Banner Health Secret Revealed: How This Local Employer Prioritizes Employee Health

Peter Sisneros

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According to Peter Sisneros of Brush, CO, the last thing any overweight person wants to hear is that they need to stop eating. As the associate director of culinary and environmental services for two Banner Health hospitals in northern Colorado, Peter is always around food. It’s his job.

“You need to have a passion for cooking and eating if you are going to be in this profession,” he said. For most of his life, Peter has been “on the heavy side” and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in his 50s. Initially, healthcare providers recommended he manage with medicine and a controlled diet which was an ok solution for a while, he said, but Peter did not want to be on medication forever.

“I reached almost 250 pounds, that was very big for me,” Peter said. “I didn’t want to do that anymore. I received an email from Banner one day announcing the Virta program – it said it was free and I thought, ‘this is the ticket for me.’”

Peter started Virta, a Type 2 diabetes reversal program, and within the first few weeks noticed he was losing weight fairly quickly. After several months, he reported feeling much better – he had more energy and was more active, and his allergies even started to clear. Now, after only six months in the program, Peter is hopeful he will be cleared to stop his diabetes medications.

Virta is a first-of-its-kind treatment that combines personalized nutrition and virtual care to help members achieve normal blood sugar without medications. Banner|Aetna, a joint venture owned by Banner Health and Aetna/CVS, partnered with Virta earlier this year to offer this program to fully-insured and employer group members.

“The outcomes of Virta are truly a cut above everything else we have seen,” Banner|Aetna Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Groves said. “When we saw the results, the peer-reviewed published results, it was no contest. They are a quantum leap above everyone else in terms of the outcomes that they are getting and the sustainability over now five years into this.”

According to Jennifer McGill, Peter’s Virta health coach, it takes a strong “why” to be successful in the Virta program. “You have to see what is happening right now is not working for you. The most successful patient approach is ‘I deserve this, I can do this, and this is not a punishment this is a resource, this can save my life.’ The most successful patients have dedicated themselves enough to it and can envision themselves succeeding. Peter is in this category.”

“This is a great program, I’ve been very impressed,” Peter said. “It’s very ‘like Banner’ to have a progressive thought process like this that they will offer for free. I don’t think a lot of companies are that forward-thinking.”

Not only has Virta helped improve his health, but Peter has also seen residual benefits in his work. “It’s hard to listen to a fat chef tell you to eat healthier and eat less,” he said. “I teach healthy cooking classes and didn’t have a lot of credibility before – Virta helped me give useful information and show students how it works. You really have to approach this as a lifestyle change and everything will be better.”

“It’s just phenomenal the impact on an individual’s life that a program like this can have,” Dr. Groves said.