Wellness works: A partnership with Dare County employees

By on February 19, 2019

Marielle Silk, RN, FNP (left) works with Dare County employee Bonnie Bennett during a recent wellness visit.

Presented by The Outer Banks Hospital

The Dare County Employee Wellness Program, which focuses on prevention and wellness by offering convenient resources to county employees, has proven to be a model of success for creating a healthier community.

It is the culmination of a partnership between Dare County, The Outer Banks Hospital (OBH), Vidant Health and MedCost, which began in 2016.

“A healthy and vibrant community requires key stakeholders be invested in what’s required to make that a reality,” said Ronnie Sloan, president, OBH.

“Our Mission is to enhance the quality of life for the residents and visitors of Dare County and the surrounding region by promoting wellness and providing the highest quality health care services. We can’t do that in a vacuum and we’re grateful to our partners for their support.”

The Wellness Program, which had more than 630 participants in 2017-18, had a quantitative impact on the Dare County employee population. Preventative screenings like mammograms and colonoscopy screenings saw 11 and three percent increases, respectively, while preventative office visits went up by five percent.

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There also was a 10 percent reduction in avoidable emergency room encounters as well as a five percent reduction in inpatient medical admissions.

“Through The Outer Banks Hospital (part owned by Vidant Health) and the Wellness Program, our staff has really started to learn about their health and what they need to do to be healthy,” said Elizabeth Reilly, human resources director for Dare County.

“We have a lot of employees who are making those lifestyle changes which is amazing because before this, we really weren’t seeing that. The awareness has just been huge.”

And thanks to the Wellness Plan’s focus on keeping people out of the hospital, participants were able to save money as well. In fact, the actual spend for county employees with continuous enrollment in the program across a 24-month period was 21 percent lower than predicted, equating to $1.6 million in savings.

Jennifer Davenport, a deputy tax collector who has worked for Dare County for more than 25 years, has seen first-hand how a better understanding of her health can lead to positive changes. Biometric screenings offered through the Wellness Program offered her a chance to get one-on-one attention from registered nurses atTthe Outer Banks Hospital as well as nutritionists.

The screening showed that Davenport had high blood pressure and that a change was necessary. Now, Davenport has been soda-free and has significantly reduced her red meat intake.

“It made me aware of all the positive changes I could make,” Davenport said. “It made me quit drinking soda, I quit drinking sweet tea. I realized I needed to move more. It’s made me ever mindful of the changes I needed to make.”

Davenport isn’t alone when it comes to seeing results. Of the 125 members who had high cholesterol in 2017, 13 percent brought their levels down to an acceptable range. Similar positive progress applied to hypertension, diabetes and weight, which all were reduced among a number of participants.

The Wellness Program was made possible by the partnership between Dare County, OBH, Vidant and MedCost. Prior to its implementation in 2016, there was no Wellness Program that offered comprehensive education and disease prevention to County of Dare employees.

“The County of Dare was looking for a solution to rising healthcare costs,” said Amy Montgomery, senior administrator of operations for OBH and the program’s executive sponsor. “In addition to the switch to MedCost as a carrier, they put out a request-for-proposal for a comprehensive employee wellness program.

“We feel fortunate to be the wellness partner selected by the county. The partnership between the county, our wellness program and MedCost has resulted in healthier people and cost control. It’s a recipe that works.”

The work does not stop there. The Dare County Wellness Program is a model that other counties and employers can learn from to keep their employees healthy while helping them save money in the long run.

“We don’t invest in our community to make a profit,” Sloan said. “We invest in our community because it’s the right thing to do. We recognize that and Dare County recognizes that as well. Together, we are making great things happen.”

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