Insights: Columbus | Business Spotlight | Fall 2017

Wellness initiatives and the OhioHealth mission

How OhioHealth improves access to health care, starting with its own associates

Karen Morrison, Sr VP, OhioHealth , Dr. Krisanna Deppen, MD and David Blom, President and CEO, OhioHealth
By Brooke N. Bates

Step into any internal meeting at OhioHealth, and whether the topic of discussion is finance, operations or facilities, someone is likely to mention patients.

“One thing that really contributes to our success is that we keep the patient at the center of everything that we do,” says Karen Morrison, senior vice president at OhioHealth and president of its fundraising arm, The OhioHealth Foundation. “We’re trying to be the most efficient organization we can, delivering the best quality of care, and we do that by organizing our priorities around the patient.”

OhioHealth’s mission is “to improve the health of those we serve.” The Columbus, Ohio-based, not-for-profit health care system takes a proactive approach to help people stay well and healthy, Morrison says. Its expanding array of services – from mobile care to on-site disease prevention programs – focus on delivering care when and where people need it.

With more than 28,000 associates, physicians and volunteers committed to this mission – and plenty of partners supporting them – OhioHealth aims to improve the health of Central Ohioans both inside and outside the walls of its 11 hospitals and more than 50 health services sites.

Patients are at the center of everything we do.
“We keep the patient at the center of everything that we do.” – Karen Morrison, President, OhioHealth Foundation and Senior Vice President, OhioHealth

Culture of care

Most health care systems work to improve patient care, but what sets OhioHealth apart is how deeply the culture of care is embedded. Leaders take care of associates first, knowing that happy, healthy employees can deliver the best quality of care for patients.

“Our culture sets us apart,” says Morrison, who says it is the reason she’s stayed with the organization for nearly 30 years. “We invest in our associates. By creating a satisfied workforce, we enable our workforce to deliver better care.” One of the ways OhioHealth cares for its associates is through its health and wellness initiative, appropriately called OhioHealthy.

“Our leadership and human resources teams have invested a lot in wellness and prevention for our associates,” says Marissa Michaels, system vice president of Employer Services at OhioHealth. “We have an on-site clinic where we do biometric screenings and annual flu shots, and we have many fitness opportunities to keep associates happy and healthy.” Incentives are built in to OhioHealth’s wellness initiatives. For associates who exercise a certain number of days per quarter, for example, there’s no cost to participate in fitness programs at local partner organizations like the YMCA, Grant Health and Fitness Center, and McConnell Heart Health Center.

“Keeping your associates healthy is the right thing to do, but it’s also good business,” Morrison says. “We’re finding that our associates are more satisfied because of the investments we’ve made to help them maintain their health.”

Healthy employees

The correlation between wellness initiatives and happy associates is backed by research. A 2015 survey published by Quantum Workplace found that employees were 38 percent more engaged and 17 percent less likely to leave when they thought employers cared about their well-being. Yet only 29 percent of employees think their employers have a strong culture of health, the 2016 Consumer Health Mindset Study found.

OhioHealth saw an opportunity to help employers implement effective wellness programs and launched its Employer Services division in 1997. The division develops customized wellness programs for companies to help engage employees, reduce medical costs and increase productivity.

“By learning how to engage our own associates, we can use those lessons to deploy successful programs and resources for other employers,” says Michaels, who leads Employer Services. Today, OhioHealth provides employer services to more than 4,000 Ohio employers annually. Its services range from disease prevention programs and group fitness classes to individual health coaching and on-site clinics.

After years of providing screenings and resources at Huntington’s corporate and branch offices, OhioHealth’s most recent on-site partnership is taking shape at Huntington’s new Gateway Center. In Columbus’ Northland neighborhood, Huntington invested $18.3 million to convert a 210,000-square-foot facility into an operations center that began housing 1,400 colleagues when it opened in September. The new complex includes an on-site Wellness Center staffed by OhioHealth nurse practitioners and licensed practical nurses, as well as an 8,500-square-foot fitness facility managed by OhioHealth. Huntington’s colleagues have access to fitness classes, stress reduction programs, preventive care, acute care, health coaching, and disease prevention programs targeted to meet their specific health needs.

