For some employers, offering these types of healthcare services to employees is fraught with challenges: low engagement and participation rates, lack of awareness, a small employee population, and multiple locations to administer to, to name a few. For example, manufacturing and construction companies, as well as companies with multiple distribution centers, have workforces that are spread out across the country, with small pockets of employees in many different locations. This makes getting healthcare services directly to them much more difficult.
Telemedicine is an obvious option, but it lacks a personal touch that is crucial to getting employees engaged in (and trusting of) the service. That’s why some companies are reinventing an old idea – the traveling doctor – to make sure that their employees are getting the care they need, and most importantly, getting healthier because of it.
With the travel coaching model, certified RN health coaches visit employees wherever they are. All they need to conduct the appointments is a room (like a conference room or office) with four walls, a door for privacy (and HIPAA compliance), and the internet so the health coaches have access to their electronic medical record (EMR) to document the visit.
During these visits, which occur 2-4 times per year, the health coach provides chronic condition management, comprehensive health reviews, health coaching sessions, and follows up on prior services that were completed, like biometric screenings and health risk assessments. For example, if the employee has risk factors (like elevated blood glucose, high blood pressure, hypertension, asthma, etc.), the health coach will ensure that the employees has the resources he needs to take care of himself – and will connect him to the necessary resources in their community if they’re not already in place.
Thanks to the convenience and easy access to these services, health coaches will often get visits from employees who have not otherwise sought care or received annual physicals. And getting them in the door is the most challenging part. Once they’ve seen a health coach, they’re more likely to continue to see them. And when the health coaches check in by telephone in between in-person visits, the employees are much more likely to pick up and stay on the line because they’ve already established a relationship and trust with the coach.
Take the example of Cindy [real name withheld for privacy reasons]. I met her when I visited her at her workplace for a comprehensive health review and we got to know each other. Six months later, I came back to the site for follow-up appointments. Cindy presented with some biometric data that was within the moderate to high risk categories, which triggered us to dig a little deeper into her health.
When we did, I discovered that she was feeling very depressed, not present for her family and unproductive at work. What was worse, she didn’t have a primary care physician (PCP) and never had been screened for or diagnosed with depression. I connected her with a PCP and got her an appointment for the very next day, during which the PCP conferenced me in so I could talk about the screening, diagnosis and treatment.
After her appointment, Cindy visited me (we were still onsite at that point). Together, we put a plan of action in place and then we continued to touch base telephonically every other week for several weeks until she was feeling established.
When I came back six months later, she didn’t look like the same woman; she was enthusiastic, energetic, happy – and all of this was accomplished within three visits. All she needed to get healthy were connections to the right resources, some simple screenings and someone there caring for and about her.
For employers looking for ways to control costs, don’t stop at wellness. To really make an impact, both on your bottom line and the lives of your employees, transcend to true healthcare. And remember that employees are people – not figures on a spreadsheet – that will be much more receptive to a genuine, personal touch than a stranger on the other end of a computer or telephone.