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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

It’s Time to Make Mental Health in the Workplace Actionable

 By Jerry Ford, CEO of MarathonHealth

Mental Health America has found that depression ranks among the top three workplace problems for employee assistance professionals, coming in third behind family crisis and stress. Despite this issue, Mental Health America finds that depressed employees often don’t seek treatment due to confidentiality concerns and fears of the affect their diagnosis will have on their job. Ben Congleton, CEO of Olark, made headlines when praising an employee for taking time to focus on her mental health. Building on Congleton’s congenial gesture, senior leadership should ensure that all employees mind their mental well-being and take the time they need to stay healthy. With this in mind, here are three key steps employers can take to make a measurable difference in improving the mental health of their workforce:
1.     Identify a need for mental health services and address those needs. A crucial first step companies can take to assess the health of their workforce is to identify the population in need of assistance—learning who they are, how many there are, and what their pain points are. Sheetz, a privately held convenience store chain, saw the need for integrating mental health services into their healthcare plan after costs for mental healthcare continued to increase. Bill Young, director of total rewards, talent acquisition and risk management at Sheetz, noted that, “three of our top 25 prescriptions relate to behavioral health. It was clear that this needed our attention and that our traditional telephonic EAP solution was underutilized.” Coupling this with the fact that behavioral health was identified as the second leading condition for intervention behind musculoskeletal issues, Sheetz added mental health services as part of their comprehensive onsite health management program in 2014. 

2.     Offer a convenient, uplifting way for employees and their families to receive help that eliminates stigma. Nothing is more important than meeting your employees where they are, especially when the issues they are facing are sensitive in nature. After identifying the need for mental health services, Sheetz launched a pilot program to address rising behavioral health concerns and improve overall participation in EAP programs. Confidential, free, onsite counseling was offered on a part-time basis for employees and dependents but quickly turned into a full-time service and later expanded to their distribution facility in North Carolina. By offering convenient and confidential counseling that builds trustworthiness, employees and their families are more receptive to receiving mental healthcare and therefore more likely to be treated than to continue to suffer in silence.

3.     Motivate employees to take stock of their mental health from the top down. Full integration of mental health services via onsite health centers does not come overnight and relies heavily on senior leadership carrying the conversation. As we found with Ben Congleton’s words of encouragement, a personal reminder to take care of your health goes a long way. At Sheetz, employees are also made aware of the mental health program by way of newsletter stories, departmental meetings, lunch-and-learns, and executive support. Leaders like Bill Young will note that, “it is the right thing to do,” but beyond being the right thing to do—these services produce results. Seventy percent of employees require no further referrals after completing prescribed sessions, and the program has contributed to patient satisfaction rates averaging 98 percent overall. Of those needing a referral for more specific treatment, the counselors are able to assist them in providing the appropriate local resources. 
An important conversation has started that we cannot afford to let die out and must act upon. By identifying those who need assistance, meeting them at the point of care, and motivating all to see the importance in their mental health starts with those who are willing to lead the conversation for actionable change.

Jerry Ford is the CEO of Marathon Health, a provider of onsite health centers that enable employers to optimize the health of their workforce and business.. Ford spent 15 years as vice president of operations at IDX Systems Corporation, where he was responsible for 300 large and complex healthcare delivery system customers.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Reaching Up and Out: How Millennial Managers Can Effectively Enable Older Workers

Reaching Up and Out: How Millennial Managers Can Effectively Enable Older Workers

By Rishav Gupta, CEO, iCoachFirst
If you look to Mark Zuckerberg for management inspiration and prefer to give your direct reports shout-outs on a company-wide Slack channel, odds are you are a millennial manager.
Although millennials may now be a majority in the overall workforce, they’re still coming into their own as managers. Only about 28 percent of millennials are now managers, but they have big plans for the future: research from Deloitte shows that 53 percent dream of being the leader or most senior executive at their current company. As those dreams become reality, more millennials will manage older and more experienced employees. After all, baby boomers and Gen Xers still make up about 30 and 35 percent of the workforce, respectively.
Rest assured there are ways to overcome the challenges that come with managing older workers, including having tough conversations with employees who have been in the workforce for 30 or more years. Here are some strategies for building a better rapport and enabling employees’ top performance:
Ditch the Desire to Be Authoritative
One of the worst ways to garner respect is to demand it. Instead, be a leader who builds a foundation based on trust, teamwork, integrity and transparency. This type of leadership coaching is not only more effective, but it also comes naturally to many millennials, who seek it out in their own managers and mentors.
While everyone’s coaching mindset is unique, the qualities that most employees look for in a coach are remarkably similar. Employees want leaders and coaches who set clear benchmarks, provide training, give regular and immediate feedback and help employees find purpose in the workplace. It's also important to align coaching goals to the goals of the broader organization, so that the goals you set for your team align with the vision and direction of the organization.
Tap Technology Selectively

