Partnership cuts workers’ comp and OSHA claims

To find a good example of proactive wellness activities leading to lower organizational health care costs, look no further than ThedaCare At Work.

This occupational wellness program has been administered by ThedaCare to Hoffmaster Group Inc. — an Oshkosh-based manufacturer of party goods like cups, plates, napkins and more — since 2011.

The company’s 1,000-or-so employees who work at its Clintonville and Oshkosh plants have access to personal health assessments, flu shots, on-site injury care, smoking cessation assistance and more. Workers can also take advantage of the employee assistance plan to get support on any number of issues, including stress in the workplace or at home.

“We do and have experienced great benefits from having occupational health on site, including a physical therapist who conducts ergonomics studies for workstations or employees with special concerns,” said Dave Vierthaler, vice president of human resources, quality, and environmental health and safety at Hoffmaster.

Patty DeGoey, head of corporate human resources for Hoffmaster, says she saw health care costs go down after both plants cut out smoking on site in March 2015 and ThedaCare At Work supported employees’ efforts to quit.

“And if a person gets sick or hurt on the job with something like a muscle pull or minor cut, our nurse can take care of him or her before considering the need to send someone to the hospital or clinic. We safely resolve a lot of concerns with professional care right here, inplant,” DeGoey said.

And this has resulted in a big decrease in workers’ compensation claims and OSHA reportables. Mary Beth Mazzocchi is a registered nurse who runs the program alongside Amber Hermsen and Denise Kermitz. She pegs Hoffmaster’s return on investment at between $2 and $3 for every $1 invested in ThedaCare At Work services.

This calculation includes hospital and clinic diversions, up to 50 percent savings on flu shot vaccines, fewer workers’ compensation claims, and lower health insurance costs after smoking cessation and weight loss programs.

“When we first came to Hoffmaster, the company didn’t fully understand what an occupational health nurse could do,” Mazzocchi said. “Now I feel like they fully embrace who we are and how we engage with employees. They see the benefits in their bottom line and their workplace culture. It’s a healthier place to work.”

Vierthaler points to an extra benefit which has occurred over the years in which ThedaCare and Hoffmaster have been working together.

“The nurses have become trusted confidants for employees, a safe place to discuss a wide range of physical and mental or emotional wellness concerns,” he said. “It’s a benefit that serves the best interests of both us as the employer and the employees. Our nurses are a trusted, confidential third party, and that’s hard to quantify, but it makes a big, positive difference for all of us.”

In its northeastern Wisconsin service area, ThedaCare serves over 200,000 patients each year, employing 6,700 healthcare professionals. The health care system has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose, as well as 32 clinics spread across nine counties.

This profile appears in the Wisconsin Technology Council’s recent publication, “Taking the Pulse – How Quality Healthcare Builds a Better Bottom Line.”

See the Tech Council publication here:

–By Alex Moe