5 strategies that help employers reduce health-related risks and costs

Many companies aren’t aware of the full impact that health-related risks can have on their bottom line. When an employee is diagnosed with a serious and complex illness, the associated costs can become a burden on a company. When you factor in misdiagnoses, unnecessary procedures, annual healthcare spending waste, productivity loss and absenteeism, nearly $300 billion is wasted spend by employers.

That’s why companies need to help employees understand their health risks and apply appropriate, proactive health management strategies. Doing so will help workers better able to navigate the complex healthcare system to formulate plans for mitigating their risk and improving their health and financial wellbeing.

Employers should consider these five underused strategies for effective health risk management.

Strategy 1: Screening and preventive care

The foundation of a health risk management strategy should include assessing and monitoring family history and lifestyle-based risk factors, administering and updating immunizations, biometric screening for high blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, BMI and waist circumference, as well as personalized screening for breast, colon and other cancers.

Enacting and following through with a screening and preventive care plan tailored to each employee’s risks can effectively lower the risk of developing a number of preventable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, and diabetes. It can also increase the likelihood that diseases that are not preventable, including some types of cancer, are detected at the earliest stage when they may be more treatable.

Strategy 2: Access to reliable medical intelligence

In order to make sound decisions, employees need to be fully informed about treatment options and their potential risks and benefits. They also need help finding the right specialists for complex health problems. Friends and family may be well meaning, but are not always the most objective source of information. Internet resources can be both overwhelming and misleading. Even an experienced family physician may not know about the most current innovative treatment approaches or the best specialists or centers of excellence for specific complex medical issues.

Strategy 3: Access to expert, experienced physicians

The quality of care and outcomes that employees face are directly affected by the experience and expertise of the treating physician or health system. Receiving care from less experienced, less skilled medical professionals in a health system with limited resources can have a negative impact on health outcomes. For example, one study found that surgeons who performed at least 50 surgeries a year had no complications over a five-year period. Training is another important consideration. A study found that American Board of Surgery certified physicians achieved better cancer surgery outcomes than non-certified surgeons.

Strategy 4: Personalized care planning and support

Medical care is not “one-size-fits-all.” For optimal outcomes and disease prevention, employees need a proactive, personalized strategy that focuses on their specific needs and risk factors. This strategy should take into consideration patient and family history, lifestyle, specific genetic risk factors, health and wellness goals, and course of treatment. Care also needs to be coordinated among all treating physicians to avoid inappropriate or redundant procedures and to reduce the risk of misdiagnosis.

When a complex issue arises, employees need professional guidance and support to ensure that the necessary medical information gets to the employee and their treating physicians more efficiently and effectively and that they are able to access appropriate specialists in a timely manner. Accurate collection and organization of medical records is also crucial to mitigating risk and improving outcomes.

Strategy 5: Planning and access to medical travel support

A proactive travel plan that provides information about the most qualified physicians and hospitals at remote travel locations can lower the risk of inappropriate care in an emergency. Medical intelligence about travel advisories and appropriate pre-trip preventive measures are critical elements of a well-designed plan. Travel support should also include medical travel insurance to help pay for care and provide access to medical evacuation when appropriate. Having a skilled professional to remotely coordinate ongoing care needs and provide treating physicians with rapid access to the patient’s medical records also is key.

Miles Varn

Original post at Employee Benefit Adviser