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Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Workplace Wellness Program Gets Results

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By: Anthony Matrisciano
September 26, 2013

More than 80 Percent of Employees Participate in Program

Wilkes-Barre, PA.  Nina M. Taggart, MD,  Vice President of Clinical Operations and Chief Medical Officer for Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BCNEPA), has always believed in wellness and prevention.  The practicing ophthalmologist preaches to her patients that proper diet, exercise – and especially the elimination of tobacco – are the keys to staying healthy.

“Even though my patients are coming to me with eye-related problems, I want them to consider their overall health,” said Dr. Taggart.  “For example, having diabetes can lead to vision problems.  Proper diet and exercise are important for managing diabetes, so I talk with my patients each time I see them about the importance of taking care of themselves.”

Dr. Taggart is also happy to see that her co-workers at BCNEPA have embraced the wellness message.

“More than 80 percent of BCNEPA employees participate in our wellness program, Blue Health Solutions,” said Dr. Taggart.  “To have an engagement level that high speaks to the commitment of the entire organization, and especially its leadership, to wellness.” 

Dr. Taggart pointed to initiatives such as a walk-at-lunch program, interactive menus with nutrition information for food served in the cafeteria, free exercise classes in the employee fitness center and rewards for annual physicals and blood sugar and cholesterol checks that help keep employees engaged in wellness.

“Wellness should be more than a short-term goal, it should be a life-long commitment,” she said.  “Workplace wellness programs can play an important role in keeping employees engaged and focused on that commitment.”   

Positive Results

According to Dr. Taggart, a statistical review of the Blue Health Solutions program has shown many positive benefits for BCNEPA employees.

Preventive screening rates for employees and spouses engaged in Blue Health Solutions are significantly better than, or comparable to, the national benchmarks for most measures, and exceed non-wellness program participants across all measures.

Additionally, employees and spouses engaged in Blue Health Solutions who have chronic illnesses exceed compliance rates for evidence based guidelines in 11 of 14 metrics, such as adherence to blood pressure, cholesterol and asthma medication, and diabetic testing.

“These results show how a workplace wellness program can also play an important role in encouraging employees to make healthier decisions – such as getting appropriate screenings and medication adherence – that will improve their overall health,” said Dr. Taggart.  “And that benefits the employer through more productive employees.”

Improving Risk Factors

BCNEPA employees and spouses engaged in Blue Health Solutions also showed significant improvement with risk factor modification.  Risk factors are categorized into three levels – high, moderate and low – with those in the highest level at the greatest risk for health complications.  With Blue Health Solutions, individual risk factor levels are determined by a Health Assessment.

When comparing the 2012 Health Assessments of 642 employees and spouses to their initial Health Assessment responses, 39 percent had reduced their risk factors by at least one level and 38 percent maintained their risk levels.  Of those employees initially determined to be in the high risk category, 71 percent moved to a lower risk level.

“Ninety-eight percent of high-risk employees who moved to a lower risk level are currently enrolled in at least one Blue Health Solutions health and wellness program,” explained Dr. Taggart.  “This really demonstrates the importance of the support and self-management tools that Blue Health Solutions provides – we can actually reduce risk factors that can lead to costly chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular disease.”

These significant risk factor modifications at BCNEPA have translated to improved worker productivity, with the total impact on productivity and cost savings calculated to be nearly $1 million in the one year period ending in December 2012.

“That’s the final piece in the equation,” said Dr. Taggart.  “Healthier employees lead to lower care costs and higher productivity, which leads to a healthier bottom line.” 

About Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania

Headquartered in Wilkes-Barre, Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. BCNEPA offers a comprehensive portfolio of health insurance products and administrative services to more than 540,000 individuals in 13 counties in northeastern and north central Pennsylvania. The company’s mission is to provide integrated health care services and products to improve the quality, accessibility and affordability of health care in the populations it serves.