The pandemic has had a major impact on employers of all sizes and across all industries. While initial impacts were seen through COVID-19 illnesses, furloughs and setting up employees for remote work, we are starting to see the lasting impacts that the pandemic will have on both employers and employees.
A major area of impact is on employee mental health. Social distancing, stay at home orders, financial distress and increases in illness and death counts all play a role in having a negative impact on overall mental health. In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 45% of adults in the U.S. reported that their health has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. And the Journal of the American Medical Association has shown that half of U.S. adults surveyed in a recent study reported signs of depression.
Mental health disorders are even more common for patients with underlying conditions, such as lung disease, heart conditions, diabetes and obesity. The increased worry comes from the fact that these individuals are more likely to contract COVID-19 and suffer serious complications. In fact, hospitalizations for those with chronic conditions were 45.4% higher and deaths were twelve times higher than healthy individuals with no underlying conditions. Fifty-three percent of these individuals reported fair or poor mental health as related to stress and worry over COVID-19.
Mental health not only places a burden on employees, but it places a large burden on employers as well. The Society for Human Resource Management Foundation has shown that employee stress jumped to 60% from 30% pre-pandemic. This increases stress can lead to employee absenteeism, reduced productivity and employee burnout. The Disability Management Employer Coalition said that one-third of employees reported not being productive for at least half the work week, and this was pre-pandemic. During the pandemic, 80% of employees reported feeling moderately or highly distressed because of the pandemic.
A survey by Workplace Options showed that 47% of employers had mental health programs available. However, 42% of employers did not and 11% had no idea what was offered in terms of mental health offerings. Because employers are equipped to offer mental health offerings, especially smaller businesses, there exists a large opportunity to partner with community resources to meet the mental health needs of employees. One of the largest and most available resources are community hospitals and health systems. Hospitals and health systems can not only roll out mental health programs to employers and their employees, they can also connect employees to mental health providers. Hospitals can be crucial in assisting individuals whom may be in throes of a mental health crisis.
Another area of impact for employers is employees who suffer from obesity and diabetes. A recent rankings report by United Health Foundation has shown that more than 30% of adults in the U.S are considered obese, a 166% increase over the last 30 years. These numbers are staggering and are of major concern because obesity increases the risk of developing serious health problems, including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, sleep apneas, breathing problems and an increased risk of developing certain cancers. It is estimated that the medical costs of obesity are $342 billion annually and results in lost productivity of $8.65 billion annually.
A study by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has shown that obesity has a major impact on employer healthcare costs. The study analyzed the three classes of obesity and the associated cost to employers and found the following:
Class 1: Low-risk obesity identified as having a BMI between 30 and 34.0. Resulted in an increase of $7,150 per employee annually.
Class 2: Moderate-risk obesity identified as having a BMI between 35 and 35.9. Resulted in an increase of $9,700 per employee annually.
Class 3: High-risk obesity identified as having a BMI greater than 40. Resulted in an increase of $19,000 per employee annually.
The increased healthcare costs to employers for obese employees shows that this is an issue that employers will be eager to address. What is even more concerning is the that according to the Healthcare Research Institute, 22% of individuals with employer-based insurance delayed care because of the pandemic. This is indicative that employees with obesity are not having regular checkups or not regularly taking medications for obesity-related conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension. And, with gyms closed and infrequent trips to the grocery story resulting in less access to fresh foods, the issue only becomes exacerbated.
Employers will be actively seeking interventions for these employees including visits to a PCP or specialist as well as weight management programs. Hospitals and health systems are the best resource for employers as they not only have specialists who treat obese patients, but also have formulated weight management programs that can be rolled out to employee populations on behalf of employers.
Partnering Employers with Hospitals and Health Systems
As employers look to those who can help them combat the pressing issues that the pandemic has brought, it only makes sense that the best resource is community hospitals and health systems. These entities have the services, products, partnerships and physicians that enable them to roll out health programs and provide early interventions. Employers not only lack these resources, but they are also looking for ways to battle rising healthcare costs.
Employers who work directly with a hospital or health system will better understand the health of their employees through the use of technology and resources that can help identify high-risk populations. Employers will be able to utilize analytics to determine which employees are delaying care and not taking medications, allowing them to deploy health system interventions earlier. A focus on primary care interventions is especially important to employers as they look to reduce escalating healthcare costs and maintain employee health. It also helps drive revenue for hospitals and enhance their payer mix.
Applied Health Analytics positions hospitals and health systems as the leading providers of population health management services in the communities they serve. Applied Health Analytics partners with health systems to deliver evidence-based and risk stratified member engagement technology developed to identify individual health risks and align these risks with client-provided services. Applied Health Analytics can help health systems deploy successful direct to employer strategies through the following proven tactics:
A Risk-Stratification Engine: Purposefully designed algorithms, health risk assessments, biometric and claims data work together to provide a prescriptive view of the physical and mental wellbeing of an employee population. The data engine offers accurate access to analytics and analysis that is easy-to-use and query to empower change and measure impact.
Early Detection: Two of the easiest ways to uncover underlying 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 or mental health issue such as depression or anxiety. 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 diabetes, heart disease and other issues that have a significant impact on employee health and employer healthcare costs. All of this information is collected in the bIQ™ Population Health Management platform and provides a detailed view of the overall mental and physical health of an employer’s population.
To learn more about initiatives to help your hospital or health systems reach the commercial market with early interventions and targeted health programs, contact Applied Health Analytics to set up a strategy session today.