by Anthony Bucci
Hospitals attempt to prevent illnesses by keeping people physically fit
Treating sickness and disease has always been the goal of New Jersey hospitals and healthcare facilities, but preventing people from getting sick and keeping them out of hospitals and doctors’ offices has seemingly played second-fiddle in the healthcare sphere. Wellness care, and the 2010 Affordable Care Act, however, have been changing that outlook, by putting more of an emphasis on preventative health, all while trying to reduce costs to hospitals, employers, insurance companies and the community as a whole.
“The 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes many provisions related to wellness and worksite health promotion that aim to encourage wellness programs and reduce overall healthcare costs,” says Peter Morey, director of product innovation and marketing, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield NJ (BCBSNJ). “These provisions target a broad range of stakeholders, including employers, health plans, states and local communities. Overall, these provisions promote improved health nationwide by incenting the use of wellness programs and funding new and existing wellness initiatives.”
“The ACA does in fact promote wellness,” adds Stephen Jones, president and CEO of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Robert Wood Johnson Health System. “The cost [of healthcare] has not been sustainable, so the ACA encourages hospitals and doctors to focus more on prevention and keeping local communities well.”
This is not to say wellness care and preventative care haven’t been a focus of hospitals and healthcare facilities before the ACA, but Mark Sparta, vice president, senior operations officer of HackensackUMC, says that if anything, the ACA has validated the direction and efforts towards wellness that most hospitals and healthcare facilities have taken, long before the Act was initiated.
“I think [the ACA] actually gave us at HackensackUMC, further motivation to develop more programs associated with wellness,” Sparta says. “I think for many years the healthcare industry, in general, has known that focusing on wellness care was the right thing to do, and they were really looking for validation, externally, to do those things.”
In this article, New Jersey Business highlights wellness and preventative care programs that hospitals, healthcare providers and insurance companies offer to employees, patients and the New Jersey community.
Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield
As an insurance provider, Horizon BCBSNJ’s focus on wellness care “long predates the ACA.” In the 1990s, the company started a healthy pregnancy program and a 24/7 nurse line. In 2005, it began its relationship with WebMD for a Health Assessment Tool, as well as other online member tools for access to health information.
“In 2009, we implemented an extensive worksite wellness program for our employer group customers including biometric screenings, flu clinics and health education,” says Horizon BCBSNJ’s Morey. “The worksite program has grown extensively over the last few years and we are only anticipating additional growth as employers of all sizes recognize the importance of a healthy workforce.”
When Horizon works with groups of 100 more employees, it helps develop on-site programming to support their health and wellness efforts.
“It can be as simple as providing a monthly wellness flyer for them, to distribute to their workforce, or something more complex, such as developing a long-term wellness strategy,” says Morey. “This strategy could include our support of on-site screening events and comprehensive wellness incentive programs.”
“Wellness is central to our culture and our differentiation as an employer,” says Dr. Lisa Blondin, senior medical director for AmeriHealth NJ. “In addition to the multiple wellness initiatives AmeriHealth NJ offers to employees, we developed a new Commit2Wellness benefit plan for associates who carried AmeriHealth NJ medical benefits last year. This initiative was designed to encourage our associates to participate in health and wellness activities and rewards participants for achieving health-related goals or receiving health and wellness education.”
According to AmeriHealth NJ, the company was the first in New Jersey to bring employer on-site wellness programs to small- and mid-sized organizations. Its Commit2Wellness employer services include sending registered nurses to organizations to provide a spectrum of on-site health education seminars, screenings and support. Services include BMI and blood pressure screenings, on-site health coaching, on-site smoking cessation programs and educational presentations on a variety of wellness topics.
AmeriHealth NJ has worked with various companies like Cherry Hill-based car dealership Foulke Management Corporation. Foulke saw an opportunity to proactively promote the importance of health and wellness to its workforce. As a result, the company made the decision to take advantage of the on-site services, rewards and discount opportunities available through the Commit2Wellness program.
