How Modifiable Risk Factors Affect an Employer’s Bottom Line

A study recently published in The Lancet looks at the amount of healthcare spending that is attributable to modifiable risk factors in the U.S. The study showed that an estimated $730 billion, or 27% of healthcare spending, could be attributed to modifiable behaviors. The modifiable risk factor that was the largest portion of spending was high BMI, or obesity, at $239 billion. This was followed by high blood pressure at $180 billion; diabetes at $172 billion; poor diet at $144 billion; and tobacco use at $130 billion. There is also a large amount of crossover in spending as many have multiple chronic conditions. In fact, metabolic syndrome, which includes multiple conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, totaled $508 billion of total healthcare spending.

The study further broke down spending by working age adults. For younger working age adults, those aged 20-44, the highest spending was on obesity. This was followed by alcohol use, diabetes and tobacco use. For working adults aged 45-64, the highest spend was on obesity, followed by diabetes, high blood pressure and poor diet. The results of the study indicate that modifiable behaviors that attribute to a large portion of healthcare spending likely started at an early age. Because of this, the study highlights the importance of health programs and interventions that mitigate risk exposure and reduce healthcare spending. By addressing issues such as obesity and tobacco use at earlier ages, there is an opportunity to address these behaviors before they become major health issues later in life.

The study highlights the importance of employee wellbeing programs and how they can not only improve employee health, but also reduce healthcare costs for employers. It’s a cost and retention benefit for employers to offer wellbeing programs and health resources to their employees. Being able to identify employees who are considered high-risk because of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes or tobacco use, can lead to the deployment of early interventions to address these conditions before they become chronic and compromise the employee’s health. As most employers are unfamiliar with the healthcare space and types of health programs to offer, hospitals and health systems can step in as this resource and help employers to launch successful wellbeing programs.

Hospitals and health systems can utilize a direct to employer strategy to assist in launching wellbeing programs that help identify high-risk employees and deploy interventions, such as smoking cessation programs. By partnering with Applied Health Analytics, hospitals and health systems can offer employers solid tactics to improve employee health and reduce healthcare costs. Some of these tactics include:

  • Early Detection: Two of the easiest ways to uncover underlying or chronic health conditions are through biometric screenings and health risk assessments (HRAs). These methods provide test results, uncover family histories and identify behaviors that are indicative of a chronic condition. There are tools that can help in the assessment of this data, including bMetrix™, a screening application that allows for the seamless collection and recording of biometric data. Screenings can detect the presence and onset of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and heart disease and other health issues.

  • Incentive Programs: Incentive programs can be a useful tool to motivate individuals to participate in company-sponsored health initiatives. An employee incentive strategy that is tailored to a specific population is the key to garnering employee participation. Applied Health Analytics offers metrics-based incentive design that is customized for each employer. Tools available in the bIQ™ Population Health Management platform include trended data and connectivity with coaching, wearable devices and payroll. With a properly designed incentive program, employers can provide the tools to help motivate behavior modification in high-risk employees.

  • Behavior Modification: Once a health condition is identified, the individual should be provided with recommendations and resources for addressing the issue. This may include weight loss tips, referrals to smoking cessation programs or a recommendation to schedule an appointment with a physician. Applied Health Analytics launches customized health portals that can be implemented as an easy way for an individual to establish health-related goals and track progress.

  • Health Coaching: Many individuals don’t know where to start when they’ve been diagnosed with a chronic condition. It can be helpful to appoint a health coach to serve as an accountability partner and help keep the individual on track.  A health coach can monitor and track the progress of an individual’s condition and provide corrective guidance along the way. An online health portal can be beneficial in allowing the coach to document sessions and also conduct phone or virtual meetings when in-person interactions are not an option. Health coach documentation and virtual coaching are features that are included in the bIQ™ Population Health Management platform.

Applied Health Analytics offers technology that can help identify high-risk individuals and provide customized wellbeing programs that motivate employees to engage in the management of their health. If you are interested in learning more about how your hospital or health system can develop and manage wellbeing programs that are customized to the employers in your market, contact Applied Health Analytics to help you create a successful employer health management strategy.