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Employee Benefits

3 Actions Companies Must Take Now to Avoid the Next Pandemic

Dr. Scott Conard
Dr. Scott Conard
Holmes Murphy

COVID-19 has redefined how we think about and manage health risk. What is the next challenge that will confront your company and its employees?

A pandemic is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area (such as multiple countries or continents) and typically affects a significant proportion of the population. COVID-19 has been labeled just this.

Up to September 2020, the CDC estimates that 15 percent of Americans have been infected by COVID-19. In response, we have changed the way we work, receive healthcare, travel, and spend time with friends and family — just to mention a few of the changes.

With all of that said, it looks like good news is just around the corner! The vaccine appears to be very effective and ready for approval by the FDA. By mid-2021, most Americans could be immunized and this pandemic may be under control.

So, What’s Next and How Can You Prepare for It?

There are three things you can do to prepare for the next big health crisis. What crisis, you ask? Preventive medicine has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Primary Prevention: Lifestyle

Many have gained 15–20 pounds from reduced trips to the gym, outside exercise, and changes in eating habits. The mental health effects have driven up anxiety and depression significantly contributing to this issue.

Secondary Prevention

Screening for cancer and identifying and addressing pre-disease like metabolic syndrome and pre-cancers are significantly reduced.  Mammograms, pap smears, colonoscopies — all considered “elective” — haven’t been done in a timely fashion. Blood pressure checks and blood work with primary care to identify diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol also haven’t been performed.

Tertiary Prevention

People with chronic conditions, like asthma, diabetes, heart failure, and so forth, aren’t managing their conditions. Follow-up visits are down, and medication compliance has fallen off.

Right now, disease is winning. This means your employees and their family members will soon be in hand-to-hand combat for their lives from chronic diseases gaining a foot hold in their bodies, unnecessary advanced cancer, and decompensation of their chronic conditions.

So, How Can We Prevent this Second Pandemic?

To prevent this, the time to act is now.

1. Get Your Data and Understand What Is Happening

It is a truth that if it’s not measured, it’s not managed. What diseases are coming against your population? How are they doing? Where are they getting care, and is it working? Where are they struggling to engage and get appropriate care?

2. Evaluate Your Healthcare Benefits

Plan benefits in America create more barriers than they support getting appropriate care. With COVID -19, it’s become blatantly evident that those who are most at risk cannot afford to use their benefits over half of the time.

This is short-sighted.

Saving a few hundred dollars today to pay tens of thousands later is misguided. Fix your plan benefit design, and you will get a workforce that’s willing to engage.

3. Connect the Dots

Now that you know the problem and understand how to support employees on your plan, it’s vital to reach out and support action — particularly for those at increased risk of disease and decompensation.

Holmes Murphy has insight into programs that raise the health literacy and support members overcoming the inertia of the tyranny of the urgent to get the care they need now. This isn’t an insurance company call center transaction. It’s about the relationship, culture, and trust that are created. It’s time to overcome the fact that we know what to do but aren’t doing it. We need to put the tools in place to make sure this is done.

Finally, Last Year’s Strategy Won’t Work

Relying on an actuarial model (this is what you paid last year, inflation is X%, and your population is sicker and older so your increase is 8–20% this year) is a failed strategy to help employees and to manage health benefits.

COVID-19 has shown us that clinical strategies matter and delegating to “the system” doesn’t work. Companies who relax and think things will be OK now that the end of COVID-19 is in sight, are going to be writing checks for care that shouldn’t have been needed.

The truism that “people parish without leadership” has never been truer than today. Leaders of corporations and their health benefits must act now or pay — in lives and cost — for issues that didn’t have to occur.

As I mentioned, we have employee benefit tools to help you in this respect. All you have to do is reach out and ask about them! We’re happy to help.

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