May 8, 2019

Employees with Chronic Diseases: How it Impacts Businesses

By Jennifer Schiffers, M.D.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a chronic disease is defined as a condition that lasts one year or more and requires ongoing medical attention or limits activities of daily living or both.

It’s a simple definition to a serious and pervasive problem in America. Currently six in 10 Americans have at least one chronic disease, making it one of the leading drivers of higher health costs. As an employer, here is what you need to know about chronic conditions:

The High Cost

The CDC reports that 90 percent of the nation’s annual 3.3 trillion in health care expenditures is spent on people with chronic and mental health conditions. While these costs are staggering, it doesn’t even account for the additional cost to employers for lost productivity and higher rates of absenteeism. Globally, the management of chronic diseases has been categorized into five areas—chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease.

The Cause

So what is causing the continued rise in employees diagnosed with chronic conditions? Health professionals point to unhealthy lifestyle choices as a key contributor, which includes smoking, excessive alcohol drinking, lack of exercise and the consumption of too much sugar and processed foods.

A Solution

There is some light at the end of the tunnel for employers who want to be proactive in dealing with the impact of chronic diseases on their companies. More employers are implementing a chronic disease (or care) management program, which is an organized set of interventions that focus on the needs of the employee population. Employers that self-insure can purchase a chronic disease management program as an add-on to their employee health plan or a health plan carrier may include a chronic disease management program in the cost of their plan.

Western Growers Assurance Trust (WGAT) is an example of the latter. WGAT partners with Pinnacle Health Management (PHM) to offer a care management program at no cost to employees diagnosed with a chronic care condition. The program is included with every WGAT health plan purchased. You may ask yourself, what role does a care management program play in helping those with these conditions and promoting a healthy workforce? The WGAT care management program plays an important role in helping employees with chronic conditions work toward better health.

PHM’s dedicated care management staff guides a program participant on their journey to a healthier life and together, they can achieve great results. Our on-staff nurses and team constantly stay on top of new developments in the area of chronic conditions and are committed to providing the most competitive and advantageous programs to our members. Our data analytics also allow us to make customized recommendations to the employers, partnering with them to ensure a healthy, happy workforce.

How You Can Help

Patient adherence is the key to having better health outcomes for employees with chronic conditions. Nearly 80 percent of employees who drop their treatment plans will see worse symptoms down the road. Employers can take steps to ensure that their affected employees stay compliant with their treatment plans—whether provided through a chronic management program or personal physician. Below are some tips to help remove barriers to employees managing their chronic diseases:

1.  Help employees better manage medication costs by making it easier for them to access their meds. Financial barriers are becoming more of a problem as the price of medications continue to increase. Consider providing budget-friendly options if a participant says finances are an issue.

2.  Provide ways to help employees track their numbers remotely—such as a Bluetooth ability to track blood pressure. Consider putting numbers on a portal and into electronic health records—it can make medication adjustments easier.

3.  Ask your care management program provider, such as Pinnacle Health Management, to set up medication reminders or other treatment reminders to send to participants’ smartphones.

To receive more information about PHM’s care management program, which is included in every WGAT plan, you may contact a member of the health management team at (844) 230-1121.