Making Wellness a Cultural and Financial Priority in Healthcare Organizations

A Q&A with Regina Chandler

Wellness and burnout – two buzzwords that many leaders and physicians find abstract and even unproductive. CQD sat down to talk with Regina Chandler, Cleveland Clinic’s Executive Director of Workplace Wellness, to learn just how important and tangible they are.

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How does Cleveland Clinic approach wellness?

We have a strong history of leadership in wellness. As an academic medical center, we see firsthand the consequences of preventable conditions and their effects on the healthcare system, so we strive to be a global leader in evidence-based wellness programs that lead to sustainable healthy behaviors. We believe it is our responsibility as an organization to make and keep our caregivers well. That means not only offering opportunities, but making those opportunities a realistic part of work life through dedicated time and financial incentives.

Our wellness efforts focus on building a culture of well-being. This means that in addition to programs addressing traditional elements of disease prevention and physical health, we focus on the person as a whole. Our goal is to provide an environment that positively impacts the body, emotions, mind and spirit of our caregivers. Strategies include:

  • Removing barriers to optimizing energy.
  • Creating opportunities for and promoting self-care.
  • Providing chronic disease management and proactive support for mental well-being.
  • Encouraging financial awareness and benefits participation.
  • Fostering effective communications and a culture of safety (for caregivers and patients).
  • Establishing social connectedness among caregivers.

We integrate this mindset at all levels of organizational efforts, from strategic planning to practice model improvements.

Why focus on well-being?  What’s the impact?

Some say wellness doesn’t work. That has not been our experience. Our wellness program is a strategic investment that has yielded significant long-term results. Our health benefits cost trends 66% lower than the national average over the last nine years, and since 2013 our average annual-claims trend is under 1% per member per month. This equates to more than $848 million dollars of cost avoidance over the span of the program. It’s no coincidence that in this same timeframe, enrollment in chronic care programs offered as a part of our caregiver wellness programs jumped from 9% in 2007 to 55% in 2017.

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This is just part of the picture of what the full cost of poor health/lack of wellness can be to an organization. The rest—and some would say the larger part – has to do with the impact of absenteeism (e.g., disability, time off) and presenteeism (e.g., turnover, poor quality) associated with compromised well-being.

What programs do you provide specifically for physicians?

Physician wellness directly impacts patient care and the well-being of all members of the healthcare team, and it is a quality marker. At the center of physician well-being is professional fulfillment. We established a Professional Innovation and Fulfillment Office to partner with our Well-Being Resource Center to strengthen the group practice and optimize physician health. Several clinical support initiatives have been established to maximize professional fulfillment in the areas of onboarding, annual performance, coaching and mentoring, and practice innovations.

The program To Act as a Unit is offered to all physicians with a focus on self-care, wellness resources, and well-being in the context of energy and asset-based thinking, and building a support network of colleagues. We also have a Center for Excellence in Coaching and Mentoring. We believe in a relationship-centered, asset-based approach to wellness. Many physicians have taken advantage of this approach and cite this program as a reason they love working here.

Any final thoughts?

Investing in the well-being of our people is a commitment with a value proposition that shows up over time. As healthcare leaders contemplate their strategies, I encourage them to think about the value of the investment over time, not just the direct return on investment for a specific program in the short term.

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A key driver for an effective well-being strategy is executive leadership commitment and fortitude. Our President and CEO Tom Mihaljevic, MD, has shaped our culture and goals around Care for the Patient, Care for the Caregiver, Care for the Organization and Care for the Community. Through our Caregiver Experience strategy we are focused on the vision of making Cleveland Clinic the best place to work in healthcare. Explicit goals, objectives and expected results for well-being efforts are tied to our strategic plan, and our Chief Human Resources Officer, Linda McHugh, leads a multi-disciplined group of leaders whose efforts contribute to our success. It takes a team of teams working towards aligned goals to achieve the results we’ve experienced.

Leadership programs developed by Cleveland Clinic encourage innovation and create projects that have positive institutional impact. For more information on Cleveland Clinic Global Executive Education contact the team online at clevelandclinic.org/execed.