Healthy Outcomes: Getting a better handle on chronic disease

Plan sponsors can get a better handle on their benefits costs through better management of chronic disease, participants at Benefits Canada’s Healthy Outcomes conference heard.

“Better management of these diseases will lead to a much more productive workforce,” said Joe Farago, executive director of health-care innovation at Innovative Medicines Canada, during a session at the June 10 event in Toronto.

“It will mean less days off work [and] less disability claims . . . which will impact your bottom line.”

Chronic disease is, of course, a significant issue for Canadians and the health-care system. Farago pointed to Public Health Agency of Canada statistics showing 67 per cent of all health-care costs are due to chronic disease. Three out of five Canadian older than age 20 have a chronic disease, while four out of five are at risk of developing one.

Read: How can employers do a better job of accommodating staff with chronic disease?

Given the pressures, Farago listed seven ways plan sponsors can help fight chronic disease in the workplace:

1. Focus on prevention: “People have to be motivated to look at preventing chronic disease and that will help stem the rising cost in this area,” said Farago.

2. Behavioural change: Continuous, focused interactions with plan members in a variety of ways will help keep them engaged and on track.

3. Multi-stakeholder approach: This includes the plan member and plan sponsor but can also involve pharmacists and paid health-care professionals.

4. Corporate culture: “If your managers and directors are engaged in these programs, people will feel more comfortable taking part,” said Farago.

5. Customized approach:  Find out what health issues to invest in and put more money there. If a carrier doesn’t have a program for a particular chronic disease, employers can look at outsourcing to private companies.

6. Be proactive: “Those 45 and up are either pre-chronic or have something, so you have to be proactive before your expenditures become high,” said Farago.

7. Employee accountability: Figure out ways to create incentives for employees and hold them accountable.

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