Our goal is to make the entire healthcare experience easier for members and their families. Our personalized second opinion service includes researching and locating providers, scheduling appointments, transferring medical records, care coordination, decision support and empowering members to become more educated about and involved in their care.

New Expert Medical Opinion Program

When it comes to second opinions or healthcare in general, there is no “one size fits all” solution.

In response to organizations who are seeking even more in-depth support around second opinions, the new Expert Medical Opinion (EMO) Program takes our existing second opinion service several steps further, promoting measurably improved health outcomes and medical cost savings.

In addition to helping to ensure the accuracy of diagnoses and proposed treatments and accessing best-in-class care, the program has a special focus on helping individuals with complex conditions and potentially life-altering diagnoses.

Next-level support for second opinions

The Expert Medical Opinion Program supports both in-person and remote (chart-based) second opinions. Using our existing Perfect MatchSM physician locator process, our clinical team will research and locate the right specialists, academic centers and Centers of Excellence nationwide to meet each individual’s specific needs. The program is supported by a live, in-house team who can also collaborate with treating physicians, coordinate ongoing care and testing and provide end-to-end follow-up and treatment decision support. We also leverage advanced data analytics and employ multi-channel communications to address member health risks and care gaps, and provide enhanced reporting on health outcomes, ROI and medical cost savings on EMO cases.

Another key advantage is that all of our services are fully integrated and provided by experienced clinicians and Personal Health Advocates, who can also do the work to resolve any other challenges such as time-consuming administrative and related care and insurance-related issues.

No matter what level of clinical support your organization is seeking, Health Advocate can help design and implement a solution to meet your unique needs. Please contact us today to start the conversation.

 

Next Story >> Clinical Corner: The Value of Second Opinions

Clinical Corner: The Value of Second Opinions

By Raffi Terzian, M.D.
Senior Medical Director and
Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations
Health Advocate

Obtaining a second opinion can help patients make better informed decisions about their care. While some patients may be uneasy, providers should reassure their patients that it is acceptable to pursue a second opinion if they elect to do so. The American Medical Association Code of Medical Ethics provides guidance to providers regarding consultation, referral and second opinions and asserts that “Physicians’ fiduciary obligation to promote patients’ best interests and welfare can include consulting other physicians for advice.”

In some cases, second opinions can shed light on diagnostic uncertainty. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic published a study in April 2017 which explored the impact of second opinions on changes in diagnosis. They found that final diagnoses were better defined or refined in sixty-six percent of cases. Furthermore, the researchers found that in twenty-one percent of cases, final diagnoses were different from the initial diagnosis. Clarifying diagnostic uncertainty can also lead to more cost-effective care.

The value of second opinions can be viewed through the broader context of care coordination and making sure that patients are accessing the appropriate care in a timely and efficient manner. If a patient decides to pursue a second opinion, it is helpful to be prepared in advance with questions to ask the provider. Second opinions may be sought as in-person consultations or remotely/online by submitting medical records for review by an expert in a given field. The in-person consultation is typically covered by most health insurance plans, though it’s a good idea to confirm benefit coverage in advance. Medicare Part B also allows coverage of second opinions in some circumstances. Centers that provide remote or chart review second opinions will charge for the consultation as well as any medical record collection that may be required. These types of consultations are typically not covered by insurance.

Overall, second opinions can be valuable in bringing clarity to patients facing a diagnostic dilemma, or to those seeking confidence in a proposed treatment plan, further empowering them to take an active role in their ongoing care.

 

Next Story >> Product Spotlight: Expert Medical Opinions

Bert Alicea | BenefitsPRO

Domestic violence may frequently occur behind closed doors, but the repercussions of abuse have the potential to spill over into the workplace. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an opportunity to raise awareness of this important and difficult topic. For organizations who may employ either victims or perpetrators, domestic violence can impact the individuals involved as well as those around them, leading to a ripple effect of lost productivity, legal concerns, and other costs, not to mention the risk of an incident occurring at work.

