As every healthcare provider knows, becoming and staying healthy takes more than regular exercise a balanced diet. Often, it requires an in-depth look at a patient’s underlying issues, habits, and the environments in which they live and work.
Many factors that affect health aren’t readily apparent, but a few recent news items illustrate how they not only contribute to poorer health, but increased healthcare costs as well.
Don’t leave the lights on
For instance, sleeping with a light on may come with unexpected consequences for some women. JAMA Internal Medicine recently published a study that concluded that sleeping with a television or light on in the room was associated with weight gain. The study, which analyzed data on 43,722 US women, aged 35 to 74, found that women who slept with a light on had a 17% chance of gaining 5 kg. (or 11 lbs.).
Poor sleep is a contributor to poor health and light in the late evening is believed to affect metabolism. To maintain good sleep habits and get the optimal amount of rest, experts encourage avoiding light — from lamps, televisions, phones, and other electronic devices — in the bedroom and shortly before going to bed.
Workplace stress is expensive for employers
Like inadequate sleep, some social determinants of health – including long hours or high job performance anxiety – can affect people even in the workplace. This often results in higher healthcare costs.
With stressed-out workers spending $1500 more on healthcare each year, it’s increasingly important to find ways to alleviate the stress that can cause long-term negative effects on physical, mental, and emotional health. Former Aetna CEO Marc Bertolini suggests that a few simple company-wide changes can provide some relief, improve employee well-being, and lower healthcare costs.
“What we found ... was that if we actually invest in people, they actually got better and healthcare cost went down,” Bertolini says.
During his time at Aetna, the company introduced sleep incentive and tuition assistance programs, yoga classes, and pet therapy programs that allowed employees to snuggle with rabbits, dogs, cats, and guinea pigs during their lunch breaks.
To improve employee health, the company first changed its culture. The impact was immediate. Healthcare costs for the company went down 7.5% and engagement scores rose to an incredible 1,200%.
Specialty drugs drive healthcare cost jumps
Improving workplace culture to make health a focus point, giving employees the tools and resources to make changes in their behaviors, is an approach that benefits both employees and employers as the cost of healthcare increases. PwC Health Research Institute reports that US companies are expected to spend 6% more on healthcare next year as drug prices rise, a four-year high rate of increase.
This marked jump is attributed to the availability of new high-priced specialty drugs. Cancer and other grave illnesses make up a significant percentage (40%) of overall employer drug spending. By next year, that number is expected to rise by another 3%. By 2023, that growth rate is projected to double.
In an effort to better control costs, many employers are now looking for alternatives to the current system and more proactive ways to help their employees stay healthy, including financial incentives and opening onsite and off-site clinics offering primary care.
To improve health at an individual level and at scale in the workplace, and save money, it’s vital for patients, employers, and insurers to be proactive and engaged in finding the right healthcare at the right cost. A well-executed advanced primary care model can deliver better population health management and lower healthcare spending overall.