Industry

Convenience Store Chain

Member Count

24,000

Solution

3 Onsite Health Centers

Sheetz, a family-owned convenience store chain based in Altoona, Pennsylvania, and founded in 1952, continues to reinvent themselves by bringing innovation to their industry. They credit their success to employees whose health is critical to running a 24/7/365 business. After examining the health challenges of their employees, Sheetz looked into an onsite employee health center as a way to offer convenient healthcare to eligible employees and their families.

Marathon Health’s mission to help employees make meaningful health changes resonated with the company that focuses on family values.

Sheetz, which has over 24,000 eligible employees in six states, previously relied on telephonic outreach from their medical provider to address specific chronic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, but they weren’t satisfied with the low engagement rates. They felt it was difficult to reach employees at home with a phone call from an insurance company, which can come across as impersonal to some who simply didn’t take the call. Sheetz knew that getting a handle on helping employees manage chronic conditions would be key in helping control rising healthcare costs.

“We looked at eight or nine onsite healthcare vendors nationally,” says Travis (TJ) Eckels, Sheetz Senior Manager of Employee Benefits and Wellness. “Marathon felt different than the others. They all have solid metrics and plans, but Marathon Health just felt a lot like us – they had a great internal culture which we knew would resonate when trying to engage our employees.”

“Regardless of who we spoke with at Marathon Health, they all understood that they’re delivering personal interaction and they are ultimately helping people make meaningful lifestyle changes to improve their health,” Eckels says. Today, Sheetz has expanded to three health center locations in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, named the Shwellness Centers to carry through Sheetz branding. While all benefit-eligible employees are able to use the health center, approximately 3,000 employees and spouses have onsite access.

Sheetz built their first health center in 2012 which has expanded to 17,000 square feet. It includes a fitness center and the health center where eligible employees and family members have access to nurse practitioners, physician assistants, a health coach, registered dietician, exercise physiologist, mental well-being counselors and physical therapists.

Increasing Employee Health Center Engagement

After investing in an onsite health center, Sheetz knew employee engagement was key. “To engage employees, we had to understand what [our employees] were dealing with,” Eckels says. “They were struggling with diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol issues. They have stress, like everyone else, which can sometimes go unchecked. They needed a more convenient way to enter the healthcare system. Our goal… [is] to provide them with information on their current health state, help them manage any chronic conditions and help coordinate care in the local healthcare system through PCPs, specialists and appropriate care.”

To date, over 60% of eligible employees with high-risk conditions or chronic conditions are actively engaged with the health center. Of Sheetz’s moderate-risk patients, 68% are engaged. When comparing employees who utilize the health center to those who don’t, the company paid 19.8% less for the engaged employees’ self-insured claims this past year. Also, this population achieves higher preventive screening rates across all categories including colorectal, mammograms, PAP tests and annual physicals.

Bill Young, Sheetz Director of Total Rewards and Risk Management credits employee engagement to several factors. “Sheetz allows employees to stay on the clock when utilizing health center services,” he says. “We also encourage our managers to promote clinic use.”

Alongside promoting the use of the health center during working hours, Young credits the care team’s relationship with employees for high engagement. “If you asked our employees if the care team was employed directly by Sheetz, they would say ‘yes.’ Our Shwellness Clinicians participate in company activities, attend meetings and celebrate wins alongside the rest of the company.”

Shortly after opening the Shwellness Center, one dedicated clinician recognized drivers’ reluctance to utilize health services. To establish good communication and truly understand the stress and physicality of the drivers’ jobs, the clinician volunteered to ride along during a long shift.

“The drivers were concerned that visiting the health center would uncover conditions that would keep them off the road,” Eckels says. “Now the message is, ‘People have conditions, and we will uncover things, but our goal is to keep you on the road safely.’ Drivers are now one of our most engaged departments.”

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Sheetz built their first Marathon Health center in 2012 and has added two more health centers in other locations
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Engagement for employees who are high-risk or have chronic health conditions
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Reduction in claims costs for engaged employees

We looked at eight or nine vendors nationally. Marathon felt different than the others. They all have metrics and plans, but Marathon Health just felt a lot like us – they had a great internal culture.

Employee Health Centers — a Long-term Investment

“Deciding to have onsite employee health centers is a marathon, not a sprint,” Young says. “If a CFO is looking for immediate return on investment, that’s not a reality. You must look at the long haul for return on finances. The benefit is to the employees, and it takes time to make lifestyle changes.”

Young adds that the data will tell employers if they are making progress with the long-term strategy. “With 10% increases in healthcare costs each year, the idea is to slow the curve, slow down these trends for the company and overall claims costs.”

For both Young and Eckels, it’s employee feedback that reinforces their decision to provide worksite healthcare. In 2014, Sheetz opened a new distribution center in North Carolina to better serve stores in the area. Offering an employee health center that is free was attractive to prospects when filling positions.

“When talking to prospective employees in that area, it was clear that they struggled with the same healthcare access issues that we see across our footprint. Many employees shared that they hadn’t been to a doctor in years for any type of preventive screening or care,” Eckels says. “The health center was an immediate success, as it gave them an easy and convenient way to access care without having to miss work. It allowed us to better recruit high-quality employees by offering a unique benefit in that area.”

“What we’re doing is getting people engaged in overall health by providing resources,” Young adds. “It is about helping them on their health journey and making meaningful changes in their lives. When I hear an employee say, ‘I was able to reduce my cholesterol and lose weight’ making them more apt to do their jobs, those are the real success stories.”

Reinventing the Employee Health Experience

Sheetz convenience stores didn’t close during the pandemic, but employees did look for other healthcare options other than onsite visits. “Marathon was extremely proactive over the last year with COVID,” Eckels says. “They provided a virtual care solution that really helped since most providers were not seeing patients face-to-face for routine care.”

“Marathon Health has been flexible and adaptive and virtual care is something we will continue,” he says. “It worked well and some employees who haven’t come into the clinic before will likely continue with the virtual option.”

Sheetz most recently added physical therapy services where employees can access sessions at no cost. Prior to that, they added behavioral health counselors to integrate with the care team and seamlessly support treating employees. “These are other barriers we’re helping employees overcome,” Young says. “And we consider that a success.”

“It’s a great partnership and a great journey impacting change in people’s lives for the better,” Young adds.

When I hear an employee say, ‘I was able to reduce my cholesterol and lose weight’, those are the real success stories.

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