With healthcare reform approaching and economic challenges all around us, the landscape for healthcare providers is changing rapidly. There's a lot of “buzz” in the media today about clinical integration, population health management and physician alignment. Most of the coverage outlines the general business case for hospitals moving in this direction and the impact it would have on a traditional delivery system. But I believe many of us could be missing the most compelling opportunity: What our healthcare systems are doing for our own employees.
With nearly 2,700 associates at Penrose-St. Francis Health Services in Colorado Springs, Colo., we decided to approach our employee population as if it were population managed by an accountable care organization almost a year ago. We already had in place a well-recognized associate wellness program—one of the longest-standing programs in the country that is consistently accredited at the platinum level by the American Heart Association as a fit-friendly workplace—but we stepped it up to become a cornerstone program in the toolbox of an ACO.
As individuals, we know health status is a combination of lifestyle behaviors, genetics, the environment and medical care—many factors we can control and some we can't. Yet, all too often, we feel disempowered and uncertain how to exert control and make smart choices. At Penrose-St. Francis, we empowered our associates to become active partners in their health, and to cultivate a revitalized relationship with the primary-care provider of their choosing.