The workplace can play an important role in diabetes management, said Dr. Jeremy Nobel, medical director at the Northeast Business Group on Health. Workplaces have historically relied on weight control programs and screening for diabetes management. “Those have some value, but they’re not what they could be,” said Nobel. He suggested a more personalized approach to weight control. Digital solutions are one way to make this individualized approach easier.
New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania have recently done New Jersey a favor. The state’s neighbors have flashed a warning sign that the Garden State would do well to notice. In the past month, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania health insurers taking part in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace have filed their premium rates for 2018. The increases are staggering. They are part of a national trend that New Jersey will soon fall victim to if the debate over health care is not resolved quickly in our nation’s capital.
Absenteeism is 27% lower for those workers who eat healthy and get regular exercise. Another report conducted by the Northeast Business Group on Health found that overweight employees cost their employers $73.1 billion a year and file twice the number of workers’ compensation claims.
As the previously mentioned research shows, having healthy employees is important for productivity, culture, and cost containment. So where does a company start? First of all, upper management must be supportive of the program. Researchers found that people who had a highly supportive environment at work not only exercised more, but also engaged in increased levels of leisure time activities while they were away from the office. Once the company’s leadership is on board, the focus should be on stress management, nutrition and exercise programs. Wellness programs don’t have to cost a fortune – there are many low-cost options that cover these three areas. Studies show that the key to success with wellness programs is consistency. Programs were more successful when offered to employees on an ongoing basis for a long duration. Web-based programs, when administered for three plus years, saved employees an average of $332 annually in personal costs. The study also found that wellness program participants are more likely to take responsibility for their own health and have regular physicals and preventative screenings.
With employers footing a major part of the nation's massive diabetes-driven $300 billion medical bill, new digitally based workplace programs are showing progress in managing those costs and improving employees' lives.
"First and foremost employers want a healthy birth," said Emily Sasser, special projects manager at the Northeast Business Group on Health, which offers employers in the region resources for managing employee benefits. In their efforts to keep costs down at the point of birth, employers are working to direct women to quality providers who can help them reduce risks during pregnancy. They're also becoming "laser-focused" on reducing C-sections, Sasser said. Maven has worked to tap into these concerns. The app offers additional support to those at high risk for complications and dispenses information on C-section rates at local hospitals and facts about what constitutes a medically necessary C-section when a user is developing a birth plan, Ryder said. Still, the company faces growing competition in the pregnancy-tracker market. "In the last three years, it's really exploded," Sasser said.
Employers who embrace a digital approach to combating diabetes in the workplace can not only provide employees engaging opportunities to help manage the condition, but also take advantage of cost-saving measures. A recent pilot program within a segment of employees at Mount Sinai Health System integrated Livongo for Diabetes, an interactive blood glucose monitoring system, and showcased significantly enhanced connection and engagement between employees and health services. Additionally, it showed “timely, secure and convenient collection of data that can lead to improved clinical care,” according to a new report from the Northeast Business Group on Health.
More than one in six U.S. employees has a secondary job their employer might not know about: informal caregiving for a relative. As the older adult population in the U.S. is projected to nearly double in size by 2050 from 48 million to 88 million, employers need to expect that employees might be distracted with the financial and emotional burden of caring for a relative and are looking for support in the form of peer support groups, medical tools, flexible schedules and more. In fact, 23% of employees are spending 41 hours or longer each week caring for a relative, according to a new report from the Northeast Business Group on Health. On average, employees spend four years in the role of caregiver and 24 hours a week providing caregiving assistance.
Companies are expressing a growing interest in helping their employees care for elderly or disabled loved ones, according to the Northeast Business Group on Health. With lost productivity and turnover from caregiving costing U.S. employers $38 billion per year, members of the employer-led coalition are trying out new approaches to address caregivers' needs, including expanding partnerships with providers and implementing more flexible leave policies, according to a report released this month by the business group and AARP. CBS Corp., Goldman Sachs, consulting group EY, Northwell Health and other major employers based in the New York City area participated in a roundtable discussion about their caregiver benefits that helped inform the report. One of the biggest challenges employers face is reaching out to a new generation of caregivers, said Dr. Jeremy Nobel, medical director of NEBGH and one of the authors of the report. Millennials now make up 25% of caregivers, according to a 2015 AARP report. "In that population, caregiving is not something people talk about every day," said Nobel. On the plus side, he said, there are more and more digital tools that millennials may find appealing to help with such tasks as monitoring relatives at home and managing their meals, rides and other logistics. "One of the challenges is a lot of the digital providers are not that familiar with contracting with employers," said Nobel. "They are typically more in a direct-to-consumer business model." Employers could also leverage their purchasing power to make paid caregiving more affordable and easier to manage for employees, he added. CBS, for example, subsidizes services for employees through Bright Horizons, which offers families "backup" care for children and elders when other arrangements have fallen through. CBS is also among the companies leveraging existing benefits to address the needs of caregivers by making services such as its Health Advocate program available to employees' parents and in-laws. "The ROI argument is that whatever it costs to put the mind of the caregiver at ease and put the loved one in high-quality care will also put the employer's mind at ease and build employee loyalty," said Nobel. NEBGH is in the early stages of its investigation, said Nobel. The group plans to release more specific findings and recommendations by the third quarter of this year. —C.L.