Unfortunately, no business is immune to the issue of domestic violence. According to the most recent National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, approximately a third of women and a quarter of men report being the victim of violence by a partner at some point in their lives. This means the likelihood of an employee being either a victim or perpetrator is higher than many may realize.

It is important to note that domestic violence is not limited to physical abuse. It can include any range of assaultive and coercive behaviors used by an individual to hurt, dominate or control and intimate a partner or family member, such as stalking, emotional or verbal abuse, financial control and more.

While this is a difficult subject matter to tackle within the workplace, taking a proactive approach to domestic violence can help organizations simultaneously protect their employees while minimizing their risk. Brokers and business leaders can work together to create an action plan and implement prevention and intervention strategies to address domestic violence within their workforce.

The impact on the workplace

Domestic violence impacts people of all ages, races and backgrounds, including employed adults. Although domestic violence is not always physical, tragically, 78 percent of women killed in the workplace between 2003 and 2008 were murdered by their abuser. While alarming, the effects on the workplace begin much sooner, and everyone pays the toll.

Consider that each year, domestic violence victims miss about eight million days of work, the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs. Because of this and other factors, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that businesses lose $729 million each year in lost productivity related to domestic violence. Employee turnover is also a contributing factor; up to 60 percent of employees experiencing domestic violence reported losing their job as a result, either because they were fired or had to quit.

In addition to indirect costs, health care costs related to domestic violence can also add up for organizations. Domestic violence victims frequently require medical attention and support as a result of abuse, leading to combined medical and mental healthcare costs of more than $4 billion a year.

The effects of domestic violence are not limited to victims; a survey conducted by the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence found that at least 44 percent of those who worked with a victim of domestic violence reported feeling personally impacted, including concern for their own safety. This can also have a devastating effect on workplace morale.

Recognizing instances of domestic violence

In order to effectively support employees experiencing domestic violence, it is critical to understand some of the common signs that may indicate a problem:

  • Unexplained bruises
  • Unusually quiet/withdrawn
  • Frequent absences
  • Lack of concentration
  • Wearing concealing clothing, even in warm weather
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Change in performance attitude
  • Frequent breaks or appointments with friends/family
  • Receipt of harassing phone calls

If an employee demonstrates any of these red flags, intervening in a sensitive and private manner can make a difference and encourage them to seek help before the problem escalates. In order to be most effective, it is beneficial for managers and other employees to be prepared to handle this important yet personal matter. Yet surprisingly, 65 percent of respondents to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management reported that their organization does not have a policy or program in place to prevent or address domestic violence.

It is important for organizations to realize that domestic violence does not solely happen outside working hours – a survey from the National Safe Workplace Institute found that 94 percent of corporate security directors reported domestic violence as a high security issue at their organization. Keep in mind the workplace is somewhere perpetrators know they can locate their victim. This increases risk and liability for businesses, which can also lead to additional costs, especially without a plan in place to address this issue.

A proactive approach

Many organizations may be hesitant to get involved in instances of domestic abuse or violence. Yet organizations and their partners have the potential to make a big difference by stepping in early and supporting employees, making it critical to have a comprehensive prevention and response plan ready.

  1. Assess current plans (or lack thereof). The first step is to analyze past incidents, assess the potential for issues and determine current preparedness. Taking the time to review this information will help create a plan that meets the organization’s unique needs.
  2. Develop comprehensive policy. Based on the results of the assessment, this should include internal reporting procedures, support mechanisms for victims, including enhanced security measures, and disciplinary procedures for perpetrators.
  3. Implement company-wide training. In order for the policy to be effective, it is important to raise awareness of the issue and educate both managers and employees on how to identify potential situations, follow reporting procedures and respond appropriately. This may also include what to do if an incident happens at work.

Ensure employees are in the know – Get the message out to the workforce through a variety of channels, including newsletters, posters in break rooms or restrooms, the intranet and more. This can include information about the company’s program as well as how to access available resources, such as the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), community organizations or even local law enforcement.

