One third of all Canadians have a chronic health condition, and according to the results from the Patient’s Voice survey sponsored by Merck, 73% of respondents indicated they have more than one health condition. So, what can employers do to bring these numbers down?

The survey found several strategies were considered helpful in allowing employees to work more efficiently while managing their illness, including: flex time (cited by 45%), increased prescription drug coverage (27%), altered work load (21%) and wellness at work programs (20%).

The survey also found 83% of respondents said medication helped them remain productive.

“The top reason people are managing their conditions is because they have access to medications and the time off they need,” says Suzanne Lepage, private health plan strategist and member of the expert panel of the report. “[If] we are investing money in drug benefits, we want to make sure it’s being used properly and not wasted.”

But there is a dark side to medication, as 76% of respondents self-adjust their dosage and how often they take it.

This habit can be a serious concern for plan sponsors. Medication adherence is one of the main factors in controlling any chronic condition. If your employee isn’t following their prescription to the letter, they likely aren’t in control of their condition, which can make them more prone to secondary illnesses. They likely aren’t functioning as well as they can at work either, which means productivity is suffering.

“What can we be doing around medication adherence?” Lepage asked the group.

Cyndy Nayer, president, CEO and co-founder of the Center for Health Value Innovation, provided an answer.

Employers need to be focused on outcomes and not just costs. Nayer, who followed Lepage’s presentation of the survey results, is a self-proclaimed “adherence freak” and admitted that yes, the employer will have higher drug costs if their employees took all their medications properly, but argued that the costs associated with not adhering to prescriptions are much greater.

One solution she suggested was to offer employees incentives that encourage not just medication adherence, but overall health. For instance, employees who get regular health screening, could receive an immediate deposit to a healthcare spending account.

“People need to be rewarded within 30 days,” she explained, “You don’t need to give the incentives all the time; just until the behaviour is changed.”

While not all employers can give such elaborate incentives, the message was clear from both Nayer’s presented data and the Patient’s Voice survey results — everyone benefits from an employee taking charge of their own health by seeking the help they need and sticking to the treatment plan.

Other survey findings included:
Top reason members were able to manage their health condition without time off work
• 21% of respondents take their medication when required
• 17% were able to work and deal with the pain/illness
• 14% were able to book appointments on time off
• 10% had flexible work schedules
• 10% had a healthy lifestyle

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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