Tom Jones (name has been changed to protect his identity), an executive at a large technology company in Silicon Valley told me a story a few years back when I started working in digital health. He said that he had to miss work six times to get his insulin dose right.
You see, Tom has type 2 diabetes. He’s had it for the last 10 years and even though he’s changed his lifestyle, he is still insulin dependent. Every few years, sometimes more often, he starts to feel off and when he goes in to see his endocrinologist, they tell him he needs to change his insulin dose. After that, he ends up going back to the office another five or so times to get the dose right.
U.S. employers combined spend trillions of dollars a year on health care. Premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage rose for the sixth straight year, up 3% and averaging $18,764 in 2017. With about 151 million Americans relying on employer-sponsored coverage, these increases mean big bucks.
With chronic disease on the rise, the cost of health care goes beyond health insurance. The absenteeism, presenteeism and productivity losses for people with chronic diseases average $3,600 per employee per year. So how can employers reduce these costs and keep employees like Tom in the office?
Study after study shows that preventative care programs can impact employees in two ways: 1) Reduce the cost of acute care; 2) Increase employee satisfaction.
These preventative care programs are often sponsored by employers or health plans and are proven to lead to happier, healthier and more loyal employees, but they also present an opportunity for companies to reduce costs—thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars.
Perks like chronic disease management programs, wellness challenges, sponsored gym memberships, and ergonomically designed office furniture provide employers with a potentially handsome return on their investment in the form of savings on acute care costs. And the bigger the employer, the more benefit they derive. Same goes for childcare and elder care; if employees don’t have to worry about their kids or parents, they can be more productive at work.
Chronic disease is on a dramatic rise and affects over 45% of the U.S. population. Screening and management tools that keep people with heart disease, diabetes and asthma and other chronic diseases in check and managing their condition can stave off costs, keep employees at the office and help them to better manage their condition.
But these programs cost money. What the market is slowly realizing is that the cost for these programs, which range anywhere from $15-$150 per employee per month pays off in dividends with healthy, present and more productive employees.
Let’s go back to Tom. Early detection of trends through aggregated views of his personal glycemic data could give Tom the information he needs to better self-manage, which can have a huge impact alone. If Tom could see that his diabetes was trending in the wrong direction, he could start to make more proactive changes. If that data was then shared with clinicians and coaches, they could give him advice or even remotely titrate his insulin before he starts to feel bad and have to take off multiple days of work to get things in check. And employers have the opportunity to make these types of programs, benefits and technology available.
If we can reduce the progression of chronic disease and keep employees feeling healthy and happy, everybody wins.
Editor's note: This is a contributed piece by Michelle de Haaff, Vice President of Marketing and Customer Success at Glooko.