Let’s start by stating the obvious: employees of a wellness business should be healthy. That said, the workforce population of many wellness or healthcare-related businesses in this country is representative of the general population. Some are overweight, some have physical conditions, and some are on regular medication for a variety of issues including pain, hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes, to name a few.
I’ve heard it said that “health affects work, and work affects health.” The fact remains that many chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke are preventable and often linked to lifestyle choices, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In business, “employee wellness” has a duality of impact. Employee health is a cost to the company, and not just the expense of providing benefits. It cuts into the bottom line for the company overall, as we pay higher insurance premiums, more sick days are taken, productivity is lost, and short term disability is often tapped. For these reasons, employee wellness is no longer a human resource issue, but rather a broader business issue.
Employee wellness is also a cost to the individual employee. In the unfortunate case where a team member experiences just one major health event, it can lead to a whole chain of difficulties for their family. At Solis Mammography, the majority of our team members are women and many of them are either the sole or the primary breadwinner for the family. A serious health event for these women can often lead to not only emotional and caregiver challenges, but a loss of income, loss of home, bankruptcy, and a host of other personal trials.
For these reasons – for the individual and the company – my leadership team has been quite strategic and intentional about developing a robust team member wellness program. We’ve demonstrated this in several ways, which is our version of “putting our money where our mouth is.”
Setting the Example
First and foremost, it starts at the top – in the c-suite. If team members know that leaders take time out to focus on exercise, wellness, and healthy choices, they are more apt to model those behaviors in their own lives. It’s not about “do as I say”, but rather, “do as I do” – through positive example-setting and reinforcement at all levels of the company culture.
We created health insurance plans for employees that put a meaningful emphasis on wellness. The program starts with an annual wellness exam for the employee and/or their covered spouse. The exam covers key health areas – body mass index, blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol. Scores in each area which fall in the positive “healthy” range create credits which lead to cash deposits into the employee’s health savings account (HSA). These dollars can be used for co-pays, prescriptions or to offset their annual deductible.
These credits can add up to significant dollars – up to $1,000 per individual or $2,000 per household. The results of the wellness exams are provided to the company in HIPAA compliant, aggregated terms. No individual details are known by the company, but we can – as a collective group, see if wellness is improving through observing participation, scores, and improvement over time.
As team members receive their wellness results, many often find chronic issues with blood pressure or cholesterol levels which require ongoing statins to keep under control. Understanding that for some, not even diet or exercise can lower these levels, the expense of monthly statins was for some a financial burden. For this reason, we added a benefit for all employees which covers the cost of generic statins at 100 percent. In this way, by design, we wanted to show financial support when a health issue might be beyond the control of any given employee – but still allow them the opportunity to improve their personal health.
All across America, obesity continues to be a major risk factor for chronic health conditions. So it’s no surprise that it remains a high priority issue for our wellness program. We understand that as people mature, obesity becomes a greater challenge. We also have a high number of team members who work in a center, and are on their feet all day long. If they’re overweight, this can cause lower back issues, knee, or joint pain.
Consequently, we put a lot of focus on weight loss and healthy living. We have a mandatory company policy that we don’t fund any kind of meal that isn’t healthy for our team members. We don’t purchase things like sodas for events – instead, we provide water. For meals or snacks during large company meetings, we provide healthy food choices which is often more expensive in the short run – but a cost savings for everyone in the long run.
We provide FitBits™ for all interested team members and sponsor programs which encourage healthy competition through monthly step count or special online fitness challenges. The response has been outstanding with nearly 30 percent of our employees requesting a FitBit device. We’ve had many team members attest to losing weight and achieving exceptional improvement in daily exercise habits. While not everyone has lost weight, there have also been the mental health improvements that come from a change in attitude, mobility, and a general sense of well-being.
And, of course – Breast Health
Being in the business of mammography, with a dominant percentage of our employee team being female, it was a huge surprise for me to learn when I arrived that only 30 percent of our own employees over age 40 were getting their annual mammogram. We worked hard to educate internally, as we do externally, the importance of this annual screening beginning at age 40. And, knowing the benefits of 3-D mammography (versus traditional 2-D screening), we provide a free upgrade and absorb the cost of 3-D for anyone whose insurance does not cover the additional cost.
While there is no cure for breast cancer, today – mammography remains the closest thing we have to a cure. According to the American Cancer Society, when breast cancer is detected early (at stage 0 or stage 1), the 5-year survival rate is close to 100 percent. This offers not only long-term life-saving benefits, but even short term quality of life improvement. Because the earlier a woman finds any breast health issue, the better her opportunity to avoid more invasive (and expensive) treatments like chemotherapy or mastectomies.
The bottom line is – for companies and the workforces who make us successful – healthy living is good for employees and for business. It’s a true win-win. I take great pride that we are investing in the very people that have made our company the nation’s largest independent provider of breast imaging services. We are in the business of wellness, empowerment and accountability. We are practicing what we preach and all involved are reaping the benefits.
James Polfreman is CEO and president of Solis Mammography. With more than 30 years in breast imaging, Solis Mammography is a specialized healthcare provider focused on delivering women an exceptional mammography experience. Headquartered in Addison, Texas, Solis currently operates 38 centers across six major markets – North Texas; Houston, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; Columbus, Ohio; Greensboro, North Carolina; and through its acquisition of Washington Radiology, the District of Columbia metropolitan area. The company operates both wholly-owned centers and multiple successful joint ventures with hospital partners. Solis Mammography (including Washington Radiology), serves more than 600,000 patients each year with highly-specialized imaging services including screening and diagnostic mammography (2-D and 3-D), computer-aided detection, breast ultrasound, stereotactic biopsy and ultrasound-guided biopsy. For more information, visit www.SolisMammo.com