Sentara Healthcare Saves $3.4 Million and Improves Employee Health
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Sentara Healthcare Saves $3.4 Million and Improves Employee Health 

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Employee Healthcare Just Got Less Expensive

Virginia Beach, VA (October 2010)- A three-year, incentive-based wellness program at Sentara Healthcare, implemented in partnership with Optima Health, a division of Sentara Healthcare, demonstrated a substantial improvement in employee health and a $3.4-million savings in healthcare costs.

For every dollar spent to incentivize employees to improve their health, Sentara Healthcare saved $6, says Optima Health President and CEO Michael M. Dudley.

Called “Mission: Health,” the program was launched in 2008 for over 11,200 benefit-eligible Sentara Healthcare employees in Virginia and North Carolina. Sentara Healthcare partnered with Optima Health, as its insurance carrier, to help manage employee health costs.

Nearly 80 percent of employees participated in the program, which demonstrated significant clinical improvements in risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), exercise and tobacco use.

“The most important outcome of the wellness program for Optima Health is the difference it has made in people’s lives,” comments Dudley.

Sentara Healthcare Senior Vice President for Human Resources Michael Taylor says Sentara Healthcare  leaders didn’t want to continue increasing employee co-pays and premiums, so they sought another solution. Realizing that 20 percent of employees were producing 80 percent of healthcare costs, Sentara leaders believed they could significantly cut costs if employees were encouraged to better manage their chronic diseases.

“The biggest challenge is keeping people engaged,” says Optima Health Vice President of Clinical Care Services Karen Bray, PhD, RN, who was central in the program design. While Sentara, like an estimated 86 percent of the country’s employers, offered a wellness program in the past, it achieved only modest success through nominal rewards to employees. Much larger incentives were provided through Mission: Health to motivate employees.

Employees were asked to complete a voluntary personal health profile (PHP) that measured risk factors. Those with low risk factors were immediately awarded a $500+ annual premium reduction. Those with two or more risk factors could earn the incentive by working with a health coach. Those who declined to participate forfeited the discounts.

Employees with targeted chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure – or who were pregnant – were eligible for additional incentives if they worked with disease managers who monitored their medication, medical check-ups and other crucial health activity. Those employees earned an additional $460 per year.

Bray predicts the cost savings are likely to continue for the next three to five years and then reach a plateau where costs will remain relatively flat. At that point, the program will keep costs from increasing, she says.

For additional information about employee wellness programs, contact 1-866-380-9668 or email the

About Optima Health
Optima Health provides health insurance coverage to more than 432,000 members throughout Virginia.  With 25 years of experience in the health insurance arena, Optima Health offers a suite of commercial products including consumer-directed, employee-owned and employer-sponsored plans, individual health plans, employee assistance programs and plans serving Medicare and Medicaid enrollees. Our provider network features 21,000 providers including specialists, primary care physicians and hospitals across Virginia. Optima Health offers programs to support members with chronic illnesses, customized wellness programs, and integrated clinical and behavioral health services as well as pharmacy management – all to help our members improve their health. Our goal is to provide better health, to be easy to use and offer services that are a great value. To learn more about Optima Health, visit

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