How to measure employee health, productivity

When it comes to measuring the health and productivity of employees, employers should focus on the three I’s: identifying needs, implementing programs and assessing impact, says Bill Molmen, J.D., co-founder and general counsel of Integrated Benefits Institute.

First in the process comes identifying needs, which goes beyond targeting traditional medical costs. Most employers today tend to think only in terms of health care benefits and fail to consider other aspects of the business that can be affected by poor health. While there is certainly a need to control health care costs, employers should also identify other impacted areas of the business.

“Many employers stop at medical costs and savings,” Molmen says. “That’s what they think health is all about, but they don’t consider the additional real costs related to poor health. There’s the lost time, wage replacement benefits and the related additional costs on lost productivity when a team is affected, and a replacement can’t be found, so a product or service doesn’t get out the door.”

With identifying needs, it ultimately comes down to value, Molmen says, because the more opportunities an employer can identify regarding health, prevention, wellness and safety interventions, the more those programs can be justified.

Once the needs are identified, it is time to implement the programs to manage employee health and productivity, and an employer should be ready to outline its employee demographics during this process, says Steve Barger, managing member of Steve Barger Consulting LLC. These demographics include age, sex, education, behaviors and health, and by detailing this information, an employer can be sure it’s implementing the right program for its needs.

An employer should also take the time to include employees during the implementation process, Barger says. Change can often be met with apprehension among employees, but keeping them involved can help them better understand what’s coming and why.

“A must is to involve your participants on the frontend,” Barger says. “There’s nothing worse than rolling out a program that people aren’t familiar with.”

After the programs are implemented and have time to take effect, an employer should set up a process to measure the successes and the failures, which can be done with an integrated data warehouse approach, says Ray Fabius, M.D., chief medical officer at Thomas Reuters Healthcare. With an integrated data warehouse, an employer can collect all available data, such as claims, pharmacy usage, and absence reporting, and then transfer that information to a software program. That software program analyzes the data and provides an employer with actionable responses.

“You’re much more likely to lead your company in a successful way,” Fabius says. “The more sources of information you can put inside a single data warehouse, the more you’re able to provide important, actionable information back to the leadership team. If you can connect medical data with short-term disability with absence data and even occupational health and safety information, you start to have a very comprehensive picture of what’s going on with your population, and it does identify pretty quickly the priorities for you to move forward.”

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