Benefits professionals play an important role in this process by helping organizations proactively implement the right programs to help should the need arise. Waiting until something happens might be too late. By raising awareness of this important issue and connecting businesses with EAPs and other resources, brokers, consultants and others can ensure employers are prepared to address issues related to domestic violence should they arise, reducing liability while ensuring the safety of the workforce.

Norbert “Bert” Alicea, MA, CEAP, is executive vice president of EAP+Work/Life Services at Health Advocate. Alicea is a licensed psychologist and premier trainer with over 29 years of experience in the EAP field. He has a specialization with executive coaching and management consultations in assisting with difficult workplace situations and also conducts corporate training locally and on a national level.

Keep health care costs in check

By Melissa Erickson | Healthy Living

The average American spends more than $10,000 a year on personal health care, according to the most recent estimates from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, but there are ways to keep health care expenses down.

Be healthy

While staying healthy is the most straightforward way to minimize health care expenses, that’s easier said than done. Chronic health problems cost Americans big bucks, and many of them are the result of poor health choices, said Angela Snyder, director of health policy and financing at the Georgia Health Policy Center and associate professor at Georgia State University.

Diet and nutrition matter in the prevention of chronic diseases so follow these tips: Eat healthfully and get moderate exercise, regular checkups and adequate sleep. Doing those simple things can go a long way to minimize long-term health expenditures, Snyder said.

Be a smart shopper

“Shopping around for the lowest cost is an important part of being a health care consumer,” said Dr. Raffi Terzian, senior medical director at HealthAdvocate Solutions, which works with companies and organizations to communicate insurance benefits to employees. To avoid surprise bills, find out how much procedures will cost before having them done, Terzian said.

Price-shopping can pay off big when it comes to medications. Request generics, which are required to have the same active ingredients and must work the same as their brand-name counterparts to obtain FDA approval.

“Other ways to defray costs include taking advantage of drugstore discounts and manufacturers’ coupons,” Terzian said.

Stay in-network

While how much you pay depends on your health plan, it’s always better to stay within your health insurance network. It’s also in your best interest to know what your plan covers, Terzian said.

“Certain fixed amounts are set, but out-of-pocket costs may be independent. Find out how much (a procedure or test) will cost, and have a conversation with your provider,” Terzian said.

The best time to ask for a discount on a noncovered procedure is before service is rendered.

“You have a better opportunity to negotiate on the front end,” Terzian said.

Be proactive

If your health plan offers preventative services, be sure to use them, Terzian said. For example, the Affordable Care Act requires that most health plans cover blood pressure, colorectal cancer and cholesterol screenings and flu and tetanus shots for free. If you’re taking advantage of these screenings, it’s more likely a physician will notice a serious condition earlier, which may help reduce health care costs long-term.

Use a health spending account

Health spending accounts allow a person to put money aside for future health care costs, Terzian said.

“You need to anticipate what expenses will be ahead of time and put money aside to cover them. It’s good for a whole host of medical, dental and vision expenses,” Terzian said.

For people with high-deductible health plans, a health savings account is a great way to save for medical expenses and reduce taxable income, but a user must qualify for the program, Terzian said. The government sets the limits for annual contributions, and for 2018 the limit is $3,450 for singles and $6,900 for families.

Read your bill

Mistakes happen. Protect yourself from overpaying by checking your bill. If you see something you don’t understand or think there’s an error, contact your provider and ask about the charge.

Combating the Effects of Employee Stress

By Norbert “Bert” Alicea, MA, CEAP, Executive Vice President of EAP+Work/Life Services, Health Advocate

Employee stress, dubbed the “nation’s fastest growing occupational disease,” has become a major problem for organizations of all sizes.

According to a survey from the American Psychological Association, nearly one third of American workers reported feeling stressed or tense on a regular basis while at work. The causes of stress are widespread and include a lack of work/life balance from juggling household and family responsibilities; everyday challenges from student debt to retirement concerns to information overload; and workplace stressors such as feeling undervalued, under-compensated and overworked.

