Franciscan’s Healthy Lives program mushrooms

When Franciscan Health & Wellness launched its Healthy Lives program in 2011, the company’s goal was to improve the health of the 13,000 employees and family members covered through the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System.

Three years later, the FMOL subsidiary’s model has spread from its Louisiana facilities — Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Lafayette, St. Elizabeth Hospital in Gonzales and St. Francis Hospital in Monroe — to 32 companies and more than 80,000 people in nine states. Five of those companies are other health systems.

The reason? Start with the health system’s projected 4:1 return on investment in five years.

“When it’s all said and done … you’re looking at under $120 per year per member versus thousands of dollars per member on health plan costs,” said Dr. Stephanie Mills, president and chief executive officer of Franciscan Health & Wellness.

Employers have to understand that while there will be some additional upfront costs, focusing on prevention, wellness and pro-active disease management will help bend the cost curve over time. By identifying the people at the highest risk and focusing on improving their health, it’s possible to generate a return.

Those returns have created a new line of business for Franciscan Health & Wellness, mainly by word of mouth. The new business segment has grown faster than ever anticipated.

“Even after conversations with employers, I think we underestimated the demand for a clinically-focused wellness program,” said spokeswoman Nicole Hidalgo.

Franciscan Health & Wellness sees the Healthy Lives program and the principles to effectively manage the health of a population as the future of health care, she said.

The company is now mapping out its goals for the next 12 to 18 months. But it’s too early in the process to say what type of growth the company can expect. For now, the program is being marketed locally.

One of the keys to the program’s success, Mills said, is tailoring it to the workforce.

Healthy Lives gathers data on workers’ blood pressure and sugar and cholesterol levels as part of an overall risk assessment for the workforce. The program also pairs health coaches, registered nurses, with employees who are at risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The coaches help encourage the workers, provide support and, if needed, collaborate with doctors to coordinate care.

Mills said the program is voluntary, but 80 percent of the FMOL Health System’s workers participate.

The program offers incentives and awards, such as a $350 discount on health premiums for undergoing the initial screening. Spouses covered by the plan are also eligible for the discount.

Participants can also earn up to $450 in incentives for achieving health goals, such as quitting smoking or maintaining healthy blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Health coaching is also a major component of the program, Mills said. One of the interesting things the program has revealed is that people are really searching for relationships in health care.

Health coaching and care management teams help “connect those dots,” Mills said.

The coaches work with individuals to develop highly tailored plans and goals using best practices and evidence-based medicine.

The plans are personalized so they take into account what’s going on with the person at work, at home and emotionally, as well as what motivates them. The program involves coaching about 10 percent of the participants, those at the highest risk and those with chronic diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease.

“Health care can be very complex to navigate,” Mills said. “Having that lifeline and that individual help translate what you should be doing in a way that you can accept and in a way that you can attain your goals at your own pace has been effective for us.”