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The latest healthcare topics from a trusted, proven, and unbiased source.

Reflections from Visits to Three Manufacturers that Built Cultures of Health

Previously posted on

By Ron Z. Goetzel/Thursday, October 01, 2015

As jobs continue to be outsourced, employers seek workers who have the skills and “know-how” to run complex manufacturing processes. They also seek workers who are “present” and engaged in their jobs, both physically and emotionally. Our visits to three manufacturing companies highlighted key elements necessary for building healthy company cultures.

First, success is hinged on a commitment by leaders to establish a healthy company culture at all levels of the organization. Senior management needs to be part of the wellness committee and not simply delegate the task to employees who lack the authority to make critical operational decisions.

Second, creating a “culture” as opposed to implementing a “program” was a message repeated throughout our visits. A central element of culture, expressed by employees, is a sense of trust between labor and management. This is experienced in the form of collaborative work groups, profit-sharing arrangements, good medical benefits, fair wages, open communications, and a safe work environment. Interwoven into that culture is the often-repeated mantra: “being healthy allows you to enjoy the fruits of your labor.”

Third, a healthy company provides plentiful resources for leading a healthy life. Whatever your personal mission in life – to be a good parent or husband, to contribute meaningfully to your community, to follow your faith or religion, to do good in the world – it can only be achieved when you are not distracted by health problems. As an old proverb reminds us, “Many people spend their health for wealth, and then try to spend their wealth for health."

Finally, successful programs abound when they directly address the strategic and operational goals of the organization in which those programs reside.  Additionally, they need to directly address and respond to the personal health improvement goals established by workers.  Having a health promotion program in and of itself cannot be the end goal; the program needs to support the company’s mission and vision in a very direct and explicit manner.  When asked why the company sponsors a workplace health promotion program, all employees, including executives and line workers, should have a ready answer – to improve the health and well-being of individual employees, and the organization that employs them. 


Written by Ron Goetzel, Truven Health Vice President Health and Productivity Research, with support by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Employees as “Family”

Previously posted on

By Truven Staff/Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Turck Inc., an international manufacturer of industrial automation technology located in Plymouth, MN, employs about 500 workers in the U.S. and about 2,500 worldwide. Grounded in the company is the principle that an employer has a responsibility to look after workers’ health and well-being and serve as a good corporate citizen in the community where the company is based. Workers are not simply employees of the firm; they are part of a large family and therefore need to be treated with respect and dignity.

Turck’s CEO Dave Lagerstrom believes workers should wake up each morning willing and eager to get to their jobs because they work in an excellent environment. Work, according to Lagerstrom, is where employees learn and grow – and the work setting should promote well-being.

Read the full article by Ron Goetzel here


Creating Cultures of Health in Small Manufacturing Companies

Previously posted on

By Ron Z. Goetzel/Tuesday, September 29, 2015

In December 2013, my team and I traveled to companies throughout the United States to see firsthand how employers have instituted cultures of health within their organizations in order to improve the health and well-being of their workers. The conventional wisdom holds that large employers (those with many resources and large staff) can readily put workplace health promotion programs in place, but small employers, especially manufacturing companies, have a hard time doing so. It turns out that small manufacturers can, and do, have effective programs.   

If you think about it, small employers have some advantages that large businesses lack. They have fewer layers for decision-making, they can create work cultures that promote participation in workplace health promotion programs, and their leaders may be visible champions for healthy behaviors.

Our December travels took us to three manufacturing companies headquartered in the north-central region of the United States: Turck Inc., Graco Inc., and Lincoln Industries. During each site visit, we sat down with the company’s senior executives, middle managers and supervisors, program implementers, and a cross-section of workers. The reason for scheduling meetings with so many stakeholders within the organization was to make sure we weren’t just hearing the company “line” espoused by program implementers. We also wanted to hear directly the unique perspectives of the various groups most affected by these programs – employees, their bosses, and the company’s leaders who sign the checks to fund health promotion programs and are ultimately responsible for the financial outcomes for the business. We held separate meetings with each group of employees, which allowed my team to cross-reference observations made from various layers within the organization.

