Kelli LaPage, Founder & CEO
Despite recent advancements in the fields of occupational health and employee wellness, a large number of initiatives are still reactive in nature. Rather than spotting health issues ahead of time, the solutions kick into action only after employees fall sick. Moreover, when an employee suffers a workplace injury, they are required to adhere to the timelines of an insurance company and must overcome multiple barriers on their road to recovery. To make matters worse, the standard procedure does not take into account an individual’s medical history, mental impairments (if any), or symptoms that propel a specific workplace injury.
Now, compare that to a university setting where student-athletes are the most prized assets to athletic trainers. Deeply invested in their lives, trainers closely monitor the various challenges affecting the athletes, both inside and outside the field of play. When a student is nursing an injury, the trainers are, beforehand, aware of its root cause, and always apprised of changes in an athlete’s performance, demeanor, and ergonomics. This degree of transparency also ensures students receive prompt medical attention. “In a collegiate athletic training room, nobody had to wait six weeks to get an X-ray and another six weeks to get an MRI,” says Kelli LaPage, a veteran athletic trainer, while recalling her decade-long stint at the Syracuse University.
Approaching 2008, Kelli harnessed the teachings of her mentors at Syracuse and through her “dream project” set about transferring the athletic training model into a corporate setup—sowing the seeds for WellTrail, an occupational health consulting company.
However, the transition from students to employees was more complex than she anticipated. At the very onset of WellTrail, Kelli noticed that a number of external factors were either aggravating or causing workplace injuries, not to mention creating barriers in recovery. It was evident to Kelli that everyday health and mental issues were intertwined with workplace injuries, and there was no one-size-fits-all approach to a company’s wellness solution. “I understood that every person’s story, their challenges, life, and mindset are unique. It made me realize that we had to look at each employee holistically, and I say ‘wholistically’ with a ‘W’ because we felt it was essential to understand a person as a whole,” recounts Kelli, founder and CEO, WellTrail.
Fast forward to 2019, WellTrail has morphed from an occupational health athletic training company into a full-fledged health and injury management consultancy—providing one-on-one consulting, health assessments and screenings, injury management, and containment solutions, ergonomics resources, and customized progress reporting, along with custom health and injury management solutions designed to meet the unique needs of employees.
Watching Each Employee like a Hawk
Unlike occupational health consultancies that claim to offer personalized programs, but truly operate through online or social media-driven platforms, WellTrail is actually “in the trenches” with its clients. WellGuides—WellTrail’s team of uniquely trained healthcare professionals—engage with up to 90 percent of the employees on-site, and constantly assess and respond to employee needs with customized solutions based on integrative medical knowledge. “We do not sit in the office and wait for clients to approach us (after an injury has occurred). We are proactively in the client’s workforce, identifying areas of risk and building relationships,” stresses Kelli.
When I returned to his office a few weeks later, he exclaimed, ‘you did more for me in just three minutes than any doctor has done in 15 years’
This hands-on approach often leads to WellTrail preventing a workplace injury before it occurs, or even accurately diagnosing an injury that had been previously misdiagnosed.
For example, there have been instances of employees claiming back injury as their primary problem, when, in fact, WellTrail’s proprietary consultation process revealed otherwise. Kelli narrates one such incident. A few years ago, while on one of her daily rounds, Kelli noticed that a middle-aged man lifted his body in a peculiar way while getting up from his workstation. Upon discovering that the employee was due to undergo a back surgery, Kelli urged the employee to evaluate his hip instead (and promptly brought in specialists). Within a few weeks, the employee underwent hip replacement surgery and remains problem-free to this day. Kelli adds, “When I returned to his office a few weeks later, he exclaimed, ‘you did more for me in just three minutes than any doctor has done in 15 years.’”
It is critical to highlight that WellTrail uses a multi-stage process that begins with thorough front-end screening which includes a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) and biometric screenings before WellTrail segues into its daily, out-on-the-floor interactions. The front-end evaluation is not restricted to questions about an employee’s blood pressure or stress, as is the norm with occupational health solutions. Owing to WellTrail’s background in athletic training, it has the ability to identify specific areas of inflammations and scar tissue. Kelli’s team frequently uncovers abnormalities while conducting a regular full body assessment. Such discoveries trigger conversations, and WellTrail is firmly by the side of the employee throughout their journey to recovery.
A Customized Plan-of-Attack
Prior to the front-end screening and everyday workplace engagements, WellTrail designs a customized plan-of-attack for each client/employer. While some clients seek WellTrail’s services to increase productivity rate (especially in the manufacturing industry where workplace injuries occur frequently), others require a standard occupational health service. After ascertaining a client’s exact goals, WellTrail directs its priorities accordingly and makes a conscious effort to align its mission statement with the client’s specific goals. Kelli emphasizes that WellTrail “works within the boundaries of what the client provides us” and also collaborates with the client’s safety & risk management arms in order to support existing initiatives. At the onset of the project, WellTrail makes it clear to the client that the service is being put in place to only support the employee, their health, and their injuries. Furthermore, WellTrail maintains 100 percent confidentiality during its conversations with employees. The rare occasions when WellTrail reports back to the C-Suite involves worker compensation-related issues.
On at least an annual basis, WellTrail shares with clients employee utilization reports that include success stories and HRA comparison data, highlighting the improvement in the reduction of workplace injuries and illnesses. When compared with worker compensation logs, the reports also show notable improvement in employee productivity and fewer sick leaves. Just last year, one of WellTrail’s clients saw a 60 percent drop in back pain in contrast to the previous year’s statistics.
The future is evidently bright for WellTrail, which presently serves over 3500 employees in 30 locations across six states. The company’s track record of fostering positive work environments and healthier workforces has created a referral network. “It is one of the coolest aspects of WellTrail. One success story often leads to other employees/ companies wanting to work with us,” concludes Kelli.
Starting in 2020, WellTrail will kick start its expansion plan, which entails the recruitment of new talent—to sustain the standard of excellence it has maintained since 2008.