Corporate Health Partners’ CEO Jack Curtis was recently interviewed by the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) as a member of the association’s Think Tank, for the association’s Industry Leadership Spotlight.
As a member of the HERO Think Tank, Jack gives voice to key initiatives and principles relevant to the employee health management industry. With his vast experience in creating measurable employee wellness programs and his active participation in organizations like HERO, Jack helps guide thought and policy on industry issues.
To follow is the transcript of the HERO interview.
Q: How did you begin in the EHM field?
“In 2001, I left a job as General Manager of a Berkshire Hathaway business that made powered
equipment and became President and COO of LIFESIGNS, a multi-site corporation that
does affordable, comprehensive physicals in a spa-like setting. Though LIFESIGNS exams were
terrific, I learned that from an employer’s perspective, we needed to spend less on finding the
unknown problems and more on fixing the known problems – the poor lifestyle choices that
drive the vast majority of healthcare costs. With that conviction, and a firm belief that demand
for wellness would grow as the need became more obvious, I founded Corporate Health Partners.”
Q: What was the motivating factor behind your move from GM of the equipment manufacturer to President and COO of LIFESIGNS?
“I would like to say it was a larger vision I had to change the direction of my career, but the
fact is that Berkshire Hathaway was downsizing and my position was going away. By networking with my industry contacts, I found the LIFESIGNS position. What made me a good fit for that job was my process and quality management background. The concepts of continuous quality improvement, based on building teamwork and a culture of quality, are perfectly suited to the health management field.”
Q: What are some key milestones you have achieved?
* “Founding Corporate Health Partners in 2002”
* “Adding my son to the team in 2005”
* “Leading the HERO Think Tank subcommittee that organized the HERO Association for
Employee Health Management in 2009”
* “Retooling our business model to focus on culture in 2008”
* “Being asked to lead the Innovation Committee of the HERO Think Tank in 2010”
Q: Can you tell me about a few of the areas that the Innovation Committee will focus on in 2010?
“I think the other HERO committees that deal with research, the HERO scorecard, education
and the Koop Award are essentially “looking back” to find and disseminate about processes
that have proven to be best practices. I think they will naturally deal more with operational
best practices in EHM as they investigate the Koop Award winners, scorecard, HERO research
and the stories that make good Forum presentations.”
“I think the Innovation Committee needs to primarily deal with more strategic concerns, by
“looking forward” to fulfill HERO’s role as a luminary. I think we need to develop an annual
process for looking forward and seeing where the industry needs to go. We’ll need to answer
questions like: given what we learned, what should be tried next, what promising innovations
surfaced, how can HERO help test the new innovations and how do we see innovations changing the industry over the next 3-5 years?”
Q: What is your best recommendation to peers?
“Keep the faith. Our industry is on the verge of turning around our unhealthy nation and making it a healthier, happier and more productive place to live.”
Q: What is biggest lesson learned?
“That’s a hard question, because there have been so many lessons I had to learn. I think the
biggest lesson should have been a lot more obvious, but it’s the fact that facilitating lasting lifestyle improvements requires culture change. Likewise, culture change requires not just management support, but motivational leadership. Without engaging top management, we’re usually wasting our own resources, as well as the clients.”
“Wellness programs are largely born from the need to control cost. The function of managing
them is often delegated to HR/benefits staff with limited input and buy-in from the leaders
of the organization. If this practice continues, our industry is in trouble. Wellness must move
from a feature of a benefit package to a core philosophy of the company. To be successful, we
need people at the C-suite who believe in it and really get it.”
Q: What would you still like to personally accomplish?
“This may sound a bit audacious, but I want to grow a business that is so engaging and effective
that we can essentially choose from the cream of the crop of employers who want to
work with us each year. As I look at the future of CHP, we may never become one of the big
players in the industry. And that’s fine with me. There’s a lot of demand for wellness so we
will pick and choose who we work with. Life is too short to work with clients where we’re
not a good fit and the senior leadership is not engaged.”
Q: What is your goal for the EHM industry?
“To help employers realize that employees are truly their most fundamental asset and that
EHM is the most fundamental strategy for growing a strong corporation.”
Q: Can you give me some specific examples of how we can do this?
“I think this is essentially the mission of HERO. We have to shift the focus from minimizing
healthcare costs to maximizing human performance. Fortunately, there are great companies
who already believe this, and they have successfully employed EHM to reap the benefits.
HERO is committed to learning what works from these companies and telling their stories in a
way that engage other senior leaders to get on board. So, bottom line, our best bet to realize
my goal is to do my best to support HERO’s mission.”
Q: What are the major trends that will affect the EHM industry?
* “Demand for EHM will increase dramatically, driven by long term needs for healthcare cost
control and productivity improvement.”
* “Programs will become more comprehensive, forcing vendor integration and data analytics
to the forefront.”
* “The application of quality management practices to EHM will dramatically improve program
effectiveness and efficiency.”
* “The development of means to facilitate social and cultural change in the workplace will
dramatically increase engagement of employees and dependents.”
Q: How do you think those trends will affect employers, employees and the industry?
“More employers will implement comprehensive programs, as the need and the evidence become more compelling.”
“More employees will get engaged as integration, quality and connectivity improve.
The industry will grow in size and stature, in proportion to dramatic gains in productivity.”
Q: How do you see employee engagement strategies growing and/or changing in the next two years?
“Identifying and addressing upstream issues that keep wellness off of employees’ priority lists.”
“In the virtual world, the role of social networking tools and their impact will continue to
grow as these tools mature. Using more team-based competitions and group interventions will
engage more as we increasingly address social needs.”
“While web-based technologies are an important and growing modality in creating employee
engagement, there’s still no replacement for that face-to-face interaction to motivate change
and increase the overall connectivity. My experience has been that face-to-face interaction
may be the only way you can engage with those individuals who are the hardest to motivate
and the ones in greatest need of an intervention.”
Q: How has the proliferation of brokers and consultants playing the role of wellness expert impacted our industry?
“While some of these individuals have a background in wellness and understand the industry, there is a lot of noise in health insurance about wellness. For many of these brokers, their motivation is selling health insurance, so achieving results and creating a culture of health is not their primary goal. I am worried that this will have a negative impact the credibility of the EHM field.”This spotlight was compiled by Philip Swayze. Philip is a Senior Consultant for The Health & Wellness Institute, a member of the HERO Think Tank and the Membership Committee for the HERO Association.