Integrating EAP and Wellness: Support for the Whole Being
Everyone in the Human Resource arena is talking about wellness these days, almost as if it is something new and different. Perhaps the last few months you’ve been talking amongst yourselves about where and how to refine this initiative where you work. The budget is non-existent, yet you want to do “something” to respond proactively to escalating health care costs. Or, you have a small budget and have contracted with a wellness vendor to get your organization on its way to the next wellness level.
Perhaps you have a robust wellness program in place and found that everyone was pumped the first year and utilization was terrific. But now, participation is slowly declining. Or, the incentive programs your company is offering are great but you can’t help but wonder if they are producing the outcomes you desire and if these incentives are truly motivating your employees to change behaviors in a permanent way.
Wellness is more than just good physical health.
The term wellness has been around for 50 years. Achieving optimal well-being has been a goal of humanity since the age of ancient Greece. But in 1961, Dr. Halbert Dumn, in his book High Level Wellness, coined the term to describe the state of balancing the mind, body, and soul harmoniously. In his definition, he revitalized the Greek ideal. Today’s definition of wellness is good physical, mental and emotional health, especially when maintained by exercise, appropriate diet and other lifestyle modifications. The arena of wellness emphasizes personal responsibility, individual excellence, the cultivation of one’s passions, the refinement of critical thinking skills and the life-long quest for added meaning and purpose—not to mention other basic lifestyle assets such as humor, play, optimism, extraordinary fitness and more.
Do you truly know what your vendor partners offer? Are your employees taking advantage of all these services? Where do you begin?
As PAS continues to participate in vendor summit meetings within our client organizations, we become increasingly aware that cost effective and simple resources companies already have in place may not be well utilized or are not “tweaked” to meet an organization’s unique needs. To further complicate things, some organizations are committed to saving the trees through use of electronic wellness communication and web-based programs only to find that the learning styles of many employees are not geared toward electronic techniques. If you are overwhelmed with endless emails and telephone calls from all your vendors, imagine how your employees feel.
During each vendor summit in which PAS has been involved, we have sought opportunities for cross referral and integration among vendors within patient education/disease management services, such as call center information screens for professionals involved with inbound and outbound calls with patients, gap-in-care notifications, on-line tools, wellness flyers, warm transfers, automated telephone blasts, early detection practices, etc. Once these vendor summit meetings take place and there is consensus in the room on how to move forward, the process can be exhilarating and the results are a win-win for all.
PAS’ biggest health and wellness value to your organization is in the area of helping employees address psychosocial issues and resistance to necessary lifestyle changes that impair productivity and compliance with medical treatment/preventative care. Stress, poor nutrition, low physical activity and substance use are the primary drivers of health care costs. In fact, stress is a contributing cause of many arrestable and manageable diseases. Therefore, cross referral to PAS is a highly effective component in healthcare service integration for patients:
- With conditions having a contributory “lifestyle” component
- Who are medically non-compliant
- Who acknowledge symptoms of substance abuse, stress, anxiety or depression
- With catastrophic or chronic conditions
Here are just a few suggestions:
Include EAP information on targeted benefit and disease management flyers and customized letters (tobacco cessation, diabetes and pre-diabetes, cholesterol, obesity, wellness, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, risky drinking, new diagnosis, etc.).
Compile a list of company-specific resources/ benefits to upload to all vendors for communication to employees and cross referral to other services and benefits that can support employees’ wellness efforts. For instance, PAS is able to summarize all employee wellness resources and provide the information to each EAP participant and their EAP counselor at every point of service.
Schedule EAP on-site wellness seminars to compliment the educational offerings of your medical carrier(s). Your vendors often include on-site training hours to be used for your monthly calendar of wellness events.
Host regular vendor summits to keep the vendor conversations going and to monitor compliance with integration goals and outcome trends. Unfortunately, many vendors seem unable or resistant to customize their service model in order to cross-refer or share data. Vendor summits are one way to bolster the creativity and enthusiasm of your business partners.
Most employees need emotional support when they are trying to get healthier. Some employees, who are trying to lose weight, get fit, or stop smoking have an underlying behavioral health, addiction, or work-life balance challenge. Success will be limited until these underlying life challenges are identified and resolved. Understanding personal barriers and motivations may be a key to success. Integrating EAP sounds like a tangible beginning, doesn’t it?