Your position as a member of the first generation of digital natives most likely weaves into how you approach work and collaborate with colleagues. But instead of firing off a quick IM, try stopping by an employee’s desk to discuss the project at hand. It will go a long way for those who entered the workforce before the days of hyperconnectivity and value more personal, face-to-face relationships.
Many older employees are surprisingly open to embracing tools so that they can share knowledge, garner feedback and put forth new ideas. To leverage the full power of social and mobile collaboration tools, ensure those tools can be integrated into existing workflow channels so they are not viewed as disruptive and make feedback a two-way street. When recognition and feedback flows in every direction, employees stay engaged, focused and productive. 
Be Flexible
Varied generational views and attributes means you’ll need to be flexible in managing a blended workforce and adapt to different work styles. This includes recognizing your own desire for flexibility—for example, working remotely to accommodate personal commitments may be new to your direct reports who are accustomed to a more traditional work schedule.
One of the best ways to ensure everyone is comfortable with different work styles is to get aligned around the same set of goals. These goals should be agreed upon by all team members and revisited regularly to remain relevant in the face of evolving business realities. It is your job to help employees see the link between daily work and overall goal achievement, which is best done through a mix of continuous micro-conversations and check-ins that ensure transparency, as well as tools to provide longer lines of sight into progress. 

As a millennial, you have already been part of the complete upending of the American workforce as it was long known. That transformation will continue as you take on increased leadership roles, and increasingly, it will be your responsibility to not only manage performance, but also to enable it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Accountable Care Organizations: Shifting the Paradigm

The U.S. healthcare market has been short on solutions to combat the ever-increasing costs of healthcare and its effect on rapidly rising health insurance premiums. But, challenging as it may be to believe, there are some bright spots in healthcare—one being Accountable Care Organizations (ACO).
The stated goals of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are to make health insurance more affordable to millions of Americans who lack health insurance coverage, to expand Medicaid to cover millions more Americans, and finally, to support innovative medical care delivery systems that drive down costs. This last goal has resulted in a number of notable innovations, in particular the ACO.
ACOs effectiveness in yielding favorable patient outcomes and cost savings make them a successful solution for the commercial marketplace, specifically  through their leverage of three primary components: patient outcome-based financial incentives, patient quality improvement strategies, and data analytics. Hospitals, medical groups, pharmacies and often insurance carriers partner to improve patient outcomes through shared data, goals, and financial incentives created through the shared savings.
The most successful, predominant ACO in the U.S. is Kaiser Permanente. Kaiser has existed for decades and has established hospitals, medical groups and pharmacies within its own facilities. Kaiser operates by a proprietary electronic data system, making patient data more accessible, accurate, and easy-to-analyze. it also operates as the insurance carrier, selling through the employer group marketplace, state exchanges, and direct to individuals.
Motivated by the opportunity to reduce patient healthcare costs and improve profits, ACOs work within a shared data system that closely measures patient care and quality metrics. As patients move throughout the ACO network, from their primary care physician to a specialist, to an outpatient surgery center, hospital and pharmacy, their data remains accessible to each provider in real time. The result is  improved efficiency and the ability to provide effective information to providers regarding effective approaches to disease management, rehabilitative methods, and comprehensive care strategies.
ACOs are also developing teams to support transition and ongoing care needs, which reduces hospital readmissions and rehabilitation times.
An example of a successful ACO in the Southern California marketplace is the Anthem Blue Cross Vivity ACO. Vivity includes hospitals and medical groups in Ventura, Los Angeles, and Orange counties. Some of the providers within the Vivity network are UCLA Health, Cedars-Sinai, Dignity Health, Huntington Hospital, Citrus Valley Health Partners and MemorialCare Health Systems. Each entity within the provider network is integrated with a focus on improved patient outcomes at a lower cost and sharing pertinent data for improved patient care management.
So, what effect will the ACO’s success have on the employer-based group insurance marketplace?
The insurance carriers are betting on this model to produce healthcare cost savings and, by extension,  group health insurance premium savings—an advantage to employers and employees alike. They say that their ACO provider network benefits plans are delivering premium savings in the range of 8-12 percent when compared to similar plan designs within their traditional provider networks
In an era in which employers’ cost containment options have been limited to reducing benefit plan levels and cost-shifting contributions, deductibles, and coinsurance amounts to their employees, it’s clearly time for a better option. ACOs can yield healthcare outcome advantages to patients and deliver a quality provider network option at a reduced premium amount. If the ACO model can sustain delivering these positive results, there is no doubt the employer group marketplace will take advantage of this option— allowing it to become a primary offering in most employers’ benefit programs.

Nathan Ackeret has nearly 10 years of experience in consulting with companies of all sizes on health benefits and healthcare reform compliance. As the vice president and managing director of Burnham Benefits’ Los Angeles office, Ackeret is a successful sales leader with more than 15 years of experience achieving top sales performances.