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Engaging employees to enhance productivity: Let’s talk about infusion

Paul Lotharius is president and CEO of HealthFitness. Lotharius brings more than 20 years of experience in operations and technology management in the health care and insurance industries. Before HealthFitness, Lotharius was president and CEO of CoreSource, a provider of benefit administration and health management services. He received his MBA from Butler University and a Bachelor of Science in computer science from Purdue University.

In my role as a leader, it’s vital that I communicate a clear vision of our goals. I also need to ensure that we put in place the right people and create the right environment to achieve those goals.

Improving population health in today’s competitive marketplace is a bottom-line goal for every employer. The cost of poor health is simply too high to ignore. Employers face significant challenges in competitiveness with a graying workforce and historically high rates of obesity, a precursor to chronic disease. The incidence of chronic health conditions is on the rise, adding to the cost of health care delivery as well as lost productivity through disability claims.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 75% of health care costs are attributable to chronic disease; other studies put it closer to 80% of all medical spending. The CDC also estimates that half of adult Americans have one or more chronic health conditions. Department of Labor statistics show that the overall yearly cost of poor health on the workplace is estimated at $1.8 trillion.

What can we as employers do to lower costs, improve the health of populations and the health of individuals?

At HealthFitness, corporate leadership is serious about the business of employee health — so serious that treadmill workstations are at the heart of our new Minneapolis office, and a HealthFitness-managed fitness center is located just one floor down. Computers are provided at each treadmill, so associates can slip in a power walk while checking e-mail.

That is an example of what we call “infusion of health into your sphere of influence.” It’s the concept of walking the walk every time an executive or office worker steps on a treadmill or heads to the fitness center. Yes, population health management is what we do — but it’s also how we live.

Infusion takes our strength in health management and applies it to each client work site or health plan offering, contributing to a culture of health that isn’t cookie-cutter or one-size-fits-all. We take the best of what we do, but we make it work within the context of who the client is. Then we create a program that is more powerful than if we stood outside and didn’t understand their goals.

Infusion is empowering the right people, choosing the right processes and leveraging technology to support personalized interaction at every step. Infusion then comes into play in the leadership message that the C-suite offers to employees to engage them in the company’s unique program. For us, infusion is carried into our personalization of interaction with individual employees who are engaged in health management activities.

For example, we bring personalized information about a participant’s health needs to every encounter, whether it’s on the phone during a health advising session, through a personalized risk assessment report, e-based messaging or face-to-face health coaching. We make the interaction personal so we can communicate relevance with each individual encounter.

Infusion customizes the program for the client, yes, but it’s also the first step to help the participant realize what’s in it for them as they develop their own health improvement or behavior change choices. We don’t tell a program participant why it’s important to us that they improve their health and productivity. We help them understand why it’s important to them.

That’s our vision, and leadership is about creating an environment where our associates live that vision and carry it forward to our clients every day.

Image credit: Henrik5000, via iStockphoto

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