While the country celebrates the lowest unemployment rate in nearly 20 years, we shouldn’t lose sight of a very different economic indicator: the spiraling rate of chronic disease. The cost of treating diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other chronic conditions – combined with the cost of lost productivity – is taking a massive toll on the U.S. economy, according to a new Milken Institute report. In 2016, that toll reached $3.7 trillion, nearly one-fifth of the U.S. gross domestic product.¹ And there’s no end in sight. The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) expects more than 80 million people in the U.S. to face three or more chronic health conditions by 2030, up from 31 million in 2015.²
For employers, this means continued struggles to improve the health and well-being of employees and bend unsustainable healthcare cost trend at the same time.
The answer, many say, is preventing the onset of chronic disease in the first place, rather than directing all efforts to treating it. Unfortunately, government efforts are moving in the opposite direction: Disease prevention budgets have been slashed at the federal level and remain flat at the state level. According to Trust for America’s Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spends just $4 per person per year to prevent chronic disease.³ As the PFCD points out: “The issue of chronic disease does not register with large segments of the public and policymakers as an issue of primary concern.”4
So where does that leave employers who have a vested interest in keeping employees healthy and out of the high-cost band? Increasingly, the answer is population health management, which promises to improve the health of the entire population – improving productivity and reducing healthcare costs.
“Interestingly, this trend represents a sea change among employers,” says Marion McGowen, chief clinical officer and senior vice president of population health, UPMC Insurance Services Division, in an interview with Smart Business.5 “The goal is to try to prevent those who are well from becoming ill, while improving the quality of life and enhancing health outcomes for those who have developed chronic conditions,” she says.6
But employers turning to population health management should be aware of common pitfalls with the approach:
To improve the health of employees and bring down the cost of healthcare, a population health strategy must overcome these challenges. It must:
In short, population health strategy must be proactive, personalized and connected. To learn more about this approach, tune into our live webinar on Thursday, June 21, 2018: Managing Employee Populations with a Clinical and Personalized Approach.
1 Waters, H. and Graf, M. (2018 May 25). The Cost of Chronic Diseases in the U.S. Retrieved from: http://www.milkeninstitute.org/publications/view/910.
³ Trust for America’s Health (2017 April), A Funding Crisis for Public Health and Safety: State-by-State Public Health Funding and Key Health Facts, 2017. Retrieved from: http://healthyamericans.org/report/136/
4 About the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease. Retrieved from: https://www.fightchronicdisease.org/about
5 Smart Business Staff (2017, Aug. 1), How population health management can save you big money. Smart Business. Retrieved from: http://www.sbnonline.com/article/population-health-management-save-money/
7 Heath, S., (2016, Feb 29), Boosting Chronic Disease Management through Pop Health Management, Health IT Analytics. Retrieved from: https://healthitanalytics.com/news/boosting-chronic-disease-management-through-pop-health-management
8 Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2017. Retrieved from:https://www.medscape.com/slideshow/compensation-2017-overview-6008547
9 Weiner, S. (2016, Sept 13), Listening for What Matters: Lessons about Caring from Concealed Recordings of Medical Encounters. Retrieved from: http://www.theschwartzcenter.org/media/Listening-for-What-Matters-HANDOUT-1.pdf
10 Gottlieb, K., MBA; Sylvester, I., MBA: and Eby, D., MD, MPH, (2008 Jan.), Transforming Your PRactice: What Matters Most. Retrieved from https://www.southcentralfoundation.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/NEWS-Transforming-Your-Practice_press-packet.pdf