by Greg Howe | August 15, 2017
In today's workplace, employees expect companies to offer a mix of health-related benefits. But quality often falls flat -- leading to low engagement, and enabling the cycle of unhealthy behaviors and costly health bills for employers and employees. But from our company's experience, onsite health centers allow employers to provide more robust, engaging health benefits to employees, leading to a healthy workforce and requiring less expensive medical care. This investment helped Lincoln Industries achieve 100 percent satisfaction with its health center -- while avoiding a total of $1.3 million in costs in one year.  

Eliminating Expensive Medical Care

Employers today face the reality that healthcare is becoming too costly. In 2016, the Kaiser Family Foundation found employers spend an average of $12,591 annually for family coverage -- up 54 percent from 2005. The Congressional Budget Office doesn't expect that to slow, estimating that employers could pay $24,500 in 2025, jumping 60 percent from where premiums stand today.

Looking to avoid these high costs, Lincoln Industries developed its Healthy Workforce Framework, a mix of initiatives that revolve around our onsite health facility, the HealthyU Center. The HealthyU Center, established in partnership with Marathon Health six years prior, is available to all employees, their spouses, and dependents at no cost. Each visitor can receive quality, convenient care from a nurse practitioner to develop an action plan to improve their health. This past September, our framework had such an impact that it was named as a national benchmark by HealthNEXT, a research and consulting firm that develops high performing, healthy workplace cultures.

With our Healthy Workforce Framework, we avoided $1.3 million in costs from 2015 to 2016 in two key areas: by redirecting non-urgent care from doctor's visits towards our HealthyU Center, and by reducing absenteeism -- an important goal for our production environment that requires meeting on-time customer delivery goals. 

One area where we saw great impact is among our employees managing diabetes. Through use of the HealthyU Center, we have been able to maintain the prevalence of diabetes at Lincoln Industries at 3.9 percent since 2012 -- over 5 percent less than the national average. At a cost of $1,071 per patient per month, total costs of diabetes care were kept to $462,605, leading to an avoidance of $642,667 compared to the national average

Fostering a Healthy Workforce

With 40 companies on Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For having an onsite health center, the benefit is clearly helping to create quality work environments. Ron, an employee of ours, realized just how impactful having convenient access to care can be when he found he had metabolic syndrome after a screening. By engaging with Ron early and often, our nurse practitioner, who is also trained in the Marathon Health coaching methodology, helped him lose 67 pounds, drop 16 percent of his body fat, and get off his diabetic medications. Ron is not alone, either. Since opening the HealthyU Center, 83 percent of our 1,000 participants eligible to use the center have made progress after getting a biometric screening and then engaging with our onsite clinician. 

For those with weight-loss goals, we offer an additional incentive by giving employees the opportunity to more closely manage their progress with a smart scale. The scale supports our employees by sharing biometric data with a nurse practitioner at our center, combining the benefits of technology with a human touch. On average, participants have seen a decrease in BMI of 1.3 points compared to just a 0.6-point decrease in employees not using the scale. This resulted in an average of 5.8 pounds lost by scale users compared to 1.2 pounds lost other ways. 

Beyond the intrinsic benefit of achieving a healthier lifestyle, we've found success by offering an unconventional incentive. Employees who reach their goals can participate in an annual company trip to climb Mt. Democrat, a 14,000-foot mountain in Colorado. Now in its 12th year, the trip has transformed into a highly regarded team building exercise for 350 employees. Ron was one of those employees able to successfully summit Mt. Democrat in 2016. This year, Ron is planning to help new climbers reach summit as a climb coach himself. 

Although there are many options for HR executives to curb the staggering costs of employee healthcare, creating a comprehensive framework that includes a mix of incentives and facilities proved effective for Lincoln Industries. Whether it's preventative care, primary care, physical activity or healthy eating, we're committed to providing an environment where it's easy for our employees to make healthy lifestyle choices. 

Greg Howe is health, safety, and performance manager for Lincoln Industries, the largest and most diverse privately held metal finishing company in North America.