Two important issues facing employers and employees today are rising health care costs and a shrinking workforce. The Great Retirement continues to impact our economy every day, while the time and productivity lost by employees who don’t properly manage chronic health issues exacerbates the problem. Meanwhile, benefits advisors are challenged to find new programs that help alleviate these growing problems.
So what can help solve the problems? Terabytes of data generated by the healthcare industry. Yes, data.
The healthcare industry generates an exponential amount of information; in fact, approximately 30% of the world’s entire data volume is generated by healthcare. According to a report by Capital Markets, “By 2025, the compound annual growth rate of healthcare data will reach 36%.”
But what can be done with all this data? For employers, optimizing it can reduce healthcare costs for employees with high-risk conditions and create more productive employees. With most industries facing labor shortages, having healthier and more productive employees is critical to short- and long-term success.
Benefits consultants are also looking for solutions, but their biggest problem is often getting employees to take advantage of what’s already there. That’s why it’s important for brokers to stay engaged with industry offerings and successes to share with HR professionals and other business leaders at companies across the country.
The burdens of an unhealthy workforce
Today, 60% of US adults have a chronic disease, such as diabetes, heart disease, chronic kidney or lung disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. Even worse, 40% have two or more chronic conditions.
Due to the proliferation of high-deductible health plans, adults with chronic conditions are responsible for an increasing share of their health care costs. This has led many to make difficult decisions, such as delaying care or not taking their medication as prescribed – with sometimes disastrous effects.
According to the Center for Disease Control, chronic health problems cost American employers $36.4 billion annually in lost productivity due to absenteeism. In total, employers spend $575 billion each year due to poor employee health.
Fortunately, employers can mitigate the financial impact of chronic illness and help their employees be healthier. But it all comes back to the data.
How data can help solve the problem
Healthcare organizations collect several terabytes of clinical data, claims data, environmental and social data on individual users each year, which can be used to classify patient populations and identify the highest risk patients and the highest generating patients expenses.
Employers and their health benefits providers can use this information to enroll these employees in special care management programs to help them manage their condition more effectively and improve their overall health.
What to look for in a data-driven care management program
The best health management programs use actionable data insights to create an effective, proactive care plan for the employee. Effective health management programs also help employees navigate the health care system by utilizing registered nurses with diverse clinical backgrounds who have received ongoing training and certification. These nurses will also assess non-medical factors using social determinants such as education, economic stability, literacy and housing, then work with employees to develop goals to help improve health-related behaviors and outcomes.
By using data to create, implement, and monitor collaborative care, broker and employers can better manage the cost of care for their organization, and employees learn how to better use health care and other employer-sponsored benefits.
It’s a win-win and it starts with data.
James Darnell is Vice President of Business Development for Population Health.