Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm
Many companies, whether large or small, struggle with the common issue of managing absenteeism related to illness and injuries. In today’s market, there is no doubt that the health of a company will be dependent upon the health of its workforce.
Our society has created a very complex health care system that is not easy for one to navigate through, yet many consumers are expected to manage health care needs and costs without having the benefit and insights of a medical background. While health care costs are on the rise, the tools and resources available to manage these costs are not readily visible or available to the consumer.
Better management of health care, employee wellness, employee absenteeism and cost containment requires specific expertise and industry knowledge. Because of this, I asked Jill Allen, director of sales and operations in Wisconsin for The Alaris Group Inc., to help get us started in better understanding this complex and troubling topic. The Alaris Group is a resource to insurance carriers, attorneys and employers striving to maximize the recovery of injured employees while minimizing the financial impact.
They accomplish this through case management and consulting services.
According to Jill, as a society, we are clearly seeing an aging workforce, demands for increased productivity, global competition and escalating health care costs. And on top of that, analysts are predicting that by the year 2010, the majority of employers will not be able to afford to offer their employees’ health insurance benefits due to the rising costs of insurance premiums.
It’s apparent that something needs to be done to stop these trends. Whether the issues are workers’ compensation, family medical leave, short- or long-term disability, the results are the same – high health care costs and lost productivity.
So what do we do?
Manage care proactively
Every illness and injury needs to be managed proactively on day one. Companies need to take employees’ aches and pains seriously. There is a need in many companies for an early intervention and integrated disability program to assess and monitor illness and injury. When managing employee health care and wellness issues, human biases and favoritism must be removed and replaced with equitable decision making. Health care issues are best managed by a health care professional whether internal or external to the company.
Employees must be active participants in their own health and well-being. This may sound like an obvious statement, but employers can not make their workforces healthy and contain costs without requiring meaningful employee participation. Fixing the health care problem requires a balanced approach and balanced participation. It’s obvious with the rise in health care costs that both the employee and the employer must participate fully in managing individual and corporate wellness.
Requests for nurse case managers in the workplace have grown tremendously over the years. They have proven to demonstrate an excellent return on investment to employers. Nurse case managers benefit employees needing assistance. Not only do they allow the employee to interact with a live person about their illness or injury, but the nurse case manager can also work as an advocate for the employer reducing unnecessary costs while holding medical vendors accountable and enabling the best support possible for the employee team.
In-house wellness programs
In-house wellness programs are also an essential component to any early intervention program. The top four leading causes of death in our society are all preventable. It is imperative that consumers are aware of the risk factors that could compromise their health and they should be educated on all options available to them for enhancing their health and wellbeing. Employees should be asked to participate in health initiatives. Employers can no longer bear the escalating premiums without engaging employees in the process. Today is a new day. Demands are high and the need for cost containment services is great. A proactive approach will save time and money. When looking at escalating costs, the cost of inaction will be too costly for employers to bear.
Key steps for getting started
• Create a corporate culture that supports the mission of creating a healthy workforce while reducing unnecessary costs and duplication of medical related services.
• Select a partner experienced in managing early intervention and integrated disability programs (internal or external to the company).
• Understand the need, gather baseline information, analyze trends (both direct and indirect costs), and know the financial impact absenteeism has on your organization.
• With your partner, create and/or modify an early intervention and integrated disability program tailored to your specific needs.
• Clearly communicate the vision and mission for this program throughout the organization. Introduce your partner in this cost containment process, and clearly identify the steps required to improve wellness while managing health care costs for both the employer and the employee.
• Get employee buy-in and participation.
According to Jill, your company will need to create a prompt claim reporting system, establish return to work programs, and develop a system for reporting accurate results so that management can continue to analyze overall program effectiveness.
As mentioned above, managing health care and related costs is one of the significant challenges of the day. And what struck me most about what Jill shared in this article and in our previous conversations is that the analysts are predicting that the majority of employers, by the year 2010, will not be able to afford to offer their workforces health insurance benefits due to the rising costs of insurance premiums.
If you don’t understand how to solve this problem for your organization, don’t be passive. Find a partner and stay focused on finding a better way for managing the issues impacting the health care costs at your organization.