Whatever the cause, stressed workers tend to be fatigued, prone to mistakes and injuries, and are more likely to be absent. Most significantly, they incur healthcare costs two times the average of other employees. In total, the consequences of stress-related illnesses, from depression to heart disease, costs businesses an estimated $200 to $300 billion a year in lost productivity.

However, with a proactive dual strategy of organizational change and individual stress management, businesses can take steps to promote healthier, more productive employees while reducing healthcare costs.

The True Toll of Stress

The American Institute of Stress estimates that one million employees miss work each day because of stress. But even when employees come to work, emotional distress can reduce a worker’s capacity to perform by up to 50 percent.

If the stress is not addressed, a variety of potential issues may result including absenteeism, job resignations, and an increased risk of developing chronic and costly diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and/or mental health problems like anxiety and depression.

Furthermore, as a means to cope with stress, many employees turn to the risky use of alcohol, prescription pain medications and other substances. Left untreated, substance abuse can cost an employer upwards of $13,000 per employee per year, according to a recent National Institutes of Health study.

How Employers Can Be Proactive

The first step is to evaluate the scope of stress in the organization by looking at absenteeism, illness and turnover rates as well as performance problems. Employee surveys, Health Risk Assessments and internal committees can pinpoint specific stressors and identify if they are company-wide or concentrated in a particular department. It’s also crucial to work directly with employees, including through exit interviews, to get their input about strategies that could help reduce stress.

While some changes to the corporate culture may need to be instituted, such as flexible work hours, workload redistribution, and better employee recognition, the following are some key ways to address and reduce employee stress:

  • Provide access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAPs, which often include in-person and/or telephonic counseling benefits, help assess and provide support for personal/emotional issues that affect performance and productivity as well as those that create stress. Issues may range from substance abuse to family problems and financial issues. EAPs that help address substance abuse issues, for example, can reduce workers’ compensation claims, employer healthcare costs, and absenteeism. These programs can also help employees with related work/life issues that may impact their stress levels, such as locating resources for eldercare support for those who may be caring for older loved ones.
  • Incorporate health advocacy into employee benefits. Offering an expert who can personally address healthcare issues, such as helping to resolve medical bills and interacting with insurance companies and providers, can help employees reduce worry and stay focused on their job.
  • Offer an accessible, well-rounded wellness program. A multichannel program that addresses the overall well-being of employees–including physical, emotional and financial health–through web-based workshops alongside traditional coaching components can help reduce stress while increasing productivity.

As an integral part of these efforts, engagement strategies can include built-in incentives to reward enrollment and sustained involvement as well as for making healthy lifestyle changes. Additionally, providing consistent employee communications can help drive them to take action.

Don’t wait to take action. Contact us.

Beyond lowering healthcare costs, a continued commitment to reducing stress and providing support to improve the well-being of all workers, no matter what they are going though, produces many benefits. Workers who are less stressed, for example, are more resilient and inclined to stay with their companies.

Learn how Health Advocate can help you create a customized, comprehensive program to promote total well-being, leading to a stronger, healthier, and more productive and satisfied workforce and reduced healthcare costs.

 

Next Story >> Clinical Corner: Depression in the Workplace: Reversing the Toll on Productivity, Health and the Bottom Line 

By Jocelyn Sivalingam, M.D., Medical Director, Health Advocate

Depression is an extraordinarily common, costly, disabling, and recurrent condition that touches every workplace. Those suffering from depression often experience alcohol and substance misuse, and the disease also frequently complicates common chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and chronic lung diseases. Depression, in fact, is one of the top disabling conditions worldwide.

Although depression is a widespread, devastating problem, studies show that only a little over a third of those affected receive treatment.

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health estimates, in 2016, 6.7 percent (or 16.2 million) of adults in the U.S. suffered a major depressive episode. More women than men suffered an episode (8.5 vs. 4.8 percent) and overall, about two thirds of those affected suffered major impairment. Yet only 37 percent of those affected were actually treated for depression. When treatment occurred, about 44 percent received treatment that included care and medication from a health professional.

