Just as employers hire workers with specialized skills to meet the demands of the workplace, companies often seek out health plans, provider groups, or specialized vendors to help with employee disease management.
By putting into effect any number of disease management programs, you can help your employees better cope with their chronic conditions. And even mitigate costly hospital and ER visits. The Rand Corporation reports that 87 percent of employers’ health care cost savings have come from disease management programs.
High impact approaches to employee disease management
1. Baseline risk assessment
This is a foundational health risk assessment that documents an employee’s medical history and lifestyle routine. After responding, employees receive an online report with their health status, risk for certain diseases, and suggestions for improving their health. To encourage employee participation, often employers introduce a financial incentive.
2. Timely reminders
An important part of care management is actually getting care. That may sound obvious, but all too often people suffering from chronic conditions let the condition dictate when to seek help. Allowing preventive or pre-emptive care can help mitigate the condition. Group Health (now Kaiser Permanente) sends patients annual letters, voice mails, nurse calls, or text messages. All to inform them of needed screenings, lab tests, prescription monitoring, and follow-up appointments.
3. Opportunistic care
When a patient comes in for an appointment, urgent care, or a flu shot, their electronic medical record is reviewed to see if there are any other care gaps that can be handled during the same visit—particularly for chronic conditions.
4. Health coaching
Phone-based health coaching helps employees with moderate or high health risks get timely, appropriate care. This helps avoid unnecessary utilization of costly health care services. Coaching is particularly effective for patients with asthma, diabetes and heart failure. In fact, it’s been shown to result in 10.1 percent fewer hospital admissions.
5. Value-based benefit design
Seek a vendor that encourages management of chronic conditions in primary care. Also, look for a health plan that lowers or eliminates copayments and costs of chronic care drugs to remove barriers to care. We offer no cost shares for maintenance drugs for chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. And no cost shares for medical equipment such as diabetes monitors, asthma spacers, and blood pressure cuffs.
6. Complex care management
Expanded primary care teams may be needed to assist patients with particularly complex needs who also tend to be the highest utilizers of care. In addition to the doctor, nurse, and any specialists, patient teams with a social worker, pharmacist, care manager, and behavioral health therapist can provide better support to high-risk patients.
7. Peer support groups
Individuals with chronic conditions can learn from others who are successfully managing conditions, as well as from trained professionals. Look for a program that includes workshops facilitated by trained patients who also have chronic conditions. Your employees can set incremental goals and work toward them in a supportive environment.