Monday, February 27, 2012

It's the Little Things that Count: Quick & Easy Ways to Cut Calories and Make Smarter Choices

Cindy Mann, Boundless Wellness
We invited Cindy Mann to talk with us about small changes we can make to cut calories. All staff were welcome to attend, but we, of course, were targeting the folks in our current Biggest Loser program with this session.  Cindy is the founder and director of Boundless Wellness, but we know her through our partnership with LifeWork Strategies. People raved about the session. They said her tips were very useful and they appreciated that she recommended some apps for tracking calories. This is what Cindy shared with us:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Eleven Workplace Trends that will Impact Our Work in 2012

As part of our annual goal setting process for the human resources team, we brainstorm trends and observations that may impact our work. We use this exercise as a way to get us to a 30,000 foot level before setting our team goals for the year. These are the most interesting things we discussed. 
  1. Employees are using their personal iPhones, iPads and other electronic devices to work. This brings up issues about where work is stored and whether it's tied to the business or the individual. Employees expect integration and a unified experience across platforms. Employers are using more web-based collaboration tools to support day-to-day operations.
  2. Communication is focused on real-time interactions. Email is viewed as too slow and is beginning to go the way of the fax machine. People rely on text messaging and various social networks to communicate instantly.
  3. Video is becoming increasingly important. Companies save time and money by conducting first interviews via Skype. Meetings and training are held by video conference. Employees look for "how to" videos instead of written instructions. Job Seekers look for "day in the life" videos to get a realistic preview of a jobs. 
  4. Job seekers target specific employers instead of responding to advertisements. This makes branding a business as an employer of choice a higher priority if you want to attract the best talent. 
  5. User built content becomes more prominent and more visual. Consumer behavior and attitudes are heavily influenced by connections in a social network. People look for tools to organize information that are not chronological. Think Pinterest. Reports show it's driving more traffic to company websites and blogs than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined
  6. Companies continue to focus on controlling the cost of benefits. Many shift costs to employees in the form of higher monthly contributions and imposing benefit limitations like drug formularies. Consumer driven health plans become more popular and lead to the promotion of healthcare consumerism. Carriers have consolidated leaving fewer insurance options to employers. Healthcare Reform continues to have a significant impact. W-2 reporting requirements go into effect this year and lay the groundwork for taxing "Cadillac" plans in the future. Payer-Provider lines continue to blur as more insurance companies own providers. There is a shift toward bundled payment structures. Medical data will be shared more easily between providers and insurers. 
  7. mHealth slowly transforms healthcare. I've written about reverse innovation as a healthcare trend before. It refers to developing products for emerging markets and then distributing them globally. There was another great example in this month's Fast Company -- As Smartphones Get Smarter, You May Get Healthier: How mHealth Can Bring Cheaper Health Care To All. The first example is about a MIT professor who created an app and attachment for a smartphone to measure refractive error -- a reading needed to prescribe eyeglasses. 15 more examples follow in the article. Many traditional service providers appear resistant to this trend. Many consumers seem interested in the ease of access and the affordability. 
  8. Wellness efforts continue to focus on data integration and reaching out to people "at risk." Expect to see an increased focus on building activity into day-to-day routines as opposed to structured exercise. This trend may be helped along by new gadgets like the Fitbit, Jawbone UP and Nike Fuelband. There's lots of talk about gamification, but I'm doubtful it's going to be much of a game changer in workplace wellness. More employers are offering incentives and penalties to employees to improve their health. This may contribute to an increase in stigmatization and discrimination against individuals that are overweight. 
  9. Emphasis is placed on blended approaches to learning that include gaming and apps. Organizations are making efforts to map informal learning opportunities. Employees seek more sources of feedback and personalized learning plans. Free services like the Khan Academy support online learning. 
  10. Increase focus on transparency and disclosure. Regulatory focus will be on the financial sector. 
  11. Leading an exhausted workforce. The economy has taken its toll and people are worn out from helping family members who have lost jobs and other financial worries. Maybe this at least partially explains another trend we noticed -- adults are reading teen lit. First there was Harry Potter, then the Twilight series and now the Hunger Games -- maybe people just need an escape. 
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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Seven Questions Caregivers Need to Ask

In most families, one person takes on the role of coordinating health care and insurance coverage. According to the Department of Labor, "Women make approximately 80 percent of health care decisions for their families and are more likely to be the care givers when a family member falls ill." So, what happens when the decision-maker is ill? Here are some things you need to consider if you suddenly find yourself taking on the caregiving role.
  1. First, get a copy of the insurance card and make sure you know what type of insurance you have. Is it a network only plan or do you have benefits that extend outside the network of providers? 
  2. Identify the resources that are available to you to learn about your benefits. Members of the HR team where you have your insurance coverage should be happy to point you in the right direction. Be sure to ask if you have access to any advocacy benefits like Health Advocate.
  3. Confirm the provider is in-network. Even if someone at a doctor's office tells you that a provider is in-network, it's worth confirming. You should be able to look this up on your insurance company's website or confirm the information by calling the customer care number on your insurance card. 
  4. Find out if you need to notify the insurance company before receiving any services. In general, Network providers are responsible for notifying the insurance company before providing certain services. However, there are some services that you may need to notify the insurance company about even if you use a network provider. These may include things like -- non-emergency ambulance services, participation in clinical trials, dental services received as a result of an accident, and transplants. If you use an out-of-network provider, you are likely to be responsible for obtaining approval yourself. To notify the insurance company, call the customer care number on your insurance card. 
  5. Call your doctor for test results. Most patients assume no news is good news if they don't hear back from their doctor about test results, but this can be a mistake. An article in the New York Times reported on a study that showed that 25% of the time there was a problem getting the results back from the lab and 7 percent of the mistakes involved the doctor's office failing to notify patients of the results. So, be sure to ask these questions. (1) Will my test results be sent to the doctor? (2) When should they receive them? And, then follow-up if you don't get a call when you expect to receive one.
  6. Consider getting a second opinion. This article suggests a second opinion can help save you money, help you feel more comfortable, verify necessary treatment, confirm diagnosis, and present other treatment options. If you're consulting with another provider, ask what test results you should bring with you. 
  7. If you're scheduling surgery, ask if you need to preregister at the hospital or surgery center before the procedure.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Diet-to-Go for People on the Go