The True Costs of Depression

The consequences of untreated depression and its associated conditions include absenteeism, presenteeism and lost workplace productivity, with significant financial impact. In one 2015 report, the estimated overall economic burden of depressive conditions in the U.S. increased to more than $210 billion between 2005 and 2010. Half of the costs were attributed to absenteeism and presenteeism, while nearly another half were direct costs. Notably, five percent of the costs were directly related to suicide.

In addition to the more obvious economic burden on employers, people suffering from depression are often unable to care for other medical conditions they may have. This can result in more complications and higher healthcare costs. It’s estimated that for every dollar spent on depression treatment, another $2.57 was spent on a co-occurring condition and another $2.13 went to workplace costs such as absenteeism and presenteeism related to the condition.

Employers Play a Key Role in Removing Stigma

A major barrier for people to get the treatment they need is the stigma surrounding mental health issues. However, employers can improve the health both of the workforce and their bottom line through recognition of the importance and costs of depression and associated mental health conditions.

Eliminating the mental health stigma so that seeking help for depression has the same importance as getting help for high blood pressure may not yet be a norm in most sectors, but would go far toward removing barriers to seeking needed care. Education on mental health issues and a workplace culture where total (mental and physical) well-being is a priority, is openly discussed, and seeking help is actively encouraged can help normalize treatment and care.

Connecting and engaging employees with behavioral health care in a timely manner—and that this care is confidential and easily accessible—is also crucial.

Finally, it’s important that employers have a full understanding of how benefit design around both pharmacy and behavioral health care affects employee utilization of benefits for mental health. All these factors help ensure that workers get the help they need for depression and other mental health issues when they need it most.

Contact Us for Help

Health Advocate offers access to Licensed Professional Counselors, easily reachable by phone or email, for confidential, short-term help for depression and other mental health issues. We also offer clinical coaching and advocacy to help employees understand mental health benefits, locate providers and treatment options, and for coordinating care between health insurance companies and providers. Our robust communications educate employees about mental health symptoms and offer self-care steps to better cope with depression, anxiety and other issues. Find out how we can help you put the right program in place to help support the total well-being of your employees.

 

Sources:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR1-2016/NSDUH-FFR1-2016.htm#mde
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17888807/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25742202

 

Next Story >> Product Spotlight: Empowered Health

By Michael Kaplan | New York Post

When Larry Nolan decided to fix his deviated septum — so askew that his nose was visibly crooked and airflow was almost nonexistent — he knew he needed to find a skilled plastic surgeon. He also knew he wouldn’t be paying retail.

The 34-year-old Californian, who co-owns the Hardcore Fitness chain of gyms, sought a price quote from the office of Dr. Robert Kotler, a highly regarded facial plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills. The initial estimate: $16,500. Nolan suspected he could negotiate a better deal.

More people than ever are haggling to reduce the cost of health care, spanning everything from annual physicals to major lifesaving surgery. And for good reason: A poll, co-conducted last year by the find-a-doctor site Amino.com, found that 55 percent of respondents had been hit with at least one medical bill they couldn’t afford to pay.

Abbie Leibowitz, founder and chief medical officer of Health Advocate Solutions, a company that advises consumers on health care and insurance needs, explains that out-of-pocket expenses are rising. Average deductibles for family plans came to $8,232 in 2017, according to eHealth Insurance. As a result, patients are devising creative ways to save cash. “If you are not attempting to negotiate, you are missing out,” Leibowitz says.

It helps to have a bargaining chip, experts tell The Post. Common points of negotiation include flexibility in scheduling, the ability to satisfy a bill quickly and — depending on your digital clout — a promise to promote the provider on social media. An expression of need can sometimes help, too.

Nolan negotiated a break by accepting a last-minute appointment when another patient canceled, agreeing to go under the knife with just five days’ notice. When the office manager asked what he’d be willing to pay for the spur-of-the-moment surgery, he said $12,000.

“They said they could do it at that price,” Nolan says — a savings of more than 25 percent.

