The cost of chronic disease
Chronic conditions, many of which are preventable, contribute to the rising healthcare costs in the US. On average, close to 80% of what employers spend on healthcare is the result of only 20% of the covered employees.1 The majority of this spending is due to the high cost of chronic illness.
Additionally, chronic conditions cost employers over $36 billion per year in absenteeism.2 Because US adults who work full-time spend more than one-third of their day at work, it is important for employers to establish programs to promote health and help prevent disease. Also, many of the chronic diseases that drive up healthcare costs do not have symptoms and can only be detected through screening.
The continued impact of the pandemic
During the SARS Co-V-2 (COVID-19) pandemic, there was an estimated 70 percent decrease in doctor visits, which has led to deferred diagnoses and delayed care.3 This delay has had other implications, including worsening symptoms, delayed treatment, greater stress about health conditions, and a negative impact on longevity.4
When you consider the employee population at your organization, deferred care may be impacting more people than you think. 67% of US adults have a chronic health condition, and nearly 1 in 3 say their condition has worsened since the pandemic began.4 Additionally, 2 in 5 Americans are concerned that they may have an undiagnosed health condition.4
It is important for employers to have solutions for connecting people who have been impacted by the pandemic to the healthcare they need.
How does access to healthcare play a role?
Access to healthcare is a social determinant of health that may have a significant impact on whether an individual can get the healthcare they need. According to the CDC, social determinants of health are “conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes.”5 In addition to healthcare access, other social determinants of health include education access and quality, social and community context, economic stability, and neighborhood and built environment.
At times, individuals do not get the recommended screenings and preventive care because they do not have a primary care provider, or they live too far away from healthcare providers to get regular care. A similar barrier is transportation; if an individual doesn’t have reliable transportation, they are more likely to postpone or miss appointments and potentially not take needed medication.6
In some areas in the country, healthcare resources have limited availability, due to physician shortages or because of low rates of individuals with health insurance. In these areas, even if individuals do have a primary care provider, they may have to wait long periods of time between appointments and may not be able to get an appointment when it is most needed.
Addressing the challenge of limited access to care is complicated and not one-size-fits-all, but there are steps employers can take to help increase access. If employers are able to expand employee access to health services, that is is an important step toward reducing health disparities.6
Consider your employee population. Even if the majority of employees has access to a primary care provider, are there solutions you can offer those who may have more barriers to getting the healthcare they need? How can you help those who live in areas where there are limited healthcare resources, or those with transportation challenges?
Feedback from the workplace
In the 2022 Health at Work Survey of more than 400 Human Resources executives and over 800 employees, commissioned by Quest Diagnostics, results show chronic disease and deferred care are top of mind at the workplace as well. 73% of Human Resources executives worry about chronic disease in their employee population due to delayed routine care during the pandemic. This concern is echoed by employees, 63% of whom say they put off preventive care appointments and/or screening during the pandemic.7
When asked about how to address gaps in care caused by delayed screening, 87% of both Human Resources executives and employees are in favor of at-home biometric screening. In fact, more than three-quarters of employees say they would have more routine screenings if they had the ability to do them at home.7
Although most employers and employees agree that offering an at-home screening option cannot fully replace the need for in-person care, both agree that this option can help bridge the potential gap in care created as a result of the pandemic.