Taking on two workforce killers through effective health screenings

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If you knew a killer was coming after someone you cared about, you’d do everything in your power to try to stop it, wouldn’t you?

Of course.

The same is true for your employees and two often-deadly conditions — colorectal cancer (CRC) and diabetes. Even if these aren’t fatal to your workforce, they can have a broad impact on productivity, worker availability and your healthcare retention and recruitment costs.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) reports that CRC is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women and the second-leading cause of all cancer deaths. But ACS notes that health screenings can prevent CRC or catch it early when it’s highly curable — improving a person’s prognosis and greatly reducing healthcare costs and lost productivity.

The American Diabetes Association reports that 30.3 million or 9.4% of Americans had diabetes in 2015, with 7.2 million undiagnosed before screenings. A full one-quarter of seniors — many still in the job market — had diabetes, and 84.1 million Americans had pre-diabetes, which can be delayed or prevented through early detection and lifestyle changes.

So what can you do to help employees prevent — or at least minimize — these serious health conditions from affecting the quality and length of their lives, keeping them healthier, happier and most productive? Hold regular health screenings to identify people at risk, engage employees through various methods while showing executive support and make it easy for workers to participate.

Communicate, offer options, and get executives on board

Running an effective, cost-efficient health screening program that’s integrated with an ongoing wellness effort often goes beyond the scope of a resource-constrained human resources department. They’re usually focused primarily on recruiting, onboarding and retention.

But health screenings are an essential component of all workplace wellness programs -- and an overall culture of health. They help prevent at-risk employees from becoming chronically ill, connect those who are already ill with the next steps in care, and give organizations the information they need to work with their health plan to address underlying trends.

They’re also an essential part of retention. If employees miss excessive days or even resign due to health issues, the investment you’ve made in their training and integration is lessened or lost. The first step is to get visible, continuous engagement and support from the top down, beginning with senior executives. Along with getting funding for the program, their active participation will go a long way in showing employees that leadership cares about their health, and they’re more likely to engage in initial screening and follow-up activities.

How do you do that, especially with a busy and limited HR staff? First, make it easier on your team by partnering with a technology provider to handle all of the logistical and operational aspects of health a testing program — from scheduling screening events and enrolling participants to communicating with individuals, tracking and sharing results, and analyzing population trends. This allows your HR team to focus on other aspects of their jobs — such as creating a wellness program employees can get excited about.

Don’t overlook the importance of effective communications. Meet employees where they are with relevant, personalized communications. Look for a technology partner that enables your HR staff and program administrators to easily communicate with participants via multiple channels — email, SMS message, interactive voice response (IVR), or paper mail.

When it comes to health screenings, make it easy for employees to schedule an appointment at a convenient time and location. An annual health screening, available only in your office(s), isn’t enough. In addition to an onsite event, offer flexible alternatives to meet the needs of busy employees: visiting a pharmacy or lab, seeing their doctor, or completing a test for diabetes or CRC in the privacy of their own home.

When screening results are available, are you prepared to analyze and leverage them to customize future wellness programs and track your staff’s health improvement over time? There are user-friendly analytic tools to make it simple and monitor your program in real time. If test results show a high incidence of diabetes or pre-diabetes amongst your employees, tailor your wellness program accordingly.

This could include providing ongoing educating about the importance of exercise and a healthy diet, offering onsite workout classes, or reevaluating your office’s food offerings — from cafeteria fare to vending machine options -- that strike a balance between what employees might want and what’s actually good for them.

In short, a combination of a corporate commitment to health, the right wellness technology partner, communication, education, and continued evaluation of population health data to track changes and make program adjustments are all aspects of operating employee wellness programs that deliver a solid return on investment for your company and its greatest asset — your employees.

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