For his part, Kotler tells The Post that he also considers markdowns for patients who sign on for multiple procedures at the same time or piggyback with another patient for what he calls “the friends and family plan.”

“If someone and her sister want work done and we can do it all in the same day, we offer a discount that can be 20 percent,” Kotler says.

Wheeling and dealing also works for dentistry. When Nolan needed crowns on his four front teeth, he scored a 50-percent-off deal in which he agreed to promote the dentist to the 150,000 Instagram followers and 5,000 Facebook friends he shares with his wife. “By posting pictures of me smiling on Instagram and tagging the dentist on Facebook, I brought the price down to around $4,000,” Nolan says. “And [the dentist] posted before-and-after pictures of me on her Facebook page.” Nolan estimates that his endorsements drove at least 20 new patients to the practice.

Ed Brodow, author of “Negotiation Boot Camp” and a negotiation consultant to Fortune 500 companies, says courage is half the battle. “It’s all about having the guts to ask,” he says.

Such was the case when he received a $2,000 quote for a dental crown. “I flinched and said, ‘That seems very high. I can’t afford that. Can you help me out?’ ” The dentist lopped 25 percent off the price.

“I knew he would rather get $1,600 from me than have me not do it or look for another dentist,” Brodow says.

Researching market rates can further empower patients in price discussions, says Derek Fitteron, CEO of Medical Cost Advocate, which aids clients in getting value out of health care. He suggests looking up average procedure costs on sites such as Medicare.gov and HealthcareBluebook.com and using those numbers as a starting point.

And don’t hesitate to negotiate if your bill doesn’t align with typical fees. “Call [the provider] and say, ‘You are charging me more than the going rate,’” Fitteron says. Doctors’ offices often acquiesce in hopes of securing payment more quickly, he notes.

In many cases, haggling after care actually gives you an edge. “That’s when you are in a position of power,” says Diane Mullins, a registered nurse with an MBA in health care management and the author of “Health Care & You: A Guide to Navigating the Health Care System and Becoming Your Own Best Advocate.” After all, the hospital can’t exactly take back your artificial hip.

Another gambit for getting a price cut after the fact: Offering to pay a smaller lump sum immediately as opposed to a larger amount in billed installments. This often results in a 15 to 20 percent discount, Fitteron says.

It can work even when your bill isn’t in the thousands. Leibowitz says that patients can haggle over co-pays, offering to pay a smaller amount on the day of their office visit. “You can offer to pay $20 on the spot rather than them billing you for $30,” he says. “The idea of getting paid right then and there is appealing [to doctor’s offices].”

As an entrepreneur himself, Nolan believes that health care is a numbers game like everything else. “Because doctors provide a medical service, people think that their prices are set in stone,” says Nolan. “But ultimately, they are also running businesses. And like all [businesspeople], they benefit from negotiating.”

Dr. Raffi Terzian | BenefitsPRO

As health care continues to grow increasingly complex, the repercussions can be especially apparent during open enrollment season. Whether organizations are changing their plans, adding new offerings or switching their approach, open enrollment can often best be described as controlled chaos for those leading the charge.

With this year’s open enrollment just around the corner for most organizations, now is the time to think ahead. Brokers and consultants can play an integral role in reducing the burden for their clients by helping them stay abreast of both ongoing and emerging trends and issues facing HR professionals. Here are nine trends and common issues to be aware of:

