Medtronic: focusing on health

When Medtronic decided to focus on the health and wellbeing of its employees, the results were surprising, says Gen Barron.

Medtronic is a medical technology company with staff in more than 50 countries. Its core mission is “contributing to human welfare”. An early adopter of wellness initiatives, the company believes that healthier employees will be happier and, therefore, more productive, having a positive effect on both the individual and the organisation.

The company’s global rewards programme offers a variety of resources to boost an employee’s mind, body and spirit, with the aim of ensuring staff members are fully present and productive at work and in their personal lives.

Wellbeing is seen as a vital employee benefit alongside traditional financial rewards and healthcare, with a number of wellness measures put in place to improve the work-life balance.

The company is now building a single, integrated, global employee health and wellbeing programme through understanding its employees’ health and wellbeing needs.

Long-term investment

Medtronic decided to create a comprehensive, integrated and measurable approach to employee wellness. Important components of its health programmes include: health risk assessments; online tools; health coaching; and biometric and preventative screenings. At the forefront of its employee health rewards are a number of programmes that focus on the prevention and early detection of health issues.

About Medtronic

Medtronic is a medical technology company providing life-long solutions to those suffering from chronic diseases. Founded by Earl Bakken, who invented the world’s first external pacemaker in his garage in 1949, it has grown into a global organisation, with annual sales of more than $14 billion and a workforce of 45,000 employees.

The company wanted to monitor and measure health and wellbeing throughout the organisation to analyse the impact employee health had on HR and business costs, and to understand the most important issues that needed to be tackled.

Medtronic needed benchmarks in place to monitor individual health status and collect information that would enable it to compare and contrast different regions and employee groups, and learn about cultural variations and attitudes towards health.

The Total Health employee wellness brand was developed, focusing on investing in all-round health rather than just treatment for specific diseases.

The programme aimed to increase health awareness among employees and their families, reduce unnecessary use of healthcare and increase productivity. A secondary aim was to limit the organisation’s cost of health provision.

In the beginning, Total Health focused on two of Medtronic’s core territories – the US and Puerto Rico. The US version was launched in 2006 and included a new Total Health website, a health risk questionnaire, health coaching and wellness screenings. Other components were healthy eating options, on-site fitness centres and wellness challenges.

The health risk questionnaire was initially incentivised in order to increase completion rates and provide data on employee health status. By 2011, questionnaire completion levels were at 91%.

When the time came to expand the Total Health brand across Medtronic’s other territories, a number of new issues came to the fore – particularly how to address the health problems of 12,000 employees in 18 different countries. Local engagement was important, and Medtronic realised the web would have an important role to play.

The company adopted support from wellbeing solutions provider Vielife on a global scale, in 26 languages, with the programme customised to each location.

Phase one was completed in late 2011, with the launch of Total Health in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the UK.

The second phase, taking place throughout 2012, involves Argentina, Colombia, France, Italy, Japan, Mexico and the Netherlands. The data captured is being used to understand the global Medtronic community’s health needs.

Global challenge

High engagement was needed for the required level of completed health risk assessments to show the health challenges faced by employees. One of the main challenges is to keep these employees engaged.

quotemarksAnalysis of the US data from phase one of the Total Health programme has shown $4.6 million of costs have already been cut.”

While Medtronic sees Total Health as an evolutionary process, it is already proving to have a positive impact. The data gives the company an understanding of regional differences in health and wellbeing, so the programme can be tailored to boost productivity and attendance by targeting services that match employees’ greatest needs.

Analysis of the US data from phase one of the Total Health programme has shown $4.6 million of costs have already been cut from a reduction in health risk factors, which included weight, diet, blood pressure, stress and activity.

In 2011, 66% of employees had removed at least one personal health risk, with further drops in specific health problems also recorded, such as a 58% reduction by those at risk of high cholesterol.

US employees also managed to lose a combined total of 8,200 pounds on the Live Healthy scheme, a component of the Total Health programme.

Early analysis from the phase one countries has shown that, on average, 47% of employees signed up for the scheme per country, with, for example, 90% deciding to take part in the programme in Brazil.

Health risk questionnaire completion stood at an average of 33% per country, with top performers achieving up to 70%.

Participation varied across the territories, highlighting the importance of setting different benchmarks and conducting investigations into why engagement was low in certain areas.

The results

Initial health risk assessments have provided essential baseline data for understanding the nuances of employee health on both a global and local scale.

quotemarksThe use of analytics and web-based tools have helped the company to define health strategies and to drive targeted initiatives for specific employees.”

Overall, the company has seen an average employee health score of 46.7 out of 100, indicating that its employees are at medium health risk on the Vielife scale.

Priority health indicators for employees have also been uncovered after further analysis of the data, with nutrition taking the top spot with 50% of employees “at risk”. Physical activity came in second (34% at risk), followed by sleep (28%) and stress (25%).

Correlations between health factors have also been identified, with a number closely aligned and symptomatic of each other – for example, those registering poor sleep status are 37% more stressed.

The use of analytics and web-based tools have helped the company to define health strategies and to drive targeted initiatives for specific employees.

By the end of 2012, Medtronic will also offer the online health assessment to employees in France, Japan, Italy, Mexico the Netherlands, and a number of countries in Latin America.

Gen Barron is global wellness consultant at Medtronic.

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