A healthier work force Featured

11:12am EDT October 23, 2003
The overwhelming majority of an employer's health care costs are generated by a small number of employees.

Companies report that 10 percent of employees drive as much as 75 percent of their health costs. To deal with the cost spiral, companies are working closely with their health care providers to find tools and programs to help employees better understand their health and take a more active role in managing it.

Here are some of the tools available to help your employees better manage their health.

* Health Risk Assessment is a high-tech tool that helps companies improve employee health by providing feedback and assistance based on responses to a voluntary health questionnaire.

In the past, HRA results included general statements like, "You should stop smoking" and ended there. Today's HRAs work off "smart software" that outlines an action plan and can link employees to other company-sponsored programs or outside support and self-help groups.

* Online support tools can join the HRA on a company- or health provider-sponsored Web site.

Created by medical experts, today's health decision support tools can help employees choose a hospital based on its reputation for a specific medical procedure, better understand the differences and similarities of specific generic and brand-name drugs, and give them instant access to valuable information to help them with important health care decisions.

* Chronic condition management programs help health care providers identify the chronic conditions with the highest impact on a company's health care costs, and work with their customers to introduce programs to help employees manage chronic illness without letting it get it the way of living their lives.

Programs provide personalized tools and support so employees can work with their own doctor to design a care plan focused on recognizing and managing symptoms, reducing the risk of illness and complications, and effectively dealing with illness.

Through these programs, not only are more employees are becoming better informed, but companies also like what they're seeing in the workplace. For example, when NCR introduced an HRA to its employees, 23 people were identified as high-risk and referred to chronic condition management programs.

In addition, 31 people used the HRA to refer themselves to the company's fitness center. NCR analysis shows a saving of $2 to $3 in the long run for every dollar it spends on HRAs. Gregory C. Donnelly (Gregory.Donnelly@cigna.com) is vice president, sales manager, sales division of Cigna HealthCare. CIGNA HealthCare is one of the nation's leading providers of health-benefit programs, with managed care networks serving 45 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. CIGNA HealthCare provides medical coverage through managed care and indemnity programs to more than 13.3 million people, including more than 250,000 in major Ohio markets. Reach Donnelly at (216) 642-2573.