  1. HDHPs – The continued adoption of high-deductible and other consumer-driven health plans are driving employees to look for options that make the most of their health care dollars. Helping employees understand their options and how their choice may impact costs can help avoid issues later on.
  2. Plan changes – Between policy updates, mergers and cost shifts, the plans available to employees frequently change. This can adjust their level of coverage, premiums and cost-sharing responsibility, and provider network, making it critical that they have resources to help determine the best fit for their needs.
  3. Prescription coverage changes – As part of other plan modifications or new offerings, yearly changes to prescription coverage can also have a big impact on employees (especially those on long-term medication for chronic conditions, etc.), so it’s even more important to communicate these changes effectively to avoid issues down the road.
  4. Diverse workforce – Employees represent a span of generations, lifestyles and backgrounds, so one size plan does not fit all. It’s important that open enrollment options provide for this variety of needs.
  5. Digital options – From online platforms that help employees select plans to plan offerings like telemedicine, digital technology is playing a growing role in open enrollment as well as benefits in general.
  6. Multi-channel outreach – In addition to utilizing technology, many employers are looking to diversify their benefits communication in order to reach more employees in the ways they seek information. This can include mailers, posters, emails, small meetings, and much more.
  7. Concierge services – Due to the increasing confusion of open enrollment, more and more organizations are offering resources and services to help employees navigate the complexities. This can help reduce the burden on HR as well as ensure employees make more informed decisions.
  8. Addons – Many employees have a wide variety of additional options to consider adding during open enrollment, which may lead to confusion about what is best for each individual and their family. Effectively explaining these options, their costs and their benefits can make a big difference.
  9. Overworked HR team – As benefits continue get more complex, HR teams field an increasing number of questions and concerns from employees, especially during open enrollment.

Addressing some of these key challenges or issues in advance can help make this year’s open enrollment process smooth and successful. Open enrollment may be challenging, but working together with clients to plan ahead can enable organizations to overcome issues, leading to a more effective benefits year ahead.

Dr. Terzian is a board certified Emergency Physician with nearly 20 years of clinical and administrative experience. Before joining Health Advocate, Dr. Terzian led educational programs at a number of the country’s top teaching hospitals.

By Ada Brainsky, M.D., Medical Director, Health Advocate

Skin cancer and the hazards of sun exposure—its major cause—typically gains awareness as the warmer months approach. But skin cancer is a year-round concern, and a growing one for everyone, including employers. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S., affecting more people each year than all other cancers combined. One in five people in the U.S. will develop skin cancer by age 70.

Each year, nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer, at an estimated annual cost of $8.1 billion. Furthermore, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that skin cancers cause a significant loss of productivity in the U.S. workforce. Fortunately, most skin cancers can be prevented and, if found early, can be cured.

Employers can play an important role in helping protect workers from becoming a statistic.

Getting the Message Across

Incorporating sun-safety messages and programs in the workplace can improve health outcomes and save money. These messages should underscore that skin cancer is a year-round concern for everyone, no matter where you live or work, or what your age or the color of your skin.

The main emphasis should be to reduce the overexposure to the harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which comes from sunlight, sun lamps and tanning beds. The damaging effects of the sun build over time. The more exposure to UV radiation over a lifetime, the higher the risk of developing skin cancer.

The most common type of skin cancer, non-melanoma (squamous or basal cell), tends to occur in areas of the body exposed to sunlight and can usually be cured because it grows slowly. However, if left untreated, the cancer can become large and spread inside the body.

The second type of skin cancer, melanoma, accounts for about one percent of all skin cancers in the U.S., but it causes most of the skin cancer deaths because it is aggressive and more likely to invade nearby tissues and spread to distant parts of the body. Risk factors include having a history of many blistering sunburns as a child or teenager, having several large or many small moles, and having a family history of unusual moles or melanoma.

Targeting All Workers Is Essential

Sun protection messaging is especially important for outdoor workers, but all workers should be made aware of the risk of overexposure to the sun. For example, employees who work in direct sunlight through windows or who drive regularly as part of their job are at risk of overexposure to UV rays through glass. Additionally, indoor workers may be more likely to have intense, intermittent sun exposure during recreational time on weekends or during vacations. This puts them at increased risk of melanoma.

Messages should encourage employees to visit a dermatologist for a full-body skin exam to check for any abnormalities, as well as teach them how to self-check for unusual changes in the color, shape or size of moles or skin spots. For best protection, the year-round use of sunscreen with an SPF (sunscreen protection factor) of at least 30 should be encouraged, combined with wearing long sleeves and a broad-brimmed hat, and avoiding sun exposure as much as possible between 10 am and 4 pm when the sun’s rays are most harsh.

