Healthcare

Southlake-based Sabre Shows Strong Workplace-Health Success

Southlake-based Sabre Holdings has been able to show a financial return on investment in its health and wellness programs by focusing on sustainable reductions in health risks, according to chief executive officer Sam Gilliland.

Gilliland was the keynote speaker Monday at the Health & Productivity Forum, sponsored by the National Business Coalition on Health and Integrated Benefits Institute, at the Fairmont Hotel. The conference, traditionally held in San Francisco, is making a one-year appearance in Dallas, according to the organizers. The meeting attracted more than 300 attendees from around the nation.

Sabre, which includes Travelocity, is the world’s leading travel technology company, with 10,000 employees in 60 countries. Its annual revenue is about $3 billion.

Gilliland said the company evolved its workplace health program from education and awareness through screenings and assessments to targeted intervention programs for specific conditions, such as weight loss, stress management and musculoskeletal conditions. Sabre also uses a concierge vendor to get “resources to help get the right care from the right provider at the right cost.”

Among the company’s results:

  • Metabolic syndrome was reduced 78 percentage points in three years using the Naturally Slim weight-loss program, saving an estimated $1.7 million in claims costs.
  • High blood pressure was reduced by two-thirds, and stress symptoms such as sleep loss, headaches, rapid heart rate and indigestion were reduced 50-70 percent.
  • A chiropractor visiting the company headquarters several days a week was able to resolve nearly all employee musculoskeletal issues, with a return on investment of about $4 for every $1 invested.
  • Using Dallas-based Compass Professional Health Services concierge service to help employees navigate the healthcare system enabled the company to save more than $561,000 in two years.

However, Gilliland said the financial returns “pale in comparison to the good will of our employees. It’s about doing the right thing.”

He said Sabre looks at national benchmarks to compare its performance, where he said it stacks up well. For example, about 18 percent of Sabre employees have metabolic syndrome, compared with about 33 percent for a typical employee population. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist or abnormal cholesterol levels — that often occur together, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Gilliland said “the conversation has changed” on workplace health.

“We are using health and wellness programs to improve overall health in very specific areas, such as chronic diseases. We have to talk about value in return for our investment. Wellness does translate into productivity gains,” he said.

Steve Jacob is editor of D Healthcare Daily and author of the new book Health Care in 2020: Where Uncertain Reform, Bad Habits, Too Few Doctors and Skyrocketing Costs Are Taking Us. He can be reached at [email protected]

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