Staff members were telling us that they were tired at the end of the day and all their good intentions to eat a healthy dinner were easily derailed. In our last weight loss program, we also noticed a correlation between eating a lot of prepared foods and being overweight. I started talking with folks about this challenge and one of my contacts at United Healthcare (UHC), Eugenia Perna, told me about Diet-to-Go. Eugenia arranged for us to meet with staff from Diet-to-Go and we just introduced the program to staff in conjunction with the start of our current Biggest Loser campaign. We held a tasting on January 26 and 30 staff members ordered meals. Many people are using the program to lose weight, but others are ordering meals just for the convenience. 

The meals are delivered to our office on Tuesdays and Fridays. You can order as few as three meals per week or as many as 21. You can choose from three different meal plans -- traditional/low-fat, vegetarian, and low-carb. Interestingly, the only calorie controlled option is the traditional/low-fat menu. With that option, you can choose either 1,200 or 1,600 calories per day. We receive a 5% discount for being customers of UHC and a 5% discount for being a drop-off location. (We did need to rent a Diet-to-Go refrigerator to store the meals in to become a drop-off location, but there was no minimum participation required.) 

We received our first deliver last Tuesday. I ordered three lunches from the low-carb menu to try out the program. Most of the lunches on the traditional/low-fat menu were sandwiches which didn't appeal to me. The meals are individually packaged with heating instructions and nutritional information on the label. I enjoyed two of the lunches -- chimichura salmon with marinated asparagus and creole shrimp stew with a piece of string cheese. The third lunch was 960 calories of chicken wings. I took that home for my son. The people I talked with seem to like most of the meals they've tried although one person did say she felt like she was eating airline food. A few people have said that they're struggling a bit to adjust to the portions -- a sign that they were eating more than they realized before. 

From an administrative stand point, Diet-to-Go handles most everything. People can call or order online. They receive a confirmation email. If there are any problems with the orders, staff deal directly with Diet-to-Go. Their staff have been friendly and helpful. All and all, an easy enhancement to our wellness program.  

Friday, February 3, 2012

Innovation Day!

Graphic Record of Innovation Day created by Greg Gersch
We held a Day of Innovation on Monday in our office. Our Executive Director introduced the idea prompted by an ASAE initiative. A team of staff worked for about a month to pull together a day filled with activities that would help us take a fresh look at our work. 

The team solicited input from staff on session topics and we tapped into our pool of trained facilitators to lead sessions. I gathered resources for each topic to give the facilitators a jumping off point and to provide information to staff that wanted to pursue a topic further. Maggie McGary, our online community and social media manager, mentioned to me that Pinterest is the 3rd most popular referring site to the ASHA blogInspired to do things differently, I decided to create an account and organize the materials on Pinterest. I liked the virtual bulletin board concept and found it easily conducive to organizing materials from a variety of media. I interviewed people throughout the day creating short videos on my iPhone and it was simple to upload them to You Tube and pin them to the Pinterest site. A lot of us are finding Pinterest addictive, so consider yourself warned. (I kind of wish I would have created two accounts now -- one for business and one personal, but oh well. Half the time I wouldn't know where to draw that line anyway.)  

More directly related to wellness, Innovation Day inspired one of our staff members to suggest we acquire a few devices that people could use to be more active at their desks like those little bike pedal things. (Thanks Karen!) Has anyone tried this at work? I'm thinking I'll order a couple gadgets and let some folks try it out. We all know how unhealthy it is to sit for long periods of time.

A true highlight of the day was the graphic record above created by Greg Gersch

Interested in using Pinterest? Check out Pinterest for Associations: New Audience, New Addiction by Deirdre Reid.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Biggest Loser 2012 -- Week 1

We have 36 individuals participating in our 2012 Biggest Loser program. They're grouped into six even teams. In an effort to increase engagement this year, we've implemented a simple cash prize program. Each participant contributed $24 when they signed up. This amounts to $2 per week, half of that ($1 per week) goes to the weekly winner (individual with the highest percentage weight lost) and half ($1) to the overall winner (individual with the highest percentage of weight lost at the end of the 12 week program.) We'll also announce a winning team each week. Each member of the winning team will receive a package of Corn Thins and bragging rights for the week. (I'll try to explain the Corn Thins another time.)

Week 1 Results
Our week one winner, Temple Gomez, lost 3% of her weight. (Weigh to go Temple!) Our winning team is Team MoGo -- Moms on the Go. They lost 1.46% of their starting weight, 12.75 pounds. Our 36 participants lost a total of 44 pounds in week one. 

Here's a little inspiration going into Week 2. Maybe it will help you stay on track Super Bowl Sunday.