Sun Safety Protects Everyone

Keeping employees safe from skin cancer makes good business sense. Workers who develop skin cancer miss work and cause claim costs to rise. It’s also an employer’s legal responsibility to keep employees safe, according to OSHA guidelines. Employers already address the dangers of working in extreme heat, and sun safety can easily be incorporated into these efforts. For example, they can allow for breaks to apply sunscreen or rotate the schedule of workers in in UV-intense positions to reduce exposure.

Some forward-thinking employers provide workers with sunscreen and protective clothing and even offer skin cancer screenings.

No matter what sun-safety strategy an organization chooses, policies designed to support sun protection practices have been shown to be effective, the NIH reports. Employers who encourage behavioral changes and communicate well with their workers can increase the success and adoption of new policies.

Contact Us

Health Advocate provides clinical coaching, resources and a vast array of timely, year-round employee communications to help employees prevent health problems and/or connect with interventions that can detect diseases in their earliest, most treatable stage. Find out how we can help you put the right program in place to help keep your employees and organization healthy and safe.  Contact us to learn more.

 

Next Story >> Product Spotlight: Financial Wellness

 

 

Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK247176/#callstoaction.s6

 

 

 

By Norbert “Bert” Alicea, MA, CEAP, Executive Vice President of EAP+Work/Life Services

Despite the nation’s improving economy, fear and anxiety about money is a leading stressor for today’s workers, and this stress negatively impacts both health and productivity. In fact, 7 out of 10 American workers say finances are their top cause of stress, with 80 percent reporting that it affects their productivity. Furthermore, surveys show an increase in the number of employees who say their financial woes are negatively affecting their lives and are worried about their future financial situation.

The issue is compounded because many employees lack budgeting skills and are ill-prepared to handle current financial responsibilities or future risks. For example, 68 percent of Americans have no emergency funds, let alone money left over for unexpected injuries or illness. Nearly half do not save any of their annual income. Another third have no retirement savings.

When coupled with student loan debt and other financial burdens, it is not surprising that these issues create stress. And financial stressors can change throughout the course of an employee’s life, from college debt to mortgage payments to retirement planning. Unstable finances and the resulting stress can negatively impact relationships, productivity, and mental and physical health, all while lowering profitability for employers.

Creating an Effective Program

No matter what their financial struggle, it’s important to offer employees the right online and personalized support and tools to help them learn how to manage their money, reduce debt, and save for the future, all to lower stress and increase productivity.

An effective financial wellness program includes a variety of components to engage and prepare employees to meet a spectrum of financial needs, including but not limited to:

  • One-on-one consultations with financial specialists to discuss financial planning or more complex matters on a range of issues, from IRS matters to divorce financial planning. This is a great first step for overwhelmed or confused employees who prefer access to a “live” resource for help getting started with specific issues or general planning.
  • In-person workshops and webinars on topics such as estate planning, managing life transitions and paying for college.
  • Online calculators to determine a plan for loans, credit payoff, mortgages and taxes.
  • Articles and worksheets with information on a variety of relevant financial issues such as identity theft, budgeting, investing and more.

Integrating a financial wellness program with other programs can maximize its effectiveness by raising awareness and increasing convenience, making it more likely that employees will know about and use the program.

Value of Financial Wellness in the Workplace

With access to financial wellness programs, employees are able to effectively address the issues creating their financial stress, leading to higher productivity. Further, these programs guide employees toward related benefit programs and resources, maximizing engagement in tuition reimbursement, health spending accounts and retirement plans.

Most importantly, incorporating financial wellness into workplace well-being programs can have a positive effect on employees’ physical and emotional health. By addressing one of the primary causes of stress, it’s possible to mitigate issues like high blood pressure, poor eating and more, leading to better overall health and well-being. When employees are healthier and less stressed, they can re-focus their time and energy on other matters, including work.

Contact us. We can help.

Learn more about how Health Advocate can help you develop an easily accessible financial wellness program through a single portal that guides employees to financial solutions that work for them. You benefit by having more resilient, productive workers and an improved bottom line.

 

 

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