Each of the companies visited reflected a unique profile, but in each organization, a distinct “culture of health” had been created to fit into the overall fabric of the business. The underlying philosophy articulated by people we interviewed was that a healthy employee (defined broadly to include physical, emotional, social, financial, and spiritual health) exudes a positive attitude about work, relates better to fellow employees, has trust in company leaders, and feels valued as a partner in the enterprise. This positive attitude, in turn, contributes to the company’s overall success and bottom line.

In our next few blogs – starting with Turck Inc. – we share our observations about these three small- to medium-sized manufacturing companies, and the insights we gained from examining their programs close-up. 

Written by Ron Goetzel, Truven Health Vice President Health and Productivity Research, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


Modern Healthcare’s Look at Lean

By Marc Hafer/Monday, September 28, 2015

Though my inbox is usually flooded, a headline from the Modern Healthcare newsletter I receive caught my eye this week.  A special report titled, “Learning to Be Lean,” showcased Presence Health’s Lean transformation. Not only did the article highlight tangible savings - sepsis mortality rate decreased from 24 percent to 9 percent for instance - but it also called attention to soft improvements achieved when engaged stakeholders commit to Lean quality improvements. Staff at all levels felt more comfortable approaching management with challenges and taking accountability for driving change. Engagement levels and morale of staff involved in improvement processes increased. Management was better able to pinpoint problem areas in order to determine the best course of action.


Presence Health has been a Simpler client for years and it is both rewarding and encouraging to see the organization’s improvements recognized. We’re proud to have had the management at Presence Health refer to Simpler as “the guys who got us started’ in Lean. And it’s encouraging that each year more healthcare organizations understand that in order to deliver the best care in today’s dynamic and challenging healthcare environment, productivity and efficiency must be at the center. These are among the goals of Lean.


I’d like to acknowledge some other Simpler clients included in the article as leaders in “adopting Lean methods to redesign clinical and business processes.”


  • Simpler worked with Denver Health on its Lean journey to become the first health organization to be awarded the Bronze Medallion Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence. Patricia Gabow, M.D., former Denver Health CEO, is now one of our senior advisors. 


  • ThedaCare, a nonprofit community health system, turned to Simpler to work with their architects and builders when planning a new clinic. As ThedaCare’s Lean coaches and advisors from the inception of their improvement system in 2003, we were proud to help them rethink the building’s design to better meet patient needs, while completing it ahead of schedule and under budget.


  • Our colleagues at Joan Wellman & Associates (JWA Consulting), who brought additional specialized expertise in Advanced Lean operating systems in healthcare when they joined Simpler and Truven last year, work closely with Seattle Children's Hospital.



As the Modern Healthcare article points out, only in the past decade or so have health systems adopted Lean. When I reflect back on the return and improvements our clients have seen in that time, I’m optimistic of the positive change Lean can deliver for years to come. 

Marc Hafer
President, Simpler

A Truven Health Analytics company

Use Data Visualization to Tell a Meaningful Story

By Jennifer Huyck/Monday, September 28, 2015


Rising costs and changing regulations are causing the C-suite to expect HR professionals to manage employee benefits with the same precision as other operations. They want accurate and timely information about healthcare costs and trends, and they need reports and solutions that align with business challenges. But how can this information be presented in a format that’s highly valuable, effective, and easy to understand?

According to a recent article by InfoWorld, the healthcare industry is going to experience the farthest-reaching positive impact from big data visualization. “Thirty six percent of healthcare companies are currently investing in big data analytics”, said Gartner. “Another 15 percent plan to make the investment within the year, bringing the healthcare industry to the forefront of this movement."

What are the Benefits of Data Visualization?

If done properly, data visualization can help your organization:

  • Process and present large quantities of data in an effective way
  • Uncover new challenges that weren’t previously on the radar
  • Easily compare and contrast data points with standardization
  • Create a shared vision that aligns team members around a problem or solution

What Can You do to Reap all the Benefits of Data Visualization?

First and foremost, don’t forget that the basics of data presentation have stayed the same, which means that stakeholders still need accurate, up-to-date, and consistent information on meaningful performance metrics.

Next, read our latest insights brief, Tell a Meaningful Story with Data: Four Best Practices, for more information on successfully executing the right data visualization reporting in your organization.

Jen Huyck
Vice President, Payer Analytics and Reporting