“Huntington has been a great partner in wanting to provide access to care directly at the workplace so colleagues can get the resources they need,” Michaels says.

Grant Medical Center
OhioHealth Grant Medical Center
(Photo Courtesy of OhioHealth)

Community service

OhioHealth is committed to making quality health care more accessible, whether that means going on site to serve a company’s employees or traveling into underserved communities in mobile medical offices.

“There’s a growing need for care, especially in certain populations and neighborhoods where there are health disparities,” Morrison says. “Because we understand what the community’s needs are and where access to care is most important, we’re able to direct our resources to those areas.”

Knowing that Ohio has one of the country’s worst infant mortality rates, OhioHealth has made it a priority to help improve Ohioans’ access to prenatal care. About 20 years ago, the organization introduced Wellness on Wheels (WOW), a mobile medical unit staffed by OB/GYN physicians.

The unit travels around Columbus providing health services to pregnant women and girls. While Ohio reported an overall infant mortality rate of 7.2 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015, according to the Ohio Department of Health, the rate is 5.2 for women served by OhioHealth’s WOW unit. “We recognize that what we’re doing is making an impact in our community,” Morrison says.

Other businesses recognize the impact, as well. Through a grant Huntington Bank funded a $900,000 expansion of WOW’s services at the beginning of 2017. “Now with the help of Huntington’s funding, we’re taking our mobile unit into one of our at-risk communities to provide primary care,” says Krisanna Deppen, M.D., medical director of Wellness on Wheels Primary Care.

OhioHealth Wellness on Wheels truck
Wellness on Wheels (WOW) mobile unit
(Photo Courtesy of OhioHealth)


For three half-days each week, the WOW unit parks at partner organizations such as the YMCA to bring primary care into the community. OhioHealth is piloting the program in Columbus’ Hilltop neighborhood, due to the low number of primary care physicians and overuse of emergency departments. The program uses the same 54-foot WOW unit, but replaces OB/GYN nurses with primary care physicians to serve patients efficiently.

WOW Primary Care provides physical exams, preventive screenings and immunizations, management of chronic health conditions, and diagnosis and treatment of medical concerns. OhioHealth eventually plans to expand the pilot program. “We have many other areas in our community that would benefit from this model once we’ve established it in this neighborhood,” Deppen says.

Last year, OhioHealth provided more than $296 million in community benefits through initiatives like WOW. Over the next five years, the organization has committed to invest an additional $7.3 million in its community-based health and wellness programs.

“We’re committed to keeping care local and making sure that patients have access to the care they need, regardless of their ability to pay,” Morrison says. “We can’t do it alone, so we’ll continue to look for partners like Huntington that want to help us reach out to the community and provide care where people need it most.”

Financial wellness

OhioHealth invests in associates through a variety of health and wellness programs, “but it’s not just the physical aspect of wellness we focus on,” says Marissa Michaels, system vice president of Employer Services. “We’re also working on financial wellness.”

In 2014, Huntington launched a residential mortgage program to help OhioHealth associates finance and refinance their homes. The program has provided residential mortgage loans to more than 250 individuals or families.

In addition to loans, the program focuses on financial education, says Rick Zarnoch, senior vice president at Huntington. Huntington offers on-site consumer finance classes for OhioHealth associates and their spouses, covering everything from credit scores and budgeting to buying a house.

“We’re truly grateful for the partnerships we have with organizations like Huntington that understand that a healthy community increases quality of life for everyone,” says Karen Morrison, senior vice president of external affairs at OhioHealth and president of its fundraising arm, the Ohio Health Foundation.

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