Leonard BerryThe U.S. health care system not only faces scrutiny for citizens’ lack of coverage, but it has also become a business crisis, contends recent research by Distinguished Professor of Marketing Leonard Berry.

Along with colleagues Ann M. Mirabito and Donald M. Berwick, Berry interviewed more than 100 leading thinkers in business, health care and related sectors. His findings, which appeared in an MIT Sloan Management Review article, “A Health Care Agenda for Business,” indicate some companies are taking more active control over the issue and seeing positive results. This is largely due to innovative partnerships with their employees and actual health care suppliers.

“The overriding lesson from our research is the need for partnerships,” says Berry, who recently accepted a joint appointment with the Texas A&M University System College of Medicine as a professor of humanities in medicine. “Companies must build bridges to other players in the system to address the complex, systemic problems that transcend even the most powerful corporations.”

An important aspect of such a partnership is integrating health into the company culture, Berry notes. Progressive companies, he says, encourage healthier lifestyles and discourage wasteful health-related spending by freely sharing health and cost information with employees. They also use financial incentives to encourage desired behaviors.

“Everyone shares the rewards when the whole system improves,” Berry says. “The corporate culture thrives because employee satisfaction, productivity and retention rates increase. Employees benefit because health care quality, efficiency and value get better. The community prospers because wellness promotes a higher quality of life for all. The truly healthy company is sound not only financially but also in the physical and mental well-being of those who make up the organization.”