May 17, 2020

Managing employee healthcare strategically

Employee healthcare
sickness absence
employee health
4 min
Employees are investing in employee healthcare
Written by Pamela Gellatly, Chief Executive, Healthcare RM When Dame Carol Black first put absenteeism on the UK Governments agenda in 2008, the market...

Written by Pamela Gellatly, Chief Executive, Healthcare RM

When Dame Carol Black first put absenteeism on the UK Government’s agenda in 2008, the market for employee health and wellbeing services really took hold. Over the last three years, we have seen huge investment in this area as employers seek to manage sickness absence better and improve employee health.

Despite this interest and investment, much of it misses the point. Employers have been too focused on treating the symptoms of workplace ill-health, instead of the causes. By failing to address the underlying causative and contributory factors affecting the ill health, such as lack of appropriate exercise and poor nutrition, these absence management processes and healthcare benefits are costly, may drive inappropriate treatments and fail to resolve the health problem.

Another issue is that the healthcare industry traditionally operates in silos. Providers sell and employers buy in silos. As a result, the HR, health and safety and occupational health departments are all purchasing products to meet their needs, but rarely working together at a wider strategic level. Even providers that claim to integrate benefits fail to really integrate the actual management of the clinical, occupational, financial and legal aspects of ill health.

What are the employee health risks?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has revealed that approximately 80 percent of all ill-health costs are due to musculoskeletal and mental health disorders. Indeed, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), such disorders are the top two causes and account for half of all sickness absence.

Musculoskeletal and mental health issues, however, are often inefficiently managed both within the NHS and by the private sector, with patients often waiting many weeks for treatment, despite evidence that early intervention is crucial to a successful recovery. While medical professionals have traditionally been trained to identify and treat only the physical (for musculoskeletal disorders) and psychological (mental health) aspects of these conditions, clinical research into workplace absence has shown that with both conditions there are often other personal, more complex factors which require attention and management.

Poor lifestyle choices not only impact an individual’s susceptibility to mental health and musculoskeletal disorders but they also significantly increase the likelihood of diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other serious illness. Failure to address issues such as nutrition and corrective exercise can lead to poor performance, long term absence and increased costs for employers. So what can employers do to mitigate these risks?

Promote a healthier lifestyle

Organisations need to develop a proactive approach to health management, to move away from a focus on sickness and encourage employees to take responsibility for their own health. Half or more cases of mental ill health or musculoskeletal disorders can be addressed by encouraging individuals to resolve musculoskeletal imbalances, adopt active lifestyles and improve their diet.

Supporting improvements in employees’ health should be focused on adopting an organisational culture which actively promotes regular exercise, a good diet and a sensible alcohol intake. This can be done at relatively low cost through sponsored sports events, creating competitions between teams, departments or sites or setting up a lunchtime walking club. Assigning ‘health champions’ can also make a real difference and help generate buy-in from employees, as can ‘job specific’ exercise programmes and stress-coping strategies.

Those employers who find innovative ways to support their people in making small lifestyle changes will reap the most rewards. Not only will absence rates decline but the costs associated with providing health benefits should reduce substantially over the long term and employees should be happier, healthier and more productive.

Integrating employee healthcare benefits and services

At the strategic level, organisations need to develop a more holistic view to employee healthcare. Health and wellbeing services, including EAPs, carelines, private healthcare insurance, case management, screening and occupational health rehabilitation, for example, need to be integrated and managed collectively. Purchasing several ‘products’ from one provider does not equal integration.

Healthcare RM takes works with clients such as TUI Travel and Britvic Soft Drinks to deliver a number of strategic and competitive advantages. It simplifies and improves the service for line managers, employees and their families, by providing a single point of contact for all health matters. It also provides better outcomes for employees by eliminating mixed messages, minimising conflict of advice and avoiding unnecessary cost shifting into the private sector. More effective management of the clinical, lifestyle and occupational factors associated with ill health and injury in turn reduces costs for the employer.

With health risks continuing to spiral out of control, this puts impossible demands on the NHS and ultimately places an even greater burden on employers. Those without a health risk management strategy would be wise to reconsider.

Case study - TUI Travel

One example of a UK organisation reaping the strategic benefits of healthcare is travel firm, TUI Travel. The company appointed Healthcare RM to integrate all existing healthcare management services and to plug any gaps in provision. This joined-up approach enables TUI Travel to incorporate all employee healthcare benefits, initiatives and legal obligations in one package. Group reward director at TUI Travel, David House explains: “We expect it to pay for itself within a year. Normally employers run healthcare benefits in isolation, but we have mitigated costs by combining them.”

Healthcare RM has teamed up with The Adventure Company to offer clients an alternative fitness and stress reduction programme:

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Jun 17, 2021

Dexcom: changing the lives of people with type 1 diabetes

3 min
British actress Nina Wadia OBE tells us how her son's life has changed since using glucose monitoring system Dexcom

It is estimated that 9.3% of adults around the world are living with type 1 diabetes, which amounts to a total of 463 million people. A further 1.1 million children and adolescents under the age of 20 are living with the condition. 

Unlike the more prevalent type 2 diabetes, where the body still produces insulin and symptoms develop slowly, people with type 1 diabetes need regular insulin injections or pumps, and must monitor their sugar levels frequently. 

In recent years a number of remote glucose monitoring systems have become available that patients can use at home. These work with a sensor, usually placed under the skin, that measures glucose levels every few minutes. This information is then transmitted wirelessly to a device like a smartphone or tablet, which can then be shared with their clinician. 

British actress Nina Wadia's son Aidan, 14, has type 1 diabetes, and has been managing his condition using Dexcom, a glucose monitoring system used by patients all over the world. Here Wadia explains how Dexcom has improved their lives. 

As a parent of someone with type 1 diabetes, what is your day-to-day life like?
Being able to take a breath, think and pivot constantly without getting frustrated becomes an essential mindset because sometimes it feels like each day is determined to be different from the day before. Whatever worked yesterday is going to misfire today. 

Which areas of yours and Aidan’s life are most impacted by diabetes? 
The one thing that you have to fight hard to reclaim is spontaneity, especially when it comes to food and exercise. It’s only when this is taken do you realise how essential each one is. You can be flexible and there are no real limits, but only in the sense that a great athlete can be flexible without limits because they’ve trained super hard to be that way. So we’ve all had to become athletes when it comes to being spontaneous.

How has Dexcom helped you and Aidan? 
Dexcom has brought future science fiction to real life today. The continuous glucose monitoring system is tiny, sits discreetly on his body and gives him a ten-day breather between sensor changes, so it's goodbye finger-pricking seven times daily. 

Dexcom is totally active at a grass roots level and for Diabetes Awareness has pledged to donate £2,000 if #DexcomDiabetesStories and/or #DexcomWarriorStories is shared 200 times! I’ll be sharing more on social media and would love to hear how other families are winning their fights.

Maybe most importantly Dexcom is trying to introduce a reimbursement programme for type 1 diabetes  patients which will give greater access to modern, life changing hi-tech. I want to spread the word on the importance of accessing it through this campaign. 

If you compared your life today with how it was before Aidan was using Dexcom, what has changed? 
It's always working, which lets him take his mind off diabetes for longer stretches. It also lets me get off his back. We both receive alerts so I no longer have to pester him by asking him what his number is, and especially importantly, I don’t have to wake him at night to prick his finger if I’m worried. Dexcom gave us back our sleep!

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