An employer’s wellness journey

The results of taking a prevention based approach to managing both present and forecasted future risk— For a multi-site healthcare system based in Oregon, with 4,000 participants in their wellness program.

“Each year we saw exponential health improvement in biometric values as a result of workplace wellness strategies and clinical resources available through the health plan and provider network.”


The employer experienced spikes in their healthcare costs early on. They took many of the traditional tactical approaches to managing cost increases including renegotiating contracts, moving from Carrier A to Carrier B to save money, decreasing benefits for employees in the current health plan structure, and increasing contribution. Unfortunately, those traditional tactics don’t bend the trend over the long term. The only sustainable and results driven strategy that bends trend is addressing the health of the population and improving health performance and quality of life. As a result, future healthcare consumerism is changed for the good as members understand how to manage their health risks and live healthier, more productive lives.

“While traditional tactics result in short term savings, this employer was struggling to balance employee satisfaction while providing competitive benefits. They knew something had to change.”

Strategies for Resolution:

In 2012, the Partners Group was hired to lead a paradigm shift in how this employer 1) addressed member health and 2) positively affected and controlled future healthcare costs. The Partners Group implemented our Engaged! Strategy. The hallmark of this strategy is creating an environment wherein the employer and the employee share in the responsibility and accountability for health improvement.

The Engaged! Strategy includes health risk assessments and biometric screenings to obtain baseline population health data. This information is combined with claims data, when available, which leads to identifying where known and unknown emerging health risks exist. Once health risks have been identified, a multi-pronged approach is used to steer the population to the right intervention in the right place at the right time.

Prior to The Partners Group’s involvement, employees started a grassroots wellness program aimed at fostering a healthier workplace and improving personal health awareness. The Partners Group integrated their Engaged! strategy with employee wellness and health plan resources to create a wholistic approach to addressing risk and supporting healthy lifestyle habits.

“We’re managing our diseases in a more functional way so that we’re consuming healthcare benefits more appropriately.”

Over time, The Partners Group integrated health and safety into the strategy, which allowed all stakeholders to increase and leverage the resources available to manage employee health both on and off the job exponentially. The worksite wellness program offers services and benefits such as:

Worksite Wellness:

• Employee Wellness benefits

o Weight management services

o Health Coaching

o Voluntary Biometric Screens

• Tobacco Free Campus and Policy

• Flu Shot Campaign

• Fitness Center Benefits

• Biggest Loser Competition

• Leadership Wellness

Obtaining leadership buy-in early is key to a successful and well-resourced strategy. Support of leadership was won by getting leaders involved directly and early. Leaders were invited to participate in a wellness campaign designed with them in mind, which included a biometric screening, health risk assessment, and personalized health coaching services, along with a healthy dose of competition in the form of a FitBit walking campaign. The influence of leaders was won when they personally began to experience the benefits and transformation of the services provided through the Engaged! strategy. Consequently, they were better able to support their employees’ participation in the program.

The Engaged! strategy integrates services through the health plan as well. There are two primary ways the employee becomes engaged with worksite and health plan wellness services.

1. Employee voluntarily opts in to the program;

2. Health plan contacts the employee and steers them to clinically based services that are designed to address their specific health risks.

Examples of programs available to employees include smoking cessation, nutrition counseling, weight management, preventive health exams, preventive cancer screenings, care management, care coordination, diabetes education, and health coaching. Health plan design and contributions are leveraged to incentivize employees and dependents to participate. Through skillful use of this incentive combination over 85% of employees and spouses willingly respond to the positive guidance and assistance received through the Engaged! strategy.

Improvements for at-risk participants – the bottom line:
With the help of The Partners Group, the employer enjoyed 88% participation in wellness services (worksite wellness and risk management services and guidance offered through the health plan). Through the Engaged! strategy they have continued to experience year-over-year increases in member participation. The graph below illustrates improvement in health risks of a single cohort:

Of members at risk for their glucose (a diabetes indicator) in 2014, 76% experienced health improvement in 2015; in 2016, 88% improved. In addition to these statistics, there are countless stories from employees expressing appreciation for a program that helped them discover what they didn’t know: they were at risk for a lifetime of chronic illness.

Employees and spouses willingly participate in the Engaged! strategy at high levels each year. In order to achieve the health improvement illustrated above employers must begin with participation followed by interventions that are both environmental (workplace) and clinical (health plan services and provider network). This combination achieves measurable results and impacts healthcare costs and increases employee productivity and morale over time.

Critical success factors: To learn about the six critical success factors for implementing an effective wellness health contingent base program, click here

Create an outcomes based approach to wellness with a focus on prevention: click here for article.

Legal Guidelines:
For details around the legal requirements of incorporating a contingent outcomes based program into your workplace, click here.

Helpful resources to get you started on workplace wellness:
This is a list of free resources that are great places to get started regardless of where you’re at with your workplace wellness program. This is a sampling of organizations, both locally and nationally, that have evidenced based health promotion best practices that you can reference. Certainly, we at The Partners Group are happy to assist you and answer any questions that you have around the development of a workplace wellness program as well.

Within the Employer Services Division of the Partners Group, we not only offer employee benefits, we also provide employee health and productivity consulting services, healthcare analytics, total absence management consulting services, as well as employer retirement plans.

Please contact us if we can be of further assistance to you. Subscribe to our email list for the latest updates and news.


Karla Thommen, MS, Health and Productivity Team at The Partners Group

In this role, Karla works with employers on their health improvement and wellness strategies, specializing in hospital and healthcare systems.