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AHA Issues Recommendations for Hospital Wellness Plans

Friday January 21, 2011
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The American Hospital Association has put out “A Call to Action: Creating a Culture of Health,” with recommendations for how hospitals can create a culture of employee health and wellness.

The report, by the AHA Long-Range Policy Committee, states that hospital and health system employees must “lead the way and serve as role models for healthy living and fitness for their communities.”

Another incentive is financial, with costs relating to absenteeism falling $2.73 for every dollar spent on wellness programs, according to the report.

The AHA committee came up with recommendations based in part on surveys of all U.S. hospitals, as well as speakers and interviews. According to its report, 86% of hospitals have employee health and wellness programs and 80% are directly administered by the hospital or health system.

Challenges to implementing effective programs include motivating employees over extended time periods, financial restraints or limitations, measuring program effectiveness and creating a culture of health. Urban hospitals and hospitals with more than 200 beds have difficulty communicating with their employees about health and wellness activities.

The report includes seven recommendations for improving wellness programs activities:

• Serve role models of health for the community. Hospitals can work with local employers to build an integrated, regional approach to health and wellness that shares both risks and rewards.

• Create a culture of healthy living. Health and wellness indicators can be included in board dashboards and executive compensation can be linked to meeting health and wellness program objectives. Hospitals can eliminate environmental inconsistencies, such as unhealthy food at meetings.

• Provide a variety of program offerings. Hospital wellness programs can include a health risk assessment, a biometric screening and at least one intensive coaching activity, based on the risk and health status of its employees.

• Provide positive and negative incentives. Hospitals can expand the use of incentives to improve participation levels. As participation levels increase, hospitals can begin to shift toward more outcomes-based incentives.

• Track participation and outcomes. Hospitals can track participation and outcome targets such as overall participants, number completing an HRA, number enrolled in a smoking cessation program and number with cholesterol improvement.

• Measure for return-on-investment. Hospitals can ensure a multi-year commitment to measurement, evaluation and improvement. When measuring ROI, hospitals can use both healthcare cost savings and savings from improvements in productivity (such as those relating to presenteeism and absenteeism).

• Focus on sustainability. Hospital boards, CEOs and full executive teams can communicate wellness as a long-term priority for the hospital and ensure that wellness programs have dedicated resources.

To download the full report, visit http://www.aha.org/aha/issues/Health-for-life/culture.html#report.

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