Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH) launched “Improving the Cancer Patient Experience: Putting Employees at the Center of Your Cancer Benefits Strategy,” a guide designed to help HR and benefits leaders organize, coordinate and provide the best possible experience for employees and family members with cancer. It is free to employers and the public.
By the end of this year, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S., with 609,640 people expected to die from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. In addition, it stands to reason that cancer in the workplace is among the toughest healthcare challenges affected employees face. According to the Northeast Business Group on Health, in fact, a cancer diagnosis ranks among the most complex workplace health issues. “Fear is the single word we hear most often to describe people’s experience with cancer, and benefits leaders often face helping employees navigate this terrain,” says Candice Sherman, CEO of the New York City-based employer-led coalition. Sherman adds that employers equipped with a better understanding of the cancer experience can facilitate early intervention to achieve the best possible health outcomes and provide a caring experience for employees. To that end, NEBGH now offers a free guide, Improving the Cancer Patient Experience: Putting Employees at the Center of Your Cancer Benefits Strategy, designed to help HR and benefits leaders “organize, coordinate and provide the best possible experience” for employees and family members with cancer. “We believe this guide will help employers create a more coordinated approach to providing benefits that revolves around the employee,” Sherman explains. Among other strategies, the NEBGH guide provides employers with ideas about how to create what it calls a “huddle”—a command-center model that coordinates employee and family medical benefits, cost-effective and high-quality care, and social and emotional support. Following its football analogy, the huddle includes multiple industry stakeholders including health plans, second opinion and care navigation services, wellness coaches, and disability managers who can provide services and support for a cancer-stricken employee or family member.
While cancer remains one of the most dreaded diseased in the workforce and in life, many of the benefits that companies offer are not being utilized to their fullest extent, according to a new guide published by Northeast Business Group on Health released this week. The guide, “Improving the Cancer Patient Experience: Putting Employees at the Center of Your Cancer Benefits Strategy,” aims to provide human resources and benefits leaders with details on how to best help employees dealing with a cancer diagnosis.
A new guide developed by the Northeast Business Group on Health aims to help employers navigate the clinical and emotional complexities of offering cancer-care benefits. When employers have an understanding of those benefits, it leads to better outcomes for employees and family members facing a cancer diagnosis, according to the business group. "Cancer repeatedly is near the top of our members' lists when it comes to conditions of concern," both from the perspective of the severity of the illness and the cost of care, said Candice Sherman, CEO of NEBGH. While many large employers have expanded cancer resources for employees and family members through care coordination and second-opinion services, these efforts are not always as well coordinated as they should be, said Sherman. The guide, called "Improving the Cancer Patient Experience: Putting Employees at the Center of Your Cancer Benefits Strategy," suggested creating command centers or "huddles" to coordinate cancer benefits to achieve better outcomes for employees and family members. In these huddles benefits leaders select a "quarterback," such as a nurse or care coordinator familiar with complex cancer care, to lead communication among the different parties involved in the care process, including health plans, wellness coaches and disability managers. —J.H.
Cancer diagnoses also create additional fear, stress, and confusion for plan members. Employees may require extensive communications from the health plan to determine the best course of action when diagnosed with cancer. “Navigating [the complexity of cancer] calls for an approach that improves quality, manages cost and improves the employee experience,” NEGBH said. “Consider this: employees may not even be aware that their company offers a range of cancer care services. After all, an employee handbook or benefits website isn’t the first place someone turns to after learning they might have cancer. That is a moment when they are afraid, stressed and overwhelmed. But that moment — just after a cancer diagnosis — is exactly when — if possible — the benefits department should get involved.”
As they make more cancer benefits available to their employees than ever, large employers need to consider offering more help to workers who have been diagnosed with cancer to navigate the maze of options. On Tuesday, the Northeast Business Group on Health released a guide to help employers do just that. "Many employers have a variety of vendors and other people internally who can provide health to someone with a cancer diagnosis," said Candice Sherman, the CEO of NEBGH. With a "constellation" of different offerings from those vendors, newly diagnosed patients can find themselves fielding calls from different companies including their health plan, a second opinion service, a disability manager, navigation services and wellness coaches. "And a newly diagnosed cancer patient likely isn't in the best of all minds to sit down and figure out all the options that are available to them," Sherman said. One of the most important ways companies can handle this? Introduce their vendors to each other. This is crucial "so they know what the other does and can more seamlessly work together," Sherman said.
With growing numbers of working people providing informal care for sick or elderly relatives and friends, employers face new challenges—but also new opportunities— to support caregiver employees and, in the process, ensure a productive and stable workforce. This article addresses the difficulties employees can face when work and caregiving intersect and how employers can offer support regardless of company size or resources. Companies that wish to attract the best and brightest talent, as well as retain high-quality staff, need to offer competitive benefits. Across the corporate landscape, these have already started to include caregiving benefits.
"I do think we need to go beyond technology in order to disrupt some of the perverse incentives embedded in the status quo, and that's going to require purchasers—on a bigger scale—to push real delivery-system reform," said Candice Sherman, interim chief executive of the Northeast Business Group on Health, of which JPMorgan Chase is a member.
"Employers want to make sure they have a healthy and productive workforce and retain and attract employees," said Candice Sherman, CEO of the Northeast Business Group on Health, an employer-based coalition. "So an attractive benefits package is obviously a plus."
As more employees self-identify as caregivers for family members and friends, employers are starting to address the needs of workers who struggle to balance work while caring for others. The numbers are staggering. One in six U.S. employees identify as a caregiver for a family member or friend, according to research by Family Caregiver Alliance. An AARP study found that U.S. businesses lose more than $25 billion annually in lost productivity due to absenteeism among full-time working caregivers, and that figure grows an additional $3 billion when part-time workers with caregiving duties are accounted for.