healthy family on bikes

A Culture of Health Reaches Far Beyond the Doctor’s Office

By Henry Cha, Chief Executive Officer, HCIactive

It used to be, you went to see your family doctor for everything. The stereotype is of a kindly physician who handled checkups, shots, and illnesses for the whole family, often for many years. Maybe they even made house calls. These days, though, medicine has become a lot more compartmentalized. You may see one doctor for preventive care, another for cardiology, and still more for allergies, dermatology, etc. Medicine has made incredible strides in the past 50 years, but it’s also lost that individual, personal touch that the stereotypical family doctor was so good at.

One of the lessons I’ve learned in my time as CEO of HCIactive and founder of Habeo Health Plan is that no matter how great new technology and initiatives are, they only work if members engage with them. That’s why fostering a culture of health—whether through a PCMH, a workplace wellness program, or preferably some combination of both—is vital to improving outcomes and lowering costs.

By fostering [a] culture of health at work and providing tools like PCMHs and online member portals to manage patient care, employers create a flow-on effect from members to their dependents.

For example, let’s take a sample employee. Say he’s 45 years old, overweight, and a smoker. He’s likely at risk for a number of health conditions and potentially seeing multiple doctors (who may or may not be communicating with each other). But let’s also say the company he works for has committed to fostering a culture of health. They’ve implemented a workplace wellness program with incentives, resources (including a smoking cessation program), and a self-service online portal to make self-care easier and less confusing. As part of his employer-sponsored health plan, our employee is now able to see doctors at a PCMH. Although he still may be seeing several specialists as well as a preventive care practitioner, they’re now all part of one organization, working together to treat the patient holistically.

culture of healthOur sample employee is certainly receiving better care under this new model, but his actual medical care is only a small part of a true culture of health. Health isn’t just associated with the doctor’s office anymore; it’s where we work, live and play. By living and working within a culture of health starting at the company level, he is learning new habits and being rewarded for healthy behaviors, like quitting smoking or losing weight. His self-care is likely improving his productivity and lowering his healthcare costs—not to mention the effect it’s having on other members of his household. Studies have shown that behaviors (healthy or otherwise) are often shared among people who live together. If the employee is learning to eat better and exercise more, he’s likely passing on those commitments and better results to his family who, as members of his health plan, also affect healthcare costs. By fostering that culture of health at work and providing tools like PCMHs and online member portals to manage patient care, employers create a flow-on effect from members to their dependents.

Health isn’t just associated with the doctor’s office anymore; it’s where we work, live and play.

It can be scary and confusing for patients and their families to deal with doctors, hospitals, and health insurance. But the education and point of care offered by a strong culture of health can alleviate a lot of those stresses. By helping patients take a more active role in their own care, plan providers and employers can improve outcomes not just for employees, but for families and their communities. It’s the 21st century equivalent of the old family doctor.