Driving the future of employee health forward sustainably - new whitepaper

Driving the future of employee health forward sustainably - new whitepaper

What changes can we make today to drive the future of employee health forward sustainably?
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As employers look to the future following the pandemic, societal, economic and political turbulence is bringing a fresh wave of challenges to organisations already grappling with worsening employee health and increasing health care costs. 

Plus, with a diverse workforce comprising multi-generational teams, employee needs and expectations have also changed.

But what if employers could refocus their well-being strategy to be more sustainable, ensuring a happy, healthier workforce that is supported to deliver their best, now and in the years to come? 

Our latest whitepaper – Fostering employee well-being in a sustainable way, in collaboration with industry experts and thought leaders, explores the opportunities to create a more sustainable health care system by taking a closer look at the current trends and challenges within health care, the possible recommendations we can put into action and how we can ultimately refocus to bring about changes that will shape a more sustainable, balanced future for health care.

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 The great health care balancing act

The biggest issue facing employee well-being today is a need for a greater balance between affordability, quality (clinical and service) and access. All three issues are not new, but they have been exasperated by the Covid pandemic and new ideas and energy are needed to restore balance in a practical and realistic way.

The key opportunities for restoring balance:

1. Dedicating time to mental health offers one of the most impactful ways to boost employee well-being.

With 17% of people suffering from low workplace well-being (Cigna Healthcare’s 2023 360° Well-being Survey) and the direct correlation to poor physical health now being more widely understood, it’s crucial that providing an open environment where poor mental health can be addressed is at the top of every organisation’s agenda. Given budget and resource pressures, forward-thinking and practical initiatives, such as Cigna Healthcare’s 5% Pledge, will be crucial in making this possible.

2. Health promotion and prevention have untapped potential for serious savings and positive change.

One of the best ways to keep health care affordable and health systems sustainable is through health promotion and prevention. The economic return is estimated to four USD of savings in health expenditure for each USD invested in health promotion. This demonstrates that a healthy lifestyle, including reducing alcohol and tobacco use, good nutrition and sleep, has the largest positive long-term impact on health, and lifestyle programmes therefore offer the greatest return on investment.

3. Digital tools, data and AI are opening up exciting new possibilities that can ease affordability and access issues.

Covid has put the spotlight on the need for smart investments, including the use of
digital tools, to make health systems more resilient and increase access. In line with the fourth industrial revolution, interconnectivity and automation, artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IOT) and robotics offers new options to health care. Virtual care (e.g. video consultations) improves ease of access. Quality is also impacted, as more digitalisation means less administrative work for the clinicians, and more focus time on the person themselves. It’s predicted that virtual interactions with clinicians will increase to at least 50% of all interactions (Yulun Wang, Chairman & Co-founder World Telehealth Initiative). AI can play an important role in creating an efficient alignment of digital and in-person care.

A refocus for the future

We believe the four pillars of fostering a more sustainable future of health care are:

1. Technology and data leading affordability and accessibility

Quality data and speed to diagnosis are essential. Care can now be more customised than ever, leading to better clinical outcomes. However, this has a cost attached to it. But good quality of care, also yields better affordability.

For mental health too, technology and digitalisation can open the door to greater access and more tailored therapies.

In terms of the governance of data, there is also plenty of room for improvement, which can generate huge savings and contribute to better, personalised treatment.

Hhealth care providers need to better connect with each other, with single input of data. After all, duplication of data and documents is a waste of resources. What is needed, is a health information system where all information on patients is available all the time, with privacy protection, and respecting the ‘only once’ principle (any input should only be done once).

As found in our Virtual Health Report 2023, as virtual health becomes a more normalised option for patients, healthcare service providers have a responsibility to help build trust with patients and  their care experience. This can be achieved through better understanding of the needs of patients and barriers to adoption, and more dedicated training for clinicians looking after patients through virtual channels. Crucially, as technology continues to advance, we believe the quality of virtual health will also keep improving. 

2. Invest in the promotion of preventative care

Healthy ageing is somewhat reducing the pressure on future financing of health systems, but Michael Mueller, Health Policy Analyst, OECD, suggested the real key to the solution lies in investing more in illness prevention and health promotion. Currently, only 3% to 4% of budgets are spent on prevention and promotion, while it can potentially generate huge cost savings.

Professor Lieven Annemans, Economics of health and well-being, Faculty of Medicine and Health sciences, Ghent University, said that another meaningful policy would be to provide more incentives for prevention for all and less co-payment for lower income classes in society, who typically engage less in prevention (and often under-use medications that could prevent serious health issues) than higher educated  people. Inequality in access to care needs to be tackled.

In general, one can say that investing in prevention and health promotion creates beyond any
doubt the highest return on any investment in health. The societal cost-benefit ratio of health
promotion is estimated at €14 return for each €1 invested.

3. Greater mental health focus in the workplace

A good and sustainable health system is one that also pays attention to the quality of life of health professionals (such as nurses) through a better balance between job demands and resources. Well-being at work is crucial for good health, and certainly so for  health care workers.

But it is also vital for every single worker. Geoff McDonald, Business Transformation Advisor and Mental Health Campaigner stated, we are needing to shift the culture of organisations, how to we change to reduce the amount of stress in the workplace and help mental health.

Dr Gloria Dal Forno, Senior, Medical Advisor, World Intellectual Property Organization said that studies have been done to understand what the problems are within workplaces in order to decrease the stigma. But it will take time to measure the results.  

4. The right partnerships

In order to cope with the challenges of the health care sector today, a close partnership between employers and specialised health service providers such as Cigna, is essential.

We believe we can disrupt the health care system for the better if we join forces with all the stakeholders of the ecosystem. For example, if every organisation took up forward-thinking initiatives from providers, such as the 5% Pledge, will give organisations the boost they need in key challenge areas, such as mental health.  

Strong partnerships based on trust and mutual goals will allow us to provide care that strikes a balance between quality, affordability and accessibility, but is also resilient enough to continue to evolve as customer needs do. Strong partnerships will form the solid foundation of the future of sustainable health care.

Read the full report, with commentary from industry experts and thought leaders as they delve into the pressing challenges and opportunities surrounding employee health and their recommendations for taking actionable steps that will foster long-term positive change.  

Download your copy

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