Are healthy workers more productive? That is one of the questions being explored today at the international meeting of the Institute of Health and Productivity Management (IHPM) in Scottsdale, Arizona. I’m here to deliver the opening keynote at this gathering of health benefits managers, HR administrators, prevention specialists, clinicians and others. My colleague Louis Burns, VP of Intel’s digital health group (picture below), followed my presentation with a terrific talk about the impact of elder care on today’s working population and how various technologies, many of them very simple, can be harnessed to help keep Mom and Dad healthy and living independently. Mr. Burn’s address melded well with the themes in my presentation about global health trends and the impact these trends will have on health and healthcare delivery.
Many people who don’t know about the deep investments Microsoft is making in solutions for the health industry get a bit confused when they meet me or read my title; senior director, worldwide health. Especially at a conference such as IHPM, they assume that a medical doctor working at Microsoft must have something do do with our employee wellness or benefits program. Of course, that is not what I do. But I do have a lot of interest in corporate health and wellness programs and how technology can be leveraged to improve access to, and outcomes from, these initiatives.
The exhibit hall at IHMP is teaming with companies big and small that offer health screenings, wellness and prevention programs for major corporations. We all know that lifestyle contributes to many if not all of our most pressing chronic diseases. And this is no longer a problem confined to America. Mr. Burns outlined a new mandate in Japan that will require all employers to regularly measure their employees’ waistlines and face fines if programs to trim the fat aren’t working.
While I don’t expect American companies to follow suit, obesity is a leading risk factor for chronic disease, decreased productivity, and absenteeism. Perhaps that’s why I was especially intrigued by a solution being offered by an Australian company called DeskActive. I first met up with the company’s CEO, Josh Swinnerton, in Redmond last week. It turned out that he and I just happened to be going to the same conference, IHPM, where DeskActive was an exhibitor. I snapped a photo of Josh in front of his stand. The premise behind the company is to get all of us who are chained to a computer all day to focus a bit more on physical activity and health. DeskActive has developed a novel program to engage computer users while they work, encourage breaks, and foster simple exercises that can be done to improve health and well being. Their solution also helps benefits managers monitor how their workers are doing and helps pinpoint problems before they occur. To learn more, you can check out their web site.
Are healthy employees more productive? You bet! And with that in mind, I’m going to put on my sun screen and take a long walk around the golf course before it gets dark. Never let it be said that I don’t practice what I preach.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft Corporation