DES MOINES, IA – “Health care is fundamentally a women’s issue because they end up dealing with the bad decisions of men,” Joseph Coughlin, futurist, founder and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab, told a recent gathering of employers in Des Moines.
Occasion for his remarks was the Health and Productivity Forum hosted by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield which brought together more than 300 business leaders from Iowa and South Dakota to share best practices and insights to create healthier and more productive places of work.
Some of the nation’s leading health care thinkers also were invited and on hand to discuss with Wellmark’s employer customers the crucial issues of population health management, workforce wellness, and productivity strategies.
The unprecedented rate of aging, along with the demands of an older society will reshape every aspect of daily life, Coughlin said. Employers, in nearly all industry sectors, will be required to retain and seek older workers to maintain their expertise, and in some cases, simply to get work done. According to Coughlin, four factors will shape employer recruitment, productivity, and retention strategies over the next decade:
- The graying of the workforce
- Growing number of older women in the labor force
- Increasing demand of care giving on employees, and
- The evolving trend of multi-act careers for workers across the lifespan
Forum sponsors were Healthways, Catalyst Rx, The Health and Wellness Institute, and CareNet, who as strategic business associates, work closely with Wellmark to deliver services locally. Other forum topics included population health management, workforce health and productivity strategies, the patient-centered medical home, and consumer engagement.
Paul Grundy, M.D., and IBM’s director of Healthcare, Technology, and Strategic Initiatives, told the employers that an important component of population health management is a “profoundly powerful doctor-patient relationship...a relationship focused on treating the patient, not just the disease or condition.
“The U.S. could learn from the best practices of Wellmark and the physicians in Iowa and South Dakota,” Grundy noted, citing a Commonwealth Fund report saying 150,000 lives could be saved if all providers in the U.S. performed at the level of Iowa and South Dakota, and care would be at considerably lower cost.”
Grundy said the rest of the country has to endure “an expensive plethora of uncoordinated, unlinked, economically segregated, operationally limited micro-systems, each performing in ways that too often create sub-optimal performance, both for the overall health care infrastructure and for individual patients."
Grundy, who is founder and chairman of Patient Centered Primary Care Collaborative, told the audience there now “is a great deal of momentum for reshaping the payment environment around a primary care model (much like what Wellmark is doing with its Whole Health Solutions program). Good health policy that promotes personal and coordinated care for all will result in significant cost savings and better outcomes for patients and our population.
Allan Korn, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, told the forum that he is an ardent supporter and advocate for the patient-centered medical home as a model to improve the quality and value of the health care system.
The patient-centered medical home model offers care that is coordinated and integrated across the health care system, provides more resources for better-informed health care decisions, and creates better relationships between clinicians and health plans that lead to better quality of care, Korn says.
Through a shift in incentives, clinicians will be able to more effectively provide wellness and preventative care, which can lead to better outcomes. Thus, employers can begin to implement their own wellness programs and purchase health care based on value, potentially realizing cost savings associated with more efficient health care delivery.
Ultimately, this leads to a more present and productive workforce, says Korn, who has described Wellmark’s Whole Health Dimensions program as one that “enables and empowers primary care physicians to provide the care that patients and their families have long needed and could not find.”
Mark Samuel, speaker, author, and consultant on the subjects of personal and organizational accountability, told the employers that “a good culture serves as a natural support system...where people can count on each other.” This culture is enhanced when each member of the workforce has a personal vision for excellence that answers three questions:
- What do you want your reputation to be as a leader at work and at home?
- What do you want your customers, co-workers, and upper management to say about you?
- What do you want your family to say about you?
When situations present themselves in the workforce, all individuals have two choices – 1) choose to be accountable, or 2) choose to be the victim. In the choice to be accountable, people recognize the problem, own it, forgive (self and others), examine self, learn, and take action. The victim chooses to ignore, deny, blame, rationalize, resist, and hide.
“A good culture,” according to Samuel, “serves as a natural support system (for wellness), taking wellness from a corporate platform down to a more personal level.” However, Samuel cautioned, “Wellness programs do not work and can actually be a negative if they turn into the ‘blame games’ for being unhealthy. It should be about employees performing well on a consistent basis.”
Wellmark, Inc. does business as Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa. Wellmark and its subsidiaries and affiliated companies, including Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota and Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc., insure or pay health benefit claims for more than two million members in Iowa and South Dakota. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota, and Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc. are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.