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WWCMA Employer Wellness Program Q&A with athenahealth

Posted By Melissa Matheson, Monday, June 13, 2016

WWCMA Massachusetts Employer Wellness Program Q&A with athenahealth




Date: June 8, 2016
Organization: athenahealth
Interviewee: Kate Farren, Benefits Project Manager

athenahealth is a 2015 WWCMA WorkWell Massachusetts Silver Award recipient. WWCMA members want to hear more about worksite wellness programs and the impact they have on organizations and employees. Thank you Kate for sharing insights on athenahealth’s worksite wellness!

Tell us about yourself and your organization.

athenahealth is a leading provider of network-enabled services for electronic health records (EHR), revenue cycle management and medical billingpatient engagementcare coordination, and population health management, as well as Epocrates and other point-of-care mobile apps. We connect care and drive meaningful, measurable results for more than 78,000 healthcare providers nationwide.

I have been with athena for 6 years, and a member of our benefits team for 3.5. In addition to coordinating and managing athena’s Wellness programming, I also help manage our employee leaves of absence and disability processes. I also support the other members of our (amazing!) benefits team by helping to answer day to day employee benefits questions and in planning our annual Open Enrollment and Benefit Fair events. athena is a wonderful organization to work for - fast paced and dynamic where no day is the same as the one before. Our employees are engaged and motivated and really have a passion for the work they do and the company they work for.

Why are wellness programs important for your organization?

With an average age of 33, our population is young, healthy, and has proven overall to be low health risk. However, that’s not to say we don’t need to focus on wellness efforts. Our goals are is to keep our healthy employees healthy and engaged in their own well-being, while providing programming that keeps them engaged in the company and culture as a whole. For those with higher levels of health risks, we partner with our medical plan vendor, Aetna, to provide education on their health conditions and coaching opportunities to better their health. With an employee population that spans the county, we recognize there is not a one size fits all solution for wellness. Programs that work in our Austin, TX office might be quite different from the programs that strike a chord with our Belfast, ME employees, so we work to tailor our programming accordingly. Onsite champions and advocates in each of our offices allow us to have a finger on the pulse of the needs and interests of our different populations. Additionally, we offer a wide range of wellness activities that resonate with different personalities. Some employees prefer the quiet midday break of an on-site Yoga or Meditation practice while others enjoy partnering with teammates for a little friendly competition on a company sponsored team or club. Still others seek more data on their current health status and choose to complete a health risk assessment and follow the recommended programs that align with their needs. As our population, and the idea of health promotion itself, grows and changes, we recognize we will need to grow and change right alongside in order to provide our employees with the best range of programming for their individual needs and interests.

What wellness program(s) have you implemented?

With the help of the benefits team, our larger HR division and in coordination with other departments and athenistas across the organization, athena has been able to implement some wonderful programs to provide variety and help keep our employees engaged. Every new hire has the opportunity to order a FREE fitbit device, or order an upgraded device at a heavily subsidized rate. Employees are offered the opportunity to compete in quarterly challenges alongside their family members and colleagues on the Aetna “Get Active” platform. Across our office locations, we provide healthy food options, sponsored sports teams and clubs, onsite Yoga, local gym discounts, back up day care and access to local CSA programs. Many of our offices offer access to local walking and biking trails and, as such, our facilities teams have provided campus bikes for daily use by our athenistas. We provide generous paid maternity, paternity, and adoption leave benefits and employees who have been with athena for 8 years or more are eligible to take Sabbatical Leave.


What impact is/are they having on your organization and employees?

While we’ve seen some tangible results in items like claims numbers, employee referrals, and increased pay-outs of fitness & wellness reimbursements, the impact is more than ROI or decreased claims costs. These wellness programs provide a way for our employees to come together and engage in their health and wellness while supporting the mission of athena as a whole. athena emphasizes employee engagement and encourages our employees to bring their “whole selves” to work each day. I believe that providing opportunities for employees to make healthy, informed decisions about their personal well-being is paramount in making employees feel like they can bring their whole selves and be their best selves at the office.


Who are your wellness champions? (CEO, division leader, HR leader, an employee, etc)

While have specific individuals in each of our offices that I call upon for assistance, advice, or help in communicating upcoming events, I believe that all of our employees who participate in our various wellness programs are our champions. They are our best form of marketing as many of our programs gain momentum and participation through word of mouth. You’ll also see members of our C-Suite participating in the Trek Across Maine each year alongside their colleagues from every cohort level and our CEO is passionate about our healthy café options and access to local agriculture. Our athenistas are passionate about both having fun and living well and it shows across all levels of the organization.


Any words of wisdom for organizations starting a new program?

Don’t get frustrated if you don’t have a large budget or employee resources to make sweeping changes.  Every program has to start somewhere, so even small changes can make a big impact on your employees. Not sure where to start? Ask your employees! They are your best resource, are eager to help and have wonderful ideas that you may never have even thought of! 

Tags:  athenahealth  Worksite Wellness  worksite wellness programs  Workwell Massachusetts 

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The Worksite Wellness Council of Massachusetts (WWCMA) is the preeminent, independent and objective resource for health promotion in the workplace and champions wellness programs to help employers encourage healthy employees, healthy families, and healthy communities across the Commonwealth.