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Summer | Fall 2007

Making Healthcare Work

As a dad, Dr. Canedy is good at crafting things. As president and executive director of SimplyWell LLC, Dr. Canedy is an expert at crafting innovative concepts and solutions for healthcare delivery and management.

James T. Canedy, MD, calls himself “a tinkerer.”

In the rare few hours when he isn’t working or traveling, he and his 14-year-old son get together in the “mini machine shop” at Dr. Canedy’s home and they make things. Some are simple projects, like an old-fashioned potato cannon to shoot spuds across the yard. Others are more complex, like the working hovercraft they built.

“SimplyWell is a change management process that could change the way we look at healthcare.”
James T. Canedy, MD

“That hovercraft,” Dr. Canedy recalls, a bit of fatherly pride evident in his smile, “now, that was a lot of fun.”

As a dad, Dr. Canedy is good at crafting things. As president and executive director of SimplyWell LLC, Dr. Canedy is an expert at crafting innovative concepts and solutions for healthcare delivery and management.

Founded by Dr. Canedy and other physicians, SimplyWell delivers precisely what its name implies. Participating companies obtain simple yet effective programs proven to result in lower healthcare costs, increased productivity and improved employee health. Participating employees are enrolled in an online, personal health-tracking program that identifies areas of immediate concern and offers an action plan to improve health and minimize future risks.

“SimplyWell is a change management process,” Dr. Canedy says, “that could change the way we look at healthcare.”

SimplyWell goes beyond questionnaires and routine health screenings. “People call and write us every week about how the SimplyWell program has identified the early stages of cancer or some other disease that otherwise may have gone undetected until reaching an advanced, critical stage,” he says. “Their stories are compelling and their gratitude is deeply moving.”

“It’s the kind of thing that makes me look forward to getting up in the morning and working even harder.”

 An Omaha native, Dr. Canedy, 51, is the son of Betty Canedy, a nurse, and James Canedy, who served many years as the CEO at Bishop Clarkson Memorial Hospital. “When it comes to healthcare and administration,” Dr. Canedy quips, “I had a lot of exposure early on.”

He describes his parents as kind, caring individuals who taught their only child to have high personal standards. “Both had strong work ethics and moral values, and my father was very dedicated. It taught me the importance of perseverance and stability.”

Dr. Canedy earned his bachelor’s degree with distinction from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska College of Medicine and the University of Tennessee Campbell Clinic Orthopedic Surgery Residency Program.

A board-certified orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Canedy is a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and a diplomat of the American College of Healthcare Executives. He is an adjunct associate professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), president and executive director of Private Practice Associates, LLC (which owns SimplyWell with the Clarkson Regional Health System) and holds many board and leadership positions in the healthcare industry and in the community.

The leadership team at SimplyWell includes Chief Executive Officer Michael Demman and Director of Business Development Michelle M. Baade. In addition to Dr. Canedy and Demman, the SimplyWell board of directors includes Glenn Fosdick, CEO and president of The Nebraska Medical Center; and William Dinsmoor, chief financial officer for The Nebraska Medical Center.

Demman, a graduate of the Creighton University School of Law, is responsible for contract development and corporate relations at SimplyWell. Baade, recognized as an authority in the population health management field, provides leadership and direction for implementing strategies that generate new business.

As a practicing orthopedic surgeon, teacher and corporate administrator, Dr. Canedy relies on the leadership team to accommodate his clinical time when necessary. “I really enjoy the balance, and they have been very supportive of my professional needs and those of my patients,” he says. “That allows me the flexibility I need to affect change.”

SimplyWell resulted from Dr. Canedy’s experiences in 1998 witnessing the “doom and gloom” predictions of an eminent “perfect storm” in the healthcare industry, where escalating costs, an aging population and a lack of control were predicted to lead to a collapse of the entire system.

“I thought there must be a way to manage this situation and avoid a crisis,” he recalls.

He met with physicians, employers, patients and healthcare providers to gather input and identify areas of concern.

“We took all this information and distilled it into basic solutions to reduce waste, improve communication and apply cost-effective treatment at the appropriate time,” he says. “We felt if we could identify risk and manage it early enough, we could prevent these catastrophic situations while lowering healthcare costs and improving outcomes.”

SimplyWell initially conducts two reviews, one for employees and the other for the participating company by examining its human resources and insurance information.

The program assesses the overall health of employees through a confidential health questionnaire and physical screenings, including blood pressure, height and weight and blood work. This “health risk appraisal” checks personal and medical data provided by each person.

The second review examines a company’s workforce demographics, sick-leave data and previous insurance claims to identify waste and determine healthcare areas SimplyWell would target for modification and improvement. The audit can be customized to any industry.

The two reviews result in a composite of the company’s health and its “corporate risk profile,” as well as “individual actions plans,” or personal blueprints for each participating employee. These blueprints enable employees to better manage their health by changing from unhealthy to healthy behaviors.

The wellness and health initiatives the SimplyWell program suggests are tailored to an organization and each employee.

“No two individual action plans are alike,” Dr. Canedy says. “They empower employees with qualified medical information, emphasizing individual accountability and documented behavior modification.”

He says the data gathered can often be eye-opening for the participating individuals. “The people who are really surprised are the ones who think they’re completely healthy but are not.”

SimplyWell incorporates an incentive program to encourage employees to follow the health plan. An employer can provide rewards for participation and successes as they see fit, ranging from cash bonuses to paid leave.

While participating employees learn more about their health and ways they can improve their physical condition, their employers are not privy to personal information. Facts regarding specific medical conditions are kept confidential.