“Since implementing Commit2Wellness in 2010, an AmeriHealth NJ registered nurse has visited multiple Foulke locations on a monthly basis,” Blondin says. “Working closely with Foulke, AmeriHealth NJ has helped the employer not only incorporate a wellness program in the workplace, but also helped make wellness a part of Foulke’s culture.”
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
As part of the Robert Wood Johnson Health System, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) in New Brunswick will be opening its fifth RWJ Fitness and Wellness Center in December. Located less than half a mile from the hospital, the 62,000-square-foot Fitness and Wellness Center has state-of-the-art exercise equipment, swimming facilities and will also provide wellness education to the community.
“The fitness and wellness center is an extension of our commitment to the community,” says RWJ’s Jones. “Along with exercise and personal training, the Center will have a medical advisory committee, child birth classes, CPR classes and cooking lessons to promote healthy eating. Our goal is to keep our neighborhood healthy and to promote wellness, so there is less use of the healthcare delivery system.”
RWJUH has also teamed up with local churches to offer screening programs, such as prostate screening, in which they encourage men to get checked. Last year during the program, the hospital had a record of 711 men show up.
“Since RWJ started the program in 1997, we have served more than 4,000 men,” Jones says. “As a hospital, we know that promoting tests like prostate screenings are a very important thing to protect the health of our communities.”
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton
Also part of RWJ Health System, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton’s (RWJ Hamilton) director of the occupational and corporate health department, Nancy Adams-Kenny, sees how healthcare costs can be reduced when businesses partner with an organization like RWJ Hamilton, to provide a comprehensive approach to health, safety and wellness for their employees.
“By partnering with employers, we are creating a roadmap toward a sustained culture of health and wellbeing,” says Adams-Kenny, who directs a department that works with more than 450 businesses and organizations. “Our goal is to optimize efficiency and productivity throughout the employee life cycle.”
With regard to community outreach, last fall, RWJ Hamilton teamed up with Jewish Family and Children’s Services to establish the Mercer Care Transition Program. The program aims to reduce hospital readmissions among senior citizens who have difficulty managing chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. If a patient has been hospitalized twice in a month, the hospital assigns a “transition coach” to get the individual actively involved in managing their health while at home.
“The goal is to improve the quality of life for our patients and to help them become more engaged in the management of their own healthcare,” says Joyce Schwarz, vice president of quality at RWJ Hamilton and the project director. “Ultimately, less time spent in the hospital is better for patients and their caregivers.”
Englewood Hospital and Medical Center
Englewood Hospital and Medical Center established The Center for Integrative Healing in 2007, to provide patients care through a combination of conventional and complementary approaches to health and illness. The program is designed to treat the whole patient: mind, body and spirit.
Felicia Callagy, program coordinator for The Center for Integrative Healing, oversees a staff of four board-certified massage therapists and five board-certified volunteers, with expertise in massage therapy and Reiki, an ancient healing modality. The Center has partnered with five area nursing homes, including Care One and Sunrise facilities, to provide seniors and nursing home staff, free massage therapy, Reiki and other holistic services.
The Center for Integrative Healing also offers its Prepare for Surgery Program, centered on the use of guided-imagery. Guided-imagery is a form of focused concentration that has been shown to reduce anxiety, promote healing and alleviate post-operative pain. This program is offered to patients who are scheduled to undergo a surgical procedure at Englewood Hospital.
According to Barry H. Ostrowsky, president and CEO of Barnabas Health, “One of the commitments to wellness has to be a clinically based evaluative program to help consumers find out what conditions they may have, or are developing, and then propose either therapies or approaches to control those conditions.”
Barnabas Health offers many evaluative programs including screening for young athletes at its Mathew J. Morahan III Health Assessment Center for Athletes in West Orange. The Center provides education, evaluation and assessment of sports injury and sports-related cardiac and concussion screenings.
“Unfortunately, we have become familiar with young athletes who fall prey to a chronic heart condition which no one knew about,” says Ostrowsky. “All-in-all, from a clinical health standpoint, we think that the way you can treat sickness and disease most effectively is to learn about it early on so screening programs allow you to do that which gives you the best results clinically, when treating patients.”
