4 Things you should do to manage chronic conditions

By Michael Galvan | 11/02/2015

One of the largest challenges facing the United States today is the prevalence of chronic medical conditions. There are many conflicting descriptions of what constitutes a chronic disease or condition, but universally chronic conditions are considered: non-contagious afflictions that can last for months or years rather than weeks, are the product of multiple risk factors, require periodic medical attention for acute or emergent disease management and ongoing intermittent adjustment treatment plans, and typically have no exact cure. 

Some of the most common chronic conditions include: heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, arthritis and stroke. The impact of these conditions from both an individual and aggregate perspective can be significant. Negative effects from chronic diseases can stem to both personal and professional levels. In the US, nearly half of all adults have one or more chronic health conditions; these conditions result in millions of deaths every year. 

Comes with a Heavy Price Tag

The increasing prevalence of chronic diseases also presents several economic challenges. In 2010, chronic disease accounted for 86 percent of health care spending. This massive spending on chronic diseases equated to nearly $2.2 trillion.  

While the prevalence of chronic medical conditions continues to grow, in many cases, a large number of these cases are preventable. Genetic factors that influence chronic medical conditions like diabetes or obesity can be mitigated by lifestyle changes and early preventative measures such as insulin monitoring. Through a greater focus on prevention and disease management we can lessen the financial impact and reduce the number of lives lost due to complications from chronic diseases. Healthier eating options and wellness exams are good examples of easy ways to reduce the risk for conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure.

Steps you can take

As an employer, there are multiple benefits to providing an environment that offers employees the support they need to reduce their risk for chronic medical conditions. Offering support and perks to workers that encourage them to stay healthy means they are likely to be happier and more engaged. This also helps you reduce your annual healthcare costs and better position your company and its employees for success. Reducing health care costs has a very real impact on the bottom line. Take Starbucks for example. In 2005, the company announced it was spending more on healthcare than coffee. So, rather than cut healthcare benefits, the company drastically reduced its overall size to protect its remaining employees .

That’s why it’s imperative companies take steps to involve themselves in the prevention of chronic disease. For employers looking to get started, there are four easy ways you can help manage and reduce chronic conditions.

1. Wellness Education

Educating employees on health and wellness is important to protecting and maintaining the most important resource a company has- its workers! By encouraging and taking part in healthy employee behaviors, employers can reduce their long-term healthcare spending, and increase productivity. The integration of wellness education into healthcare plans sometimes enables employers to decrease their overall premiums. This can often impact employee satisfaction, employee engagement, and even may lower costs related to high turnover rates. 

2. Health Screenings

Health screens can help employees identify the risk for serious health problems before they even start. A bio-metric screening can alert an employee to elements that put them at a high risk for chronic conditions. Through questionnaires and tests that analyze tobacco, alcohol and drug use, employees can learn more about their own health and simple ways to make positive changes. These early detection efforts, combined with wellness education can help an employee improve upon their wellness and address the management of chronic disease acute exacerbation prompt a diagnosis and/or pose a life-threatening danger. The aggregate information produced by these types of screenings also provides an employer with a broader view of their workers’ health; these screenings also allow employers to identify risk areas that may contribute to reinforcing negative worker habits, and ultimately increased health and healthcare costs. 

3. Onsite and Fitness Station Opportunities

Providing employees with a place to work on their physical fitness on location or close to the work place (often through subsidized fitness club memberships) is a great way to help promote health and well being. Even simple elements such as outlining a mile-track around the headquarters or an instructor-led fitness class can help give employees the support they need to combat chronic conditions like obesity or diabetes. This could result in greater savings for employers—according to a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “ a 1% reduction in excess weight and high blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol levels has been shown to save $83 to $103 annually in medical costs per person.” 6

Access to primary care services at work, through a Concentra Onsite Center, creates a unique opportunity for increased control of chronic conditions, compliance with disease management, and less lost time for employees to attend off-site medical appointments. It also provides easily accessible first aid and urgent care services by a trained healthcare professional; allowing early intervention for minor injuries may also prevent conditions from escalating.

4. Healthy Eating Options

Healthy food options can make a significant impact toward better employee health. In the same way that an onsite gym can encourage healthy behavior, nutritious meal options help make better choices easier. Your employees spend a major portion of their time at work and without healthy options; many will choose convenient, sugar-laden snacks that only perpetuate the trend toward chronic obesity. Employers can start to support healthier choices by replacing the unhealthy contents of vending machines stocked with more balanced foods and beverages like nuts and bottled water, instead of candy bars and soda. Updating cafeteria menus to present fresh options can also have a large impact on dietary decisions. Many employers have a large, diverse and dispersed workforce; but, through official communication expressing the importance of a balanced diet, your company can send the message that you want to support better behaviors.

As you begin to evaluate your workforce’s risk for chronic health conditions, you will need an experienced provider to walk you through the process and understand how to get started in combating unhealthy trends. A great occupational health provider like Concentra can assist you with our qualified team of clinicians. They will work with you to conduct pre-employment drug tests and bio-metric screenings for baseline data that is used to evaluate health risks. We educate your employees on the benefits of a healthier lifestyle and how they can achieve their personal goals. If requested, our teams can also connect your workers with health coaches and monitor their progress.

Chronic conditions are definitely a concern as the age of the average worker increases; but employers can get involved and combat the associated risks through proven interventions. Employers have the opportunity to create a strong positive impact upon improved worker health, and cost effective management of chronic disease, by partnering with Concentra to establish health and wellness programs that work.

1. http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2013/12_0239.htm#Variations
2. http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2014/pdf/13_0389.pdf
3. http://www.ahrq.gov/sites/default/files/wysiwyg/professionals/prevention-chronic-care/decision/mcc/mccchartbook.pdf
4. https://www.prevent.org/data/files/News/pfcdalmanac_excerpt.pdf
5. http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/workplace-health.htm