Personalization key to effective health screenings

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When an employee is dealing with an illness, from cancer to diabetes, it affects not only the worker, but the employer, as well. Missed days of work and high healthcare costs have a negative effect on companies.

But there’s a way to help combat these losses for both employees and employers: health screenings. Over the last decade, screenings have emerged as a tool to identify at-risk employees and encourage early interventions. They also help raise awareness, detect potential risks earlier and set the stage for a discussion with a primary care provider while also improving staff productivity and satisfaction. Most importantly, they’re a proven method to helping employees “do the right thing” by taking a more active role in optimizing their health.

With understanding and acceptance increasing, it’s time for employers to maximize the benefits of health screenings to ensure they and employees are achieving full value. That goal can be reached with greater personalization so that every initiative is tailored toward the needs of individual employees.

Screening costs vary by type, region and even city. Spending those dollars on employees who don’t need the screening, or who are unlikely to act upon it, wastes what’s supposed be a tangible employer return on investment. Take the example of an employer with 10,000 employees that sends at-home colorectal cancer screening tests to all employees over age 50. With 4,000 eligible employees at an average cost of $25 per test, that cost quickly escalates to almost $100,000. If the screening response rate is under 10%, considerable dollars are wasted.

The key for employers is to spend time and effort on the front end to further refine the employees targeted, take the time to see if they’re at risk, if they’ve already had a screening, and to identify the best way to contact that employee to secure his or her participation. Some employees respond better to text messages vs. emails or a letter.

Another option is to allow employees to opt in or opt out of a program. Combined with better personalization of screening outreach, this type of approach produces significant employer ROI. Not only are lives saved and quality of life improved, but costs are significantly lowered. The average one-year cost of treatment for an employee with late-stage colon cancer is as high as $310,000.

Five steps to maximize the value of health screenings

The key is to ensure the right screening gets to the right employee at the right time. Here are five steps for employers to consider.

Look for partners that use clinical and behavioral analytics to best target employees for the screenings appropriate for each member’s health needs. The latest health screening tools can also enable companies to provide valuable data to care management organizations as a means of managing overall risk of a population.

Offer the tests that matter most to you and your members. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, some of the most important screenings to offer are for diabetes, Lipids (cholesterol), BMI (body mass index, an indicator of heart disease) and CRC. Note that while these screenings are all recognized as important, each also comes with clinical and demographic recommendations to consider — such as CRC screening beginning at age 50 — unless other clinical factors are present.

Highlight the value of screenings to employees and the potential impact on their quality of life. Despite the fact that health plans today cover an initial physical, most employees aren’t taking advantage of that feature. Educational programs and an emphasis on an organizational culture of health help employees understand their health risks, the benefits of their active role, and encourage them to take the next steps in prevention and wellness.

Look for health-screening partners that offer the insights you need as well as ease of administration and reporting. There is a wealth of data needed to implement strong screening programs, as well as important insights to be gained from results. Look for partners that provide tools for orchestrating programs across multiple vendors, that provide a range of tools to reach employees (such as mobile, mail, telephonic and in-person), and that work to engage and connect with employees’ providers.

Offer the right incentives. Employers are constantly struggling to identify optimal incentives to build health screening participation. That’s important, as is continually revising incentives; a $100 gift card works better the first year than the third. However, what will really motivate participation is a company that emphasizes a culture of health from the top down and that uses internal champions to boost engagement over the long term.

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