“Employers get blinded data relating to the information we’ve gathered,” says Dr. Canedy. “They aren’t told who is being treated for what, but eventually they can see the employee base getting healthier. In addition to cost savings to the group health plan, improved safety and attrition rates are part of the mix of benefits an employer can see.”

Other corporate wellness initiatives have traditionally placed emphasis on exercise and fitness. While those programs may be successful at increasing fitness, they don’t always produce the desired return on investment because they do not first assess the actual health needs of the participants.

“SimplyWell focuses on measurable results,” says Dr. Canedy.” It is centered on establishing healthy lifestyles. And, when people become healthier, healthcare costs go down. We can compare the impact of SimplyWell programs against those in place outside the company and accurately determine the return on investment.”

“The people who are really surprised are the ones who think they’re completely healthy but are not.”
James T. Canedy, MD

Initially a paper-based program, SimplyWell is now a Web-based application available in English and Spanish. “Putting the program online makes it more efficient and we can offer more services,” he says. ”Also, the information we gather can be shared better with doctors and employees at times convenient to them.”

It is the first step in building a comprehensive, online healthcare record that is owned by the individual. It also enables the participant to access educational materials that detail and explain aspects of their action plan.

With their records stored electronically, participants can access their medical histories complete with immunizations and medications. They can view lab test results online and share this information with their physician and significant others.

SimplyWell is being utilized by corporations, businesses and healthcare institutions in 49 states (all but Vermont) and in 14 foreign countries. It is in place at The Nebraska Medical Center and at 11 health systems nationally.

“It’s not a cure-all,” Dr. Canedy says, “but I think it’s better than anything on the market today.”

Initially, there were concerns that physicians might object to the SimplyWell platform of services if they assumed the program was trying to usurp their authority. “But we’ve found we’re actually directing more people to their physicians for appropriate management of their conditions,” he says. “The patients are coming in prepared and better educated, so doctors indicate they like it.”

Dr. Canedy says he’d like to see SimplyWell grow into a more integrated system, especially regarding hospitals and electronic records. Rather than limit it to employers and employees, there also is an effort to create a model where physicians can enroll their patients.

Although he could be described as a successful entrepreneur, Dr. Canedy shuns the title because to him it indicates a desire for personal gain.

“I like change management,” he says. “That’s what drives me.”

Along with messages like the call from a middle-aged man in Iowa who went through the SimplyWell health screening and was told to contact his physician regarding the finding of a particular blood test. The blood test indicated the early stages of leukemia, and the man had called Dr. Canedy to express his sincere thanks for helping him identify the condition and begin treatment immediately.

“Hearing a report like that is rewarding for me and for all of the people here at SimplyWell,” he says. “What we’re doing is beyond changing behaviors and eating habits and corporate costs. We’re helping to improve people’s chances for longer, healthier and better lives.”

Rather than abandon the healthcare system, Dr. Canedy is proving that maybe all it needed was a little tinkering.

Packed with proof

For the Greater Omaha Packing Co., SimplyWell is more than a healthcare program that has produced healthier employees and lower costs.

“It’s a wonderful partnership that has proven to be a perfect fit for us,” says Kathleen Krantz, vice president of technical and human resources at the Omaha meatpacking firm.

The SimplyWell program is an “on and off the job” wellness plan in which an estimated 85 percent of the company’s 750 employees participate. Greater Omaha Packing has been part of SimplyWell since the program was piloted from 1998 through 2002.

The food processing industry has made great progress throughout the last decade in reducing injuries in the workplace; however, healthcare costs continue to escalate. Also, language and literary barriers place additional constraints on the implementation of a successful wellness program. Krantz says Hispanics make up about 85 percent of the company’s workforce.  

Since its inception, SimplyWell and its bilingual products and services “have addressed every issue and helped make our program one of the best in the country,” Krantz says.

Indeed, Greater Omaha Packing has received numerous wellness awards, including the 2004 Platinum Well Workplace Award from the Wellness Councils of America. “Without SimplyWell, we wouldn’t be able to list these accomplishments,” says Krantz.

Annual health plan expenses at Greater Omaha Packing in 2005 to 2006 were $4,117 per employee, compared to a national average of $8,376. In addition to lowering healthcare costs, participation in SimplyWell has led to increased productivity and better workforce health.

For employees, it has meant lower out-of-pocket healthcare costs, including lower insurance deductibles and co-pay fees.

“Another benefit comes from the personal health records the program makes available to each employee,” she says. “That allows them to take ownership of their own health. They now have the tools and resources they need to lead healthy and productive lives.”

The company has added a “health educator” to act as a liaison between the company and SimplyWell to help employees integrate the program’s recommended healthcare solutions.

Krantz says her enrollment in SimplyWell, coupled with the executive physical program available through The Nebraska Medical Center, has impacted her health and life. “The two programs have given me the opportunity to know the different stages of life, to recognize any changes and then have the availability of specialized services to address those changes,” she says. “That provides me an awareness that helps keep me focused on sustaining a healthy lifestyle.”

Krantz lauded James T. Canedy, MD, founder, president and executive director of SimplyWell, for the personal interest he has shown in Greater Omaha Packing. “Even with his busy, busy schedule, he has always taken time to participate in workshops here,” she says. “He knows people here by their first names.

“The difference he’s made in our company and our community is phenomenal. He’s a visionary, and we feel very fortunate to consider him a medical mentor and a friend.”

Next article in the Summer | Fall 2007 issue of One Thousand And One:
A Game of Life