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Comparative Effectiveness Research: Do Employers Care? What Will They Do? What About Productivity?

This article discusses a survey of employers, conducted by the Benfield Group and supported by the National Pharmaceutical Council, that found that one of the benefits employers are looking for from comparative effectiveness research (CER) is more information about which treatments help with productivity. While data is beginning to emerge regarding the links between good health, productivity and employee wellness programs, this survey shows that most companies (or the benefit consultants they work with) do not have access to the information or any ability to use it in their decision-making.

Specifically, while fewer than one-third of employers or their vendors currently use information about absence, disability and return to work assessing the impact of alternative treatments, 70 percent indicate that such information would be “Important” or “Very Important” within CER. And, while fewer than 25% now use information about the impact of alternative treatments on work productivity in making decisions, over 60% rate this information as “Important” or “Very Important” in CER.

In a more direct analysis of the benefit of CER to employers, respondents were asked how they would handle two specific scenarios related to treatments for low back pain and diabetes. According to the findings, employers are generally more likely to take action based on CER evidence regarding diabetes. The reasons given include the “perceived higher total costs” of treating diabetes and a belief that it would be easier to make changes to address diabetes based on “already generally accepted guidelines for treatment.”

In addition to productivity related information, additional survey findings of note include clear messages about what other types of information employers want: “clinical outcomes of alternative treatments; information comparing utilization and cost of treatments; information about which treatments work best for specific population, and; comparative safety of alternative treatments.”

Although a subscription to the JOEM is required to read this article, the full study, survey instrument and video are available on NPC's website.

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