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ARTICLE Case Study: City of Austin


Case Study: City of Austin

Wellness initiatives can help drive better health care decisions and cost savings

The City of Austin, confronted with specific health challenges facing its employee population, including high rates of chronic illness and limited access to preventive health resources, collaborated with UnitedHealthcare to overhaul employee health and wellness programs. The focus was twofold: empower employees to make better decisions about health care and free up resources that would help improve and sustain benefits over the long term.

The City's Goals

  • Offer an array of health and wellness resources to suit the diverse needs of a large employee population
  • Change employee behavior and empower them to make more effective and informed health care decisions
  • Realize savings that could help expand and sustain benefits

An Engaging Solution

The City of Austin expanded and shifted its focus on employee health from a traditional view of wellness to one of health management. In launching its HealthyConnections wellness program, the City sought to shift from merely offering activities to implementing results-oriented programs.

HealthyConnections incorporated a variety of health and wellness solutions. One of the key features of the program was the focus on monitoring health status through Health Assessments (work site health screenings). Health management solutions were critical to the program?s strategy and included several fitness, nutrition and smoking-cessation initiatives.1 To get employees engaged and motivated, the City offered a mix of worksite health screenings, health expos, challenges, awareness campaigns and educational events to employees.

To streamline care before, during and after hospital visits, the plan offered employees personalized medical support through the NurseLineSM and One Hospital/One Nurse programs, which provided symptom decision support to encourage the right care at the right time.1 In addition, Personal Health Support offered tailored support to patients with chronic conditions. To encourage employee participation in wellness and disease management programs, the City of Austin offered incentives and flex time to boost engagement and reward individual progress.

Wellness Works

Through its integrated and award-winning wellness program, more City of Austin employees are becoming engaged and making better decisions, with the result being significantly lower health care costs. Measurable results include:

Increased Engagement2

  • The number of engaged employees has almost doubled
  • 45% of engaged employees have completed a health assessment
  • Doubled participation in activities for top three health risks (body weight, stress, blood pressure)
  • Engaged employees have 50% compliance with breast cancer screenings (almost double nonengaged employees)
  • Dramatic increase in participation in worksite exercise classes (1st quarter 2012 exceeded 2011 total)

Improved Decisions for Engaged Employees2

  • Better preventive utilization – 50% more engaged employees took advantage of a wellness exam
  • 14% lower emergency room utilization
  • 52% of employees believe their health has improved (annual survey)
  • Engaged employees have a -3.2% trend compared to 3.6% for the non-engaged group
  • Engaged employees cost 23% less with fewer high cost claims

Significant Cost Savings

  • Network Savings: $123 million
  • Medical Trend Savings: $7.7 million
  • Wellness Engagement: $3.2 million
  • Personal Health Support: $3 million
  • Pharmacy: $1.6 million
  • One Hospital/One Nurse: $1.1 million
  • NurseLine: $157,000
  • $140 million2 in cost savings in three years

Learn how you can make wellness work for you, so your employees make better decisions and you achieve ongoing cost savings. For more information, contact your UnitedHealthcare representative.

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81% of municipal finance directors nationwide say that health care costs have a growing impact on their city's fiscal condition.