Cathy Kenworthy -- WGN Wintrust Business Lunch

Hear This: Straight Talk on Why Workplace Wellness Matters

Interactive Health CEO Cathy Kenworthy recently joined Steve Bertrand on WGN’s Wintrust Business Lunch radio program to discuss why workplace wellness matters and how a well-run program should work.

You’ll hear what we mean: Kenworthy didn’t hold back.

With straight talk, cultural references, and even a touch of bold language, Kenworthy gets direct and passionate about how a well-run workplace wellness program can help keep employees — and their employers’ bottom lines — healthy.


Steve Bertrand: This is the Wintrust Business Lunch. How are you feeling today? Cathy Kenworthy is in the studio. She’s the CEO of Interactive Health. Well, she’s not a doctor. She can’t help you specifically, but maybe she can help your workplace. Cathy, welcome to the business lunch.

Cathy Kenworthy: Steve, thanks so much.

Steve: Let’s jump right into this idea of wellness programs that work because it seems like … I don’t know where we are now, but it seems like it really kicked off 15, 20 years okay. Right? Is it almost normal now to have a workplace program like this?

Cathy: I think it is normal. Most companies are doing something with regard to wellness, whether it be offering flu shots, whether it be offering different kinds of assistance for employees, but-

Steve: This is what your company does?

Cathy: We do. Although, what we do is a little different. We really believe in comprehensive, strategic long-term approaches to wellness. We know for most companies, people are their most important asset, so making sure that people are in great shape is what we do.

Steve: Where do you fit in conjunction, say, with the health insurance program at a company? I might, as an employee, think, “Well, Blue Cross is going to handle this.” They don’t always … They’re not the ones who do it, right? It’s a third party like yourself most of the time.

Cathy: Very typically. We regard ourselves as the largest independent provider of wellness programs in the country. We count over 3,000 clients on our roster. We certainly enjoy partnerships with carriers. On an occasion, we will offer our services as if they are a part of the carrier, but there’s also many employers and employees who appreciate the separation from the carrier and the privacy that comes with that.

Steve: So, there’s a little separation.

Cathy: Yes. Absolutely.

Steve: I’m going to tee it up for you now. Does it work?

Cathy: Hell yes! It works. I commonly refer to it, Steve, as the cheapest money an employer can spend in healthcare.

Steve: That’s the point, right? If you get employee buy-in, and they participate, they’re going to be healthier, and it’s going to cost the companies much less down the road.

Cathy: Correct. We are experts at generating very high levels of participation. Our clients achieve 75, 80% of employees choosing voluntarily to participate in our programs.

Steve: If you’re selling this program to another company or suggesting, what’s the bigger hurdle? Developing wellness programs themselves or developing buy-in programs to get the employees to go for it?

Cathy: Great question. I think employers making the decision that this is a matter of strategy, that this just isn’t a hobby. That this is something central to their company’s success and generating that level of both decision to work with a company like ours really translates then very smoothly into buy-in for the employees.

Steve: You have to convince them that it’s more than just a feel good initiative.

Cathy: Correct.

Steve: How do you do that?

Cathy: We demonstrate results. We believe in the data. I tease people that … Steve can see this, your listeners can’t, that I have a little propeller at the top of my head from being a nerd about this, but we really believe in-

Steve: It’s spinning.

Cathy: Yeah! It’s spinning a lot. Measuring that which you need to achieve. Any other serious business initiative, people would go in saying, “Okay, what am I really trying to achieve? How do I measure beforehand and then measure after it?” We believe in making sure that there’s a really good baseline set of measurements. Then we do our work to be able to demonstrate the kind of impact and results that we’re able to achieve.

Steve: It seems like a lot of your success though is almost comes with emotional changes with the clients, with the customers. How do you measure those things?

Cathy: For sure. People are able to be very in tune with their emotions, and we have a very thoughtful approach where we ask a series of questions to help establish where people are, what is their level of anxiety, what is their level of stress, what is their level of depression, and what is their readiness to change their health. We will address all those topics. We’re very tailored by individual to help them get from here to there and set a goal that’s really achievable for that individual.

Steve: Last issue then is sometimes people say, “Well, wait a minute. I’m writing down those things about my personal stress, my personal anxieties for a company that’s hired by my boss. Your boss is getting the data to help them generate a workplace. How do you … They’re must be people worried that their private markings on your forms are going to make it to the c-suite?

Cathy: We make privacy issue one, two, and three. It’s a very legitimate concern that employees have, and we think it’s one of the reasons to work with companies like ours. There are others that are very legitimate and very long-term players in the space that understand those issues around privacy. We’re governed by regulations like HIPAA. The EOC has regulations. We are scrupulous about managing those and also communicating and addressing those concerns employees might have.

Steve: Have you ever had bosses try to get access to it?

Cathy: No.

Steve: Never?

Cathy: No. We’re so clear in terms of managing expectations upfront, and we don’t want employers to put themselves in a bad situation either.

Steve: It doesn’t work for them if they don’t work for it.

Cathy: Absolutely.

Steve: Cathy Kenworthy is the CEO of Interactive Health. Thanks for coming by today. I appreciate it.

Cathy: Steve, thanks so much.