Cummins Opens its own Innovative Health Center
Like executives at many other large companies, Cummins leadership watched in dismay about a decade ago as employee health care costs continued to rise.
They tried standard fixes, such as transferring more of the burden to employees, and some less conventional ones, such as providing health coaching and trying to improve nutritional choices in the cafeteria. They armed employees with Fitbits and encouraged them to engage in contests to see who could log the most steps, offering discounts on benefits to winners. They even tried to counter the culture of cookies at meetings.
Still, costs continued to rise and so did the incidence of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, among the engine maker’s workforce.
“Our health care costs were going up in an unsustainable way,” said Tom Linebarger, Cummins‘ chief executive officer and chairman. “We just started to think bigger. Maybe we can impact this. After all, we’re paying all the bills.”
The answer turned out to be a radical new approach to employee health that this past month assumed a brick and mortar form: Cummins’ new LiveWell Center just steps from its headquarters.
At 28,000 square feet, the facility exceeds the span of many outpatient medical centers. The center includes a laboratory, X-ray machine and stress-test equipment, as well as a space dedicated to occupational health.
But LiveWell is more than a standard primary care center. The idea that lifestyle choices are key to maintaining health and preventing disease infuses everything the center does. There is a training kitchen where a chef will teach patients how to prepare plant-based, healthier foods; occupational and physical therapy, where patients can rehabilitate after injuries or train for their next marathon; and massage and acupuncture services that aim to provide both stress and pain relief.
In recent weeks, Cummins has hosted both employee open houses and a VIP reception to unveil the center. The day after the employee open house, more than 500 people made appointments.
It’s a glistening new building with plenty of glass and clean lines, but the architecture isn’t what’s drawing people. Instead, it’s the novel mode of health care the center, managed by Premise Health, offers. Cummins officials declined to disclose how much the center cost to build.
LiveWell emphasizes achieving good health through positive lifestyle choices, such as avoiding tobacco and eating a mostly plant-based diet. Cummins leadership hopes to sway medical practice not by paying for procedures or on the basis of how many patients are seen in a day, but on how healthy those patients are over the course of time.
Premise Health will have 46 employees at the center, including eight providers, some of whom will have family medicine expertise so they can see employees’ children. A full-time pharmacist and optometrist also are on staff. A travel medicine nurse will deliver shots for Cummins employees traveling to company sites abroad.
Not every employee is likely to benefit, however. Cummins officials estimate that the center can only serve about half of the company’s workforce. If the program proves to be the success that Cummins thinks and hopes it will be, the challenge becomes how to bring its lessons to workers elsewhere, Linebarger said. This may sound like a tale of how engineers solved a problem that vexed health care for decades, but not to Linebarger. While the Cummins head allows a connection exists, he shies away from making too much of it.
“There’s an analogy there,” he said, “but like any analogy you can overplay it because a human being is not an engine.”
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