Optimizing health benefits

There are many factors that contribute to a healthy and productive workplace. Employee benefit programs promote wellness and encourage a healthy work-life balance. Health plan benefits that include access to innovative medicines keep employees at work and productive. There’s an abundance of evidence demonstrating that healthy employees are more productive and call in sick less often. By providing access to the right treatment at the right time, workplaces can reduce absenteeism, avoid disability claims, and reduce presenteeism – employees who may be physically at work but their minds may be elsewhere.”]

Employers who focus on employee health can also reduce costs associated with missed deadlines, recruiting replacement workers, overtime pay, and training new staff.

An integrated approach for a healthy workplace

Understanding the role of chronic disease and mental health is essential to a healthy workplace. Today’s employers are looking for an integrated approach that places priority on promoting healthy lifestyle changes such as better nutrition and exercise and addressing addiction and mental illness.

This section looks at how chronic disease, poor mental health and poor medication adherence can affect the workplace and increase healthcare and productivity costs.

  • Chronic disease
    • Chronic diseases are the number one problem in the workplace, according to Greenshield’s April 2016 Inside Story.

      1. 3 out of 5 Canadians older than 20 have a chronic disease and 4 out of 5 are at risk of developing one (Source: PHAC 2014)
      2. There were an estimated 2.7 million Canadians living with diabetes in 2010 and that number is expected to rise to 4.2  million by 2020 (Source: Canadian Journal of Diabetes, 2013)
      3. Costs associated with treating diabetes was estimated at 12.2 billion in 2010 and projected to rise to 16.9 billion by 2020 (Source: AstraZeneca, Great-West Life, Cubic 2013)

      Sanofi Canada’s 2015 Healthcare Survey found that 45% of employees reported they’d been diagnosed with a chronic disease such as diabetes, arthritis, and depression. When high blood pressure and high cholesterol were included, that number rose to 56%. Among those 55 and older, a staggering 78% reported a chronic disease.

      Chronic diseases are also responsible for the majority of prescription medicines in the workplace. In fact, it represents almost 90% and 95% of drug use for 50s and 60s age groups, respectively. More than 70 per cent of drug plan costs are by the 35 to 65 age group, according to the Greenshield June 2015 Inside Story. Chronic disease also takes its toll on our economy. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, chronic disease consumes “67% of all direct healthcare costs, and costs the Canadian economy $190 billion annually – $68 billion of which is attributed to treatment and the remainder to lost productivity.” (note, productivity losses in the public agency figures do not include productivity losses due to presenteeism).

      According to a report by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, “90% of type 2 diabetes, 80% of coronary heart disease, and one third of cancers could be prevented by healthy eating, regular exercise, and by not smoking.”

  • Spotlight on mental health
    • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “More working days are lost as a result of mental disorders than physical conditions” and according to the 2015 report from the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System (CCDSS) on Mental Illness in Canada, mental health issues are the primary cause of short-and long-term disability in Canada.

      • Direct costs (hospital care, physician care and drug expenditures) associated with mental illness were $8 billion in 2008 in Canada. (Source: CCDSS)
      • Indirect costs related to mental illness (costs associated with disability claims, lost productivity at school and work due to absenteeism and presenteeism, and social and judicial services) in Canada exceed direct costs and range from $11 to $50 billion. (Source: CCDSS)
  • Medication adherence
    • According to the WHO, adherence for chronic diseases is poor across the globe. In developed countries adherence rates average only 50% and even worse in developing countries. Poor adherence was found to lead to poor health outcomes and jeopardize patient safety, and to increase health care costs.

      According to a Greenshield study, medication adherence is extremely poor for chronic conditions, ranging from 37% for hypertension drugs, 43% for high cholesterol, 55% for depression, and only 45% for diabetes medications. A recent study by the Conference Board of Canada found that non-adherent patients taking medications in various chronic drug therapy classes were only 57% adherent (statins, ACE inhibitors, statins & ACE inhibitors combined, inhaled steroids, smoking cessations, biguanides, and biologic response modifiers).

      Studies conducted also point to the higher costs and poorer health outcomes associated with not taking medications as prescribed and the savings that result from improved compliance. (Source: NCBINCBI)

      Notably, a recent Conference board of Canada study estimated that improving compliance in chronic disease patients in Ontario over the course of 2013 and 2030 would generate benefits that far outweigh the additional pharmaceutical costs of compliance by a ratio of at least 3:1 for 7 out of 8 classes, and up to 6:1, totalling savings and benefits of $3.7 billion, including $1.1 billion in savings of direct health costs and $2.6 billion in social benefits.

      As a result, insurers and employers are initiating programs to improve medication adherence and promote a healthy lifestyle by focusing on prevention.