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By Rebecca A. Shafer, J.D., President, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. Michael Stack, Editor and Director of Operations, Amaxx LLC. Robin E. Kobayashi, J.D., LexisNexis Legal & Professional Operations, LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation Law Community
Of the many workers’ compensation cost reduction initiatives available to employers today, wellness programs are by far the one of greatest interest. Employers seek statistics on ROI (return on investment), as well as costs of implementation of such programs, they hunt for information on how to implement such programs and which vendors provide them. How much can we save? What is the ROI? How quickly will I see the savings? Those are the primary concerns of employers today. Of all the articles I have written in the last 25 years, those on wellness programs have by far been most widely read and most requested for reprints.
Employers know intuitively they will reduce their workers’ compensation costs and medical insurance costs if their employees are healthier, but senior management always prefers to make decisions with concrete numbers. Using intuition or general projections can often lead to unmet expectations. They will find the numbers, as well as a case for action, in the recent article in Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, “Medical Care Savings From Workplace Wellness Programs: What is a Realistic Savings Potential?”
The study focused on seven risk factors, i.e., smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, alcohol abuse, and low fruit and vegetable intake, noting that the three most costly medical conditions for working-age adults were cardiovascular disease, cancers, and diabetes.
According to this study:
Employee turnover could present challenges for employers seeking to realize cost savings with workplace wellness programs because:
When designing an effective workplace wellness program, employers should note that age is an important variable:
The most common types of wellness programs are:
1. Weight Control
2. Smoking Cessation
3. Depression Treatment
4. Migraine Headache Management
5. Substance Abuse (Alcohol / Drug Treatment)
Putting a wellness program into practice requires proactive planning. Dr. Thomas Glimp, Chief Medical Officer from Medcor, Inc. started a wellness program over one year ago. He states “Support and participation from the top is key. Our entire executive team is participating in the program nearly every day. We try to keep the program interesting and the feedback from our employees has been incredible. They state they are feeling better and are more thoroughly enjoying life. The program has also been a tremendous asset to attracting and retaining top level talent.”
“Employees are the most valuable resource that most corporations have,” says Dr. James A. Tacci, the Global Corporate Medical Director and Manager of Medical Health & Wellness Services at Xerox Corporation, and the new Editor-in-Chief of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (LexisNexis). According to Tacci, “Intelligent investment in employee health, wellness and productivity not only improves employee health and well-being, it can enhance organizational effectiveness across multiple business functions, and it will ultimately improve the bottom line.”
Here are several suggestions from Workers Compensation Management Program, Reduce Costs 20% to 50% to get off to a good start:
The amount of interest and buzz created by wellness programs is justified as employers who take an active interest in the health and wellness of their employees will benefit. The more an employer can plan and understand wellness program variables and success factors, the greater the benefit for all parties.
According to Jacob Lazarovic, MD, FAACP, Senior VP and Chief Medical Officer of Broadspire, “Corporate wellness programs, when properly designed and effectively implemented, have proven to be important tools for mitigating the impact of these risks." He noted, "There is no doubt that the aging of the workforce and the increased prevalence of lifestyle-related co-morbid illnesses are factors that predispose to longer return to work durations and higher medical costs in workers compensation."
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