The Cost of Not Having a Heart Attack

March 10, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Disease & Wellness

A great article on keeping employees healthy, from MLive and Wendy Wigger. I know this comes as no surprise. But when it comes to wellness programming, how do you know if the money you invest in helping to create healthier employees will pay off?

With much of its focus on prevention of disease, decreasing risks associated with disease and creating healthier lifestyle habits, measuring the impact of worksite wellness can seem to be an elusive and daunting task. Think about it — if your programming is doing a good job of preventing disease, how do you measure the heart attack that never happened?

The reality is that while it may not be easy, there are steps you can take to create a good baseline for measuring the long-term impact of your program. It starts with realistic expectations, outlining your goals and setting the stage to monitor your program impact. The following data sources and evaluation methods can give you a good start:

• A health-risk appraisal can provide an aggregate look at the health status and behaviors of your employees. While the data is self-reported, the information can be a good baseline and annual barometer of changes in employee behaviors, health risks and readiness to change. You can monitor changes in risk levels by monitoring whether employees are moving from high to moderate risk, or moderate to low risk.

• Biometric screens can arm employees with clinical measures that can make for an even richer health-risk appraisal report — for both the employer and individuals. In addition, monitoring the changes in screening factors such as body-mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and other risk factors can provide another baseline against which to measure your program’s impact and cost savings based on reduced risks.

• Your health care claims can help tell your medical story as well. We know that much of the cost of health care is associated with chronic disease — much of which is preventable through good lifestyle habits. Work with your health plan to monitor trends and changes in the type of claims and associated costs, but be realistic in terms of your results.

There are many factors that contribute to health care costs beyond disease and lifestyle habits: improvements in technology, pharmacy costs and physician malpractice rates, just to name a few. So, while worksite wellness can make a difference, this alone will not be the answer to solving the increase in health care costs.

Claim costs also can point to misuse of benefits. For example, if you find your employees are using the emergency room for non-emergencies like the flu or sneezes and sniffles, you may need to adjust your plan to have a higher Emergency Room c0-pay.

Employees absent from their jobs — whether due to health issues, family needs or a lack of commitment — means increased costs to the employer. Worksite wellness programs can have a positive impact on absenteeism through improved morale, creating healthier employees and providing helpful life balance skills.

Monitoring and trending your “unscheduled” absences for your employee population — prior to launching your wellness program as well as afterward — also can point to a potential area of cost savings.

Another factor is employee turnover. If you’re losing good employees even in these tough economic times, a quality wellness program sometimes can make the difference between someone staying with you or going to the competition.

It’s important to offer your employees a variety of creative ways to stay fit and healthy. It’s equally important to know whether these kinds of wellness efforts are achieving bottom-line results.

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