Red Bank-based Meridian Health offers community based prevention and wellness by interacting with the community on a daily basis and providing free education and information. The company has education facilities in its four fitness centers as well as its six hospitals. In addition, Meridian conducts programs in public libraries, schools, senior centers, churches and local businesses throughout Southern New Jersey.
“We have a very extensive outreach on a daily basis,” says Laura Ahern, director of community outreach, Meridian. “We call it a health promotion and the whole idea is creating wellness about health and how to improve your health. We provide that health education and help people understand how to take charge of their health and learn about different chronic diseases.”
More recently, Meridian has launched a website to publicly share the results of its community health needs assessment, which is a data-driven approach to help determine the health and needs of residents in Monmouth and Ocean counties. The process is now a requirement under the healthcare reform act.
Meridian will also be introducing its “Taking Care of New Jersey” mobile health vehicle, which will be equipped with two health screening rooms, two consultation/education rooms and a reception area. The vehicle will travel throughout Monmouth and Ocean counties to conduct prevention and wellness activities right where people live, work and play.
Hackensack University Medical Center
HackensackUMC is in the process of opening its first offsite Wellness Center. Scheduled to debut in late 2013, the Hackensack-based facility will offer bone densitometry, osteoporosis screening, physical therapy and rehabilitation and cardiac rehabilitation, among other programs. Its diabetes center will also be moved to the Center, and because, according to Sparta, wellness is not just a function of fitness and nutrition, but also a function of the mind, the outpatient behavioral health program will be relocated there as well.
“People generally don’t like to come to the hospital for wellness activities, so instead, we’re hoping that we’re going to be able to facilitate from the community to get them to come to the center for screenings, exercise and other things,” says HackensackUMC’s Sparta. “We will also have a demonstration kitchen and a cooking studio within the wellness center, so hopefully we can have an impact on folks that maybe don’t have the knowledge of how to eat healthily and cook healthily.”
HackensackUMC also offers various wellness programs to its employees, like the Quit4Life program that focuses on smoking cessation, walking path programs, on-site employee fitness center, healthy choice menus in the cafeteria and an on-site fitness coach. Last year, the hospital started an employee rewards program, to engage employees who follow healthy guidelines; whether it is receiving a test or screening, or having overall healthy behavior.
“We look at the health of our employees because not only is it the right thing to do, but in essence, happy and healthy employees equal a healthy bottom line,” says Paulette Wright, director of benefits and human resources operations at HackensackUMC. “Wellness is not a ‘one size fits all’ for everyone, so the programs we’ve developed are really accommodating of their needs.”
Having already established two fitness centers in Voorhees and Sewell, Virtua will be opening its third fitness and spa location in Moorestown in November. The 54,000-square-foot center will provide health and fitness assessment, as well as a personalized exercise program to customers. It will have the latest cardiovascular and strength training equipment, an indoor walking and running track, a lap swimming pool, exercise pool and warm water therapy pool, and a trained and credentialed staff and medically supervised fitness programs for weight loss, arthritis and cardiac conditions.
“We don’t throw people right into fitness and work-outs, but we try to coach them as to what is appropriate for them given their level of fitness,” says Virtua CEO, Rich Miller. “We look at their baseline fitness and see where they fit. Also, one of the things we wanted to do along with fitness was to offer a place where the community can come to reduce stress. We are encouraging community members to take advantage of the spa and to take a look at stress reduction.”
Virtua also makes sure its 8,400 employees receive great preventive care. Employees receive a 50 percent discount on the fitness center and spa offerings as well as on-site nutrition education, smoking cessation classes and screenings.
“Our goal is to make sure that if we can keep our employees healthier, lower the instances of chronic disease with our employee base, and show that we reduced our costs in care for our employees, then, we can translate that into businesses and the community,” Miller says.
Keeping New Jersey residents well and out of hospitals and healthcare facilities has become extremely important, even more so with the implementation of the ACA. Even though various wellness care offerings have been part of New Jersey healthcare institutions for a long time, these programs and offerings are only a small sample of what healthcare providers in the state have to offer, and many more programs are and will be developed as wellness and preventative needs increase.
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