At GE, a healthy workforce is essential to the vitality of our company. Improving the quality and value of health care through company-wide programs and market-based initiatives has helped us drive a healthy workforce and provide health care benefits for 500,000 individuals in the United States at an annual cost of $2 billion.
Over the past decade, we have been developing a comprehensive approach to health benefits and wellness. Our strategy aligns an ongoing communication campaign, benefit design, consumer tools and support, delivery system initiatives (e.g., centers of excellence, accountable care organizations, onsite clinics), and programs that address high-risk conditions and chronic disease.
At the core of our strategy is a clear message: Lead a healthy lifestyle and understand the quality and cost of care. A consumer-directed health benefits design across our U.S. population supports that message.
But more is needed to ensure long-term success. Engaging employees starts at work with a healthy work environment. This is central to GE’s global culture of health, which we call HealthAhead. In 2009, GE’s large worksites around the globe began meeting robust healthy workplace requirements. To date, 90 percent of our largest sites have earned this recognition, impacting approximately 220,000 employees. Since HealthAhead’s inception, our U.S. health care cost increases have averaged less than 3 percent annually, and we have seen double-digit reductions in health-related absences in the United States.
When making health care decisions, employees value easy access to meaningful information. Typically, they want the basics — how much a service costs and whether there are differences in quality. Launched in 2011, the GE Treatment Cost Calculator, an online tool and mobile app, helps employees research the cost of care for specific procedures, get personalized estimates and find quality doctors. About a quarter of GE families are using the tool, finding savings opportunities across the country.
When faced with a challenging diagnosis, our employees also want access to a personal expert to guide them. So, in 2006, we created Health Coach from GE — a confidential, voluntary resource staffed by nurses who help employees and their families find quality providers, discuss treatment options, access second opinions and understand their benefits. Coaches receive more than 20,000 calls annually, and researchers from the Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital published results in The Journal of General Internal Medicine demonstrating that patients took the coaches’ advice more than 80 percent of the time.
Ultimately, we’ve learned that driving a healthy workforce and improving value requires multiple strategies, including working with providers to improve quality and cost and engaging employees. Constant cultivation of these efforts can have a positive impact, which continues to benefit us at GE.