The Importance of Employee Wellness Programs in Healthcare

The Importance of Employee Wellness Programs in Healthcare

For healthcare companies to secure a promising future and ensure they can provide the highest quality care, they must find ways to safeguard the well-being of their employees. Providing meaningful employee wellness programs and healthcare benefits demonstrates the value companies place on their most important asset — people. Such programs also promote safety, recruitment, retention, quality scores, and reputation.

Fresenius Medical Care North America believes offering valuable benefits and comprehensive wellness programs is critical to the health and success of our personnel. We have long been proponents of employee wellness, with an approach and philosophy called Total You – Your Health, Wealth, Career, and Life. Through Total You, we offer a full spectrum of physical, emotional, financial, and social well-being programs, helping employees and their families thrive at work and in life — and we continuously look for ways to broaden and improve these benefits. We also offer programs such as employee resource groups (ERGs), which bring together employees with similar interests, goals, social and cultural backgrounds, or experiences, for professional development and peer support.

Employees Asked for Better Benefits. We Listened.

When deciding on employee wellness programs for healthcare companies, it’s important to know what will have the most significant impact. The best way to achieve that goal is by going directly to the source — the workforce.

“We don’t want to make decisions based on what the company thinks employees may need,” says Karen Kennedy, senior director of benefits. “We're trying to listen to our employees as much as we can, and then react based on the real things happening in their lives.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare industry employees have faced situations they never imagined, increasing the need for assistance and resources from employers. The needs of our employees’ families are also changing — requiring more extensive fertility, childcare, education, and other benefits. To address these shifting dynamics, in 2021 we sent surveys to all employees, asking how we could improve benefits for them and their families. We saw tremendous participation, and made changes to the cost, variety, and depth of our offerings to address the needs identified in survey results.

Financial wellness — making healthcare more affordable

Lowering healthcare costs is one of our goals for the entire kidney care community – patients, companies, and providers. So, when our employees told us they needed insurance and other expenses reduced, we responded. We decreased our premiums by 38% and expedited reimbursements for those on our Consumer Plan with Health Reimbursement Arrangement, a company-provided healthcare spending account that pays for qualified expenses.

For 2022 we continue to invest in our employees and have kept their share of medical, dental, vision, life, disability, and voluntary premiums flat. Fees for 401(k) plans have also been lowered, allowing more employees to invest in retirement savings.

Physical wellness — incentives for healthy living

To incentivize healthy habits, we offer Rally, a free digital wellness experience that allows employees to earn rewards through activities such as fitness challenges or completing annual physical exams. More than 14,000 of our employees are active Rally users, and in just a few years we’ve awarded nearly $2 million in prizes to participants.

We’re also expanding virtual opportunities at no cost to our employees with SWORD, a digital program that enables remote physical therapy, and 2nd.MD, which connects users — via video or phone — with board-certified doctors across the country for expert second opinions on medical issues.

To further encourage exercise and work/life balance, fitness reimbursements will include virtual exercise programs, fitness devices, and apps.

Emotional wellness — programs for a healthy mind

Providing for the mental and emotional wellness of our teams has been a top priority for many years, and — with the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic — is more important now than ever before. We want all our employees to have access to counseling and other mental health services, so we’ve made it easier and more affordable to take advantage of these programs.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve continued to hear about employee stress levels, whether at work or at home,” says Kennedy. “So, we continue to grow in areas of behavioral health and emotional support. It's important to have these tools and resources so you can live your day-to-day life and cope with the stressors brought on by COVID-19.”

Through our Employee Assistance Program, we’ve increased availability of free telephonic counseling, and any employee can now have up to six free counseling sessions by phone. Behavioral therapy counseling is also available through:

  • myStrength, a digital resource for help with anxiety, stress, sleep, depression, and other areas of need
  • AbleTo, a virtual therapy offering with coaching
  • Talkspace, a program that enables therapy via video chat, text, or phone

To reduce the financial burden that can accompany counseling, we eliminated in-network office copays and lowered coinsurance for in-network behavioral health visits.

Family and personal wellness — benefits and programs embracing diversity

We’re committed to a culture of belonging within our organization, promoting an inclusive, equitable, diverse environment that celebrates every race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, religion/spirituality, nationality, age, and socioeconomic status. As part of that commitment, it’s important to us that all employees feel safe, welcome, celebrated, and valued.

Our United Healthcare (UHC) plans now make it easier for all enrolled employees and their partners to start families, through the expansion of fertility benefits and surrogacy assistance. In support of our transgender employees, we’ve also increased coverage for gender confirmation procedures.

“I’ve had people cry with me because they're so excited that we have these resources,” says Kennedy. “You start to understand how much it can affect somebody when they know their employer cares this much.”

Recognizing that wellness applies to family members old and young, we’re partnering with Bright Horizons, a network offering child and elder caregiving support, discounts at national daycare centers, tutoring, college coaching, and more.

Other ways we embrace and encourage diversity include diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) education sessions and a broad range of ERGs, supporting veterans, women, minorities, the LGBTQIA community, and others.

Fully accessible wellness — improving communication and clarity

Comprehensive wellnessprograms have many benefits, but they are only effective when employees know about and take advantage of them. To spread awareness about these programs, we’ve increased communication throughout our organization and offer an on-demand Virtual Benefits Fair where employees can learn about our new benefits and open enrollment process, or chat one-on-one with our vendor partners.

To ensure employees have the knowledge and tools they need, we also provide a digital Benefits Magazine and internal web pages — like Well-being Central and Emotional Well-being Corner — with dozens of helpful resources for improving physical, financial, emotional, and social health.

Putting Our People First

Healthcare companies can prioritize people by providing employee wellness programs and benefits that help answer every staff member’s needs. In doing so, they create an environment that supports every level of their current — and future — workforce.

“These days, people want more from their employers,” says Kennedy. “They need financial support, emotional support, and flexibility that matches their diverse needs. They like being part of something that's bigger than just going to work.”

Regardless of job titles or roles, healthcare company employees must feel healthy, engaged, and positive to achieve a balance of personal and professional success. Employers can help facilitate these goals by offering comprehensive wellness programs and benefits that focus on the physical, emotional, and financial well-being of their entire staff.

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