Health and productivity Featured

6:57am EDT September 1, 2005
Area colleges and institutions are partnering with risk-management and insurance firms to implement innovative health-management programs that have saved participants more than $325,000 in medical claims during the past three years. In today’s world of double-digit cost increases for health care, the reversal is almost unbelievable.

So how can your company realize such a savings when it comes to health-care costs?

“Set a strategy, realize it won’t happen overnight and don’t blindly accept the fact that health-care costs are going to rise; you wouldn’t do that in any other area of your business,” says Debra Dailey, director of the Health and Productivity Institute at Tri-C’s Corporate College.

For example, Dailey says, one approach is to understand the role health-risk factors play in health care utilization, productivity and absenteeism. From there, employers can begin to develop a strategy that will maximize their investment in employee health and control excess employment costs.

The University of Michigan Health Management Research Center has found that employees who improved their health-risk status experience measurable improvements in work productivity and lower health-care costs.

“When you control health-risk factors, you control costs,” Dailey explains.

According to the Integrated Benefits Institute, more than 85 percent of employers, over the next five years, want to link health and medical data to employee absence, lost productivity and financial performance. By beginning with the right organizational change strategy, employers can make this happen.

“Employee health, in a broad sense, should be viewed as a competitive advantage, not a cost burden,” says Neil Quinn, director of health management services for the Oswald Cos.

Quinn and Dailey pose the following question to businesses everywhere: “Why don’t companies apply the same rigor and have the same success in controlling health-related costs as they do with safety programs, quality management or other enterprise-level change initiatives?”

Their answer: “Because they don’t have an integrated health-management model that provides a blueprint for change, metrics for monitoring progress, targeted tactics for achieving results, and a data-driven method for evaluating success and return-on-investment.”

Another example from Quinn and Dailey deals with pregnancy. “No one can change the fact that women get pregnant, but you can change their access to quality prenatal care to reduce future risks and future costs,” Dailey says.

These academia-business partnerships provide clients “with resources and strategies to save money — not by reactively shifting costs to employees or reducing insurance benefits, but by enabling area employers to understand how they can use overall employee health as a competitive advantage,” says Quinn.

  • Opportunities will benefit organizations with the following characteristics.
  • Unwilling to accept 10 percent, 20 percent or 30-plus percent yearly increases in health-related costs
  • Do not want to waste time doing things that can’t be quantified
  • Believe in proactively setting strategies and engaging employees in win-win solutions
  • Have confidence in their ability to overcome challenges
  • Want to distinguish themselves as best-in-class
  • Believe that there must be a better way to increase worker productivity and manage health-care costs

 "Employers can ill afford to view health-related expenses as simply the cost of doing business. To do so in today’s economy is a critical mistake,” says Eric Krieg, senior vice president, benefits, Oswald Cos.

Institutes and partnerships offer many benefits for employers.

  • Integrated team training designed to empower organizations to effectively manage the total costs of health
  • Employer-tailored consultation coupled with a proactive approach to systematically implementing a results-driven health and productivity management strategy
  • Data-driven methods for evaluating success and return-on-investment for health management strategies
  • Unique networking and professional development opportunities that propel forward, out-of-the box thinking
  • Access to cutting edge resources, technology and tools designed to support organizational change strategies

“The most important thing to keep asking yourself is, ‘What can we change in our culture?’” Quinn says.

Dr. Denise Reading is president of Tri-C’s Corporate College. Visit http://www.corporatecollege.com or call (866) 806-CORP to learn more about the Health and Productivity Institute.