Health & Productivity

Investing in worker health and, in the process, managing chronic health conditions and preventing disability and serious illness, can lead to both an increase in the quality of living for employees and cost savings for employers through productivity gains.

To encourage a healthier workforce, the National Pharmaceutical Council has sponsored a number of studies that examine the impact of worker health on productivity.

One two-part study found that employers who focus only on medical and pharmacy costs in creating employee health strategies may misidentify the health conditions that most impact the productivity of their employees -- while underestimating the impact of other factors. In particular, presenteeism -- when employees with health conditions are present at their jobs but are unable to perform at full capacity -- often causes a greater drain on a company’s productivity than employee absence.

Understanding these health conditions and other factors that impact their workforce can help employers to design an effective insurance benefit. One model that is increasingly being used by employers is value-based insurance design (VBID), which encourages the use of medically necessary therapies and services and reduces barriers to access for these services. Under a VBID program, the more clinically beneficial a therapy is for a patient, the lower the patient’s cost share.

And while the costs of chronic health conditions on employee productivity to employers are well documented, methodologies that accurately capture the impact that medicines may have on reducing those costs are limited. A study conducted by Tufts Medical Center and the National Pharmaceutical Council demonstrated a novel approach to estimate productivity, using depression and arthritis as case studies. The study found that therapies to treat depression yielded a 0.9 percent to 2.2 percent improvement in employee productivity. Taking medicine to treat arthritis or other musculoskeletal pains is associated with productivity gains of up to 0.5 percent.

Recognizing the full value of improved employee health, including improvements in workforce productivity, lost time and medical costs, is essential in helping employers seek the best value for their health investments.

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