBridge Health: A Healthiest Maryland Businesses Success Story
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LifeBridge Health is a regional health care organization with about 7,000 employees and based in northwest Baltimore City and Baltimore County. As a company that provides health care, one might expect that taking a systems approach to health benefits for employees would be easy and natural. However, this proved not to be the case. It took trial and error to find strategies that worked.
The company formed a wellness committee, with a senior vice president on board. The Committee first talked the low hanging fruit -- wellness strategies with low or no cost. They promoted indoor and outdoor walking trails, posted nutrition information in the cafeterias, and implemented differential pricing of healthy and non-healthy foods.
So if prices needed to be raised in the cafeteria, the prices of the less healthy items were raised more, ensuring healthier items would cost less.
In January, 2010, the company began to work with a wellness vendor with the goal of getting employees to complete a health risk assessment and biometric testing.
The company used $25 gift cards to entice employees to participate, but found that this small carrot was not enticing enough, and only ten percent participated in the HRA and biometric testing.
It was back to the drawing board to determine the best way to get employees on board. Instead of offering incentives, LifeBridge set requirements for employees to complete HRAs and other wellness tasks for which they receive Live Well points, including personal health reviews, action plans, physicals, preventive health screenings, and vaccinations. In the image below, director of compensation and benefits Guy Van Tiggelen, gets his free flu shot, worth 75 Live Well points.
Employees who do not complete their HRA and accumulate a certain number of points face a penalty—they must pay a larger percentage of their health plan cost. This increased employee contribution cost from about $20 to $70 per month.
For the first wellness period, 83 percent of employees completed their HRA and 69 percent met the annual points requirement. For the second period, 76 percent of employees completed their HRA while 70 percent had also earned the 600 required points.
After a series of fits and starts, LifeBridge considers their plan successful. With each new period, they plan to enhance the program by modifying the point system and adding more activities to gain points, such as dental exams, vision exams, and independent exercise. The current ‘phase four’ focuses on metabolic syndrome and ways for employees to improve their health status.
In addition, LifeBridge is working to address some of the important employee needs they discovered through their implementation process, such as:
Provide free wellness activities;
Find a way to have offsite employees participate;
Reassure employees that their information is confidential, and that all online interfaces are secure and confidentiality is maintained;
Build capacity at wellness events so that employees of all fitness levels can participate;
Effectively communicate with employees about the program.