Companies looking to evolve their wellness programs and reduce their healthcare costs need to consider this very compelling statistic reported by the Centers for Disease Control –- 86% of all health care spending in 2010 was for patients with chronic medical conditions.
This type of compelling evidence has the medical community taking a new approach to chronic disease management, moving it away from a compliance model and toward a patient empowerment model. As recently reported in a Benefits Magazine article titled, Why Your Employees May Be Their Own Best Care Managers, there is a growing body of evidence that shows when employees are empowered to manage their own chronic illnesses, companies can lower costs.
This movement starts with an informed consumer, one that the ACA is hoping to develop with its approach to healthcare shopping and plan types and one or more willing health care providers that will work with the patient in a partnership approach. Reasons behind this approach include an aging population that has a large number of people developing chronic conditions, medical costs continuing to consume a higher percentage of GDP, many current strategies being used to guide behavior changes are ineffective, and the ACA requires measures to promote patient engagement in ACOs.
The move to patient-centered care is documented in the American Diabetes Association (ADA) evidence-based Medical Care Standards with recommendations to educate, communicate and provide decision support tools to help patients meet their needs. Other medical journals and physicians support this approach, which is why employers may want to consider adding elements of empowerment to their wellness programs.
Benefits Magazine makes the following suggestions to support patient engagement through their wellness initiatives:
- Help employees see that they benefit from being informed healthcare consumers
- Suggest employees discuss options with their providers and create their own health goals
- Provide access to and encourage use of a variety of medical sources
- Design programs with flexibility of choice to earn wellness incentives rather than by prescribed actions
- Support healthy lifestyle choices in the workplace through vending machine food choices to opportunities for standing and exercising
Patient empowerment is a long-term strategy that requires a workplace culture that embraces engagement and supports employees in meeting their personal health and wellness goals.