Straight Talk

October 1, 2015

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

If you’re a healthcare institution like NCH, caring for the community is your mission. To be successful we also need to care for ourselves first so we can truly help others. Wellness begins at home—or in this case, at our workplace. NCH’s focus on enhancing employee health and wellness for our 5,800 colleagues, spouses, and children is now well into its second decade.

We started our journey in 1997 when we first developed different plans for smokers and non-smokers. Smokers cost an average of $6,000 per year more than non-smokers, and it wasn’t fair to burden non-smokers with higher costs. In 2009, our plan design changed to offer better coverage for healthy behaviors, and we began biometrics and preventive health screenings for colleagues desiring a better health plan.

A year later, 2010, we introduced personal health assessments, labs, coaching, diabetes education and nicotine testing. Some 88% of colleagues participated. Those who chose not to participate weren’t penalized, but they weren’t eligible for the insurance plan with the lowest cost sharing. During the first six months of the screenings, we saw a large increase in our costs, as we discovered employees with occult breast and colon cancer as well as others with high blood pressure, diabetes, and elevated fats in the blood. Most needed treatment, which is more effective—and less expensive—if detected early. In 2011, we made a management decision to no longer hire smokers. Again, no one was penalized or fired if they smoked. Staffers who smoked were encouraged to stop and were supported with smoking cessation programs. In 2013, we decided to require flu shots for all employees, unless there was a religious or medical reason not to have one. We also encouraged employees to use our Wellness Centers by offering a very low monthly membership rate.

In 2014, we required annual labs, biometrics, and introduced a multitude of health-related classes, incentivizing colleagues to reduce their deductible, which has amounted to more than $1 million in reduced deductibles. We also direct colleagues to use the expanded business health clinic and the NCH Physician Group. We also require a colonoscopy at age 50 with a repeat every 10 years in normal risk patients; mammography, EKG, PAP smear as per national guidelines, and other generally accepted preventive measures. Incentive programs include walks and runs (5K, 10K, half marathons, marathons, iron man, etc.), telephonic health coaching, mindful eating program, Heart
Math stress reduction program, Food for Life, Color Me Fit, weight loss programs, Healthy Addition prenatal program, online learning modules, smoking cessation programs, minutes of exercise, Wellness Center attendance, financial seminars, parenting classes and other health-enhancing programs.

The result of all this emphasis on employee health: We are healthier than ever with a significant shift to the better in the number of health risks among employees. In 2015, employees considered “low risk” increased from 66% to 83%. The percentage of employees in the “moderate risk” category dropped from 32% to 16% and the number of “high risk” employees dropped by 1%. We now have a lower-than-expected prevalence rate for cancer, hypertension and diabetes. We have had a high employee engagement in wellness with a 98% overall program satisfaction in our Florida Blue health education classes; 40% reporting very satisfied or satisfied with all wellness offerings; healthier habits in 25% with increased levels of physical activity; 28% reporting improved nutrition; and 3% reporting improved management of a chronic condition. And as an additional and not insignificant benefit, NCH healthcare costs are down 7.8% per year on average for each of the past five years.

Our next wellness challenge is to become a Blue Zones Certified Work Place. The rollout has started, enthusiasm is high, and NCH employees can earn $100 off their deductible just by attending meetings. Blue Zones is yet another wellness initiative to help improve ourselves, set an example for our community, and enable each of us to live a longer, happier, and healthier life.


Allen Weiss, M.D. Signature

Allen S. Weiss, M.D., President and CEO

You may contact Dr. Allen Weiss
and The NCH Healthcare System
by clicking here:

Please feel free to share Straight Talk:

To view past issues of Straight Talk click:

Join us on Facebook at: