Overland Park, KS
Number of Employees
Sprint Charts New Course in Healthcare; Launches Depression Initiative
Sprint has raised the bar in employee healthcare. First it provided employees with an attractive environment in which to work and then it offered employees plenty of healthcare resources, especially for the diseases of most concern to the company and its employees — cancer, depression, asthma, COPD, low back pain, diabetes, and heart conditions. Now Sprint is extending its efforts to combat depression by launching a depression initiative that rolls out this Spring.
Sprint World Headquarters Campus
Sprint’s campus sits on 240 acres in Overland Park, Kansas. The campus includes 17 office buildings, a fitness center, a healthcare clinic staffed by a physician and two nurse practitioners (where employees can have routine x-rays taken, blood work done, etc.), a field house, and half-a-dozen retail shops. Stairwells were designed to be wide and airy to discourage use of elevators. Cars are parked around the campus rather than next to buildings.
Why? Sprint wanted employees to get out of their chairs during breaks, interact with their colleagues, and walk, run, jog, workout, whatever.
“Fifteen years ago, [businesses] were concerned with making everything as convenient as possible,”said Phil Dordai, a principal with the architectural firm that designed the Sprint campus. “Now,” he says, “a company’s design has shifted to making people more active.” According to a story on CBSNews.com, the theory is simple: happier, healthier employees are more productive and reduce healthcare costs.
Sprint then focused on the seven disease conditions mentioned above. The company approached the task by setting up a robust health promotion program — Sprint Alive!
The Sprint Alive! Condition Assistance program is designed to help employees and their family members take an active role in managing the most common disease conditions. There are no out-of-pocket costs to employees, and no personal information is shared with Sprint.
The Sprint Alive! Web site for employees (managed by Matria Healthcare) is chock full of information, resources, self-assessment tools, practitioner information, and links to other healthcare sites. Professionals are available to answer more complex clinical questions.
Sprint’s Depression Initiative
Collier Case, the company’s Corporate Benefits Manager, described Sprint’s depression initiative at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Town Hall Meeting on Depression, held March 29, 2005, in Kansas City, Missouri. The following day Mr. Collier provided more details about Sprint’s program to a group of employers who had been invited to Kansas City to learn about Sprint’s initiative and its partnership with the Mid-America Coalition on Health Care.
“Initially,” he said, “we had to educate ourselves about depression.” The Coalition asked a psychiatrist to give a course on “Depression 101” to bring employers and other stakeholders up to speed.
Next, Sprint used a Depression Calculator tool to better understand the impact depression was having on its workforce. After seeing the results and looking at the company’s high pharmaceutical costs for SSRIs, Sprint decided that its employees needed more information about depression.
Sprint launched its depression initiative in the Spring of 2005. “We want our employees to be able to recognize depression—not ignore it—and to know that depression is treatable,” Mr. Case emphasized. “We also want our employees to understand that work can play a therapeutic role in combating depression.”
These are some of the activities included in Sprint’s depression initiative.
Sprint, along with other members of the Coalition, conducted a survey to learn more about its employees’ attitudes toward and depth of knowledge about depression. According to Mr. Case, the very act of conducting the survey raised employee awareness about depression.
Sprint sent a brochure to employees’ homes last fall with its annual benefits enrollment materials emphasizing that “mental health matters.”
Sprint also sent a postcard to each employee’s home with the following message: “In any given year, about 10% of all Americans suffer from depression. Would you recognize the symptoms?” Employees were referred on the postcard to the Sprint Alive! phone line, where a Nurse Advocate is available to speak with employees.
A series of “lunch and learns” were conducted.
Sprint held a company-wide Web-cast on depression, which could be viewed by employees from their desktops. A psychiatrist led the Webcast and, among other topics, talked about ways employees could be more resilient under stress.
Mr. Case credited the Coalition and Sprint’s participation in the Coalition as instrumental in Sprint’s decision to focus on depression.
Sprint and the Mid-America Coalition
E.J. Holland, Jr., Sprint’s Vice-President for Compensation, Benefits, Labor and Employee Relations and former chair of the Mid-America Coalition, wrote about his company’s experience with the Coalition. He said that in contrast to other coalitions that try to leverage their market power to purchase healthcare or to get “the bad guys,” Kansas City business leaders sought to engage all stakeholders in changing the healthcare system.
“Whether it is telecommunications or healthcare, I believe it is unrealistic to think that fundamental change can be effected in any industry without the involvement of all stakeholders in the process,” Mr. Holland said.
Fortunately, employers in the Kansas City area have a vehicle like the Mid-America Coalition on Health Care through which to engage all stakeholders.
“While the bottom line is critical to Sprint,” Mr. Holland continued, “we are taking a broad, long-term view of the bottomline impact by working collaboratively with other stakeholders. Furthermore, these projects suggest that big, one-time savings may not be as effective as the aggregate of multiple, small, but sustainable system changes in reducing complexity and improving the quality of care.”
Sprint Is Unique, But Others Can Follow Suit
Sprint has a unique situation: It’s a high-tech company; it sits in the Midwest where there’s plenty of land to spread out; and the business and healthcare communities in Kansas and Missouri are willing to collaborate with each other.
Could Sprint’s approach work elsewhere?
Mr. Case and David M. Evans, Director of Compensation and Benefits for Cerner Corporation, also based in Kansas City, thought so. They told employers attending the Town Hall Meeting that there were a number of lessons they learned from their experience with the depression initiative that might be useful to others.
Find out what your mental health benefit actually covers.
Conduct a survey about employee attitudes toward mental illness in general and depression in particular.
If your company doesn’t have an EAP, get one.
Conduct “lunch and learns” for your employees.
Educate managers and supervisors.
Access local and national mental health organizations for educational materials.
Enlist the collaboration of all stakeholders.
The Mid-America Coalition on Healthcare includes major employers, medical centers, physicians, insurers, health plans, labor, and government units in the Greater Kansas City region. For 25 years members have collaborated on addressing important healthcare issues and improving the health of the region through real and sustainable systems change. In 2000, the Coalition launched its Community Initiative on Depression. For more information about the Coalition’s programs, visit www.machc.org.
Sprint Corporation (Sprint) is headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas. As a communications services company, Sprint’s approximate employee base of 31,000 people support prepaid and postpaid wireless services, 4G and 3G networks, wireline, and global Tier 1 internet backbone services
Workplace Workout, by Design, by M. Stafford, CBSNews.com, July 28, 2004.