We sat down with Nic Patee, CEO of WorkRight NW, and Mark Heaysman, CEO of Longitude6, to discuss common workplace healthcare failures. From conflicting care systems — the benefits plan and worker's compensation — to the misuse of technology, the approach to health and safety most commonly found around the country needs to change. A move towards the holistic care of the whole worker is a small change that can improve the longevity of your workforce and your bottom line, offering many strategic advantages going forward.
Q: Do we have a problem with healthcare in the US?
A: Put simply, yes. Year after year, costs continue to increase while the quality of care metrics stay the same or decline. This is because the system is set up to work backwards. The fee for service model of healthcare in the US waits for people to break and then capitalizes on fixing them. Instead of using knowledge to keep people healthy and truly be a health/care system, patients go untreated until it is too late.
Q: Is healthcare generally part of a company’s due diligence and sustainability plan?
A: In reality, no (although most organizations would claim it is). There are a lot of initiatives created that would appear to show a prioritization of healthcare. However, when the results of these initiatives are analyzed it becomes clear that they do not actually do much at all. They simply shift the risk from the health plan to worker’s comp and vice versa.
For example, a business may see costs and injuries reduced on the worker’s comp side due to their workplace safety initiative. But at the same time, plan costs actually increased as more people went on short term disability and sought outside care. This cycle repeats itself in many different forms, effectively creating no lasting change.
Q: What are the issues with “wellness programs” and how do they feed into the idea that there are two health plans?
A: Wellness programs do not currently function in the holistic way they need to. Normally, they take place on either the worker's comp side or the benefits plan. Workers are therefore being approached and consequently treated on two different fronts. Yet, it is the same singular worker with one set of issues. To drive a true worker health platform that creates a real return on investment, the two plans and the programs associated with them need to be combined.
Q: What steps can be taken to amend this?
A: There are three important ways to work towards a single united health plan:
- Create the right team — Bringing the right people together who can understand each other’s language (HR, Health/Safety, Risk, and Finance) increases accountability for the common goal of better health.
- Address people, systems, and culture — Individuals make better decisions when they are surrounded by a culture that supports them. Systems and team culture need to drive in the same direction, creating culture-based initiatives which address systemic issues.
- Utilize healthcare providers — Healthcare providers can have conversations that a typical manager or non-medical provider cannot due to their distinct ability to maintain privacy. This makes healthcare a value-added resource that should be built into the team from the beginning.
Q: What is the role of technology through all of this?
A: In the 21st century, technology has become an integral part of daily life. This makes it even more important to be careful about how and why you are including technology in the workplace. Just as the people, systems, and culture of each business is different, technology is not a one-size-fits-all solution to any problem. Each service is priced differently and has a different level of accessibility and training. Therefore, technology should be vetted to ensure it is relevant, sustainable, and able easily be integrated into the ecosystem of the company.
Q: What is the most important thing to remember when considering the addition of technology?
A: Technology must be utilized holistically. It is difficult to determine how the addition of one product will make a difference. But if you blend current data and information to understand functional capacity, technology can be utilized to help develop the skills and support the practices truly needed to create a safe and efficient environment.
Q: What is the overall goal in streamlining internal healthcare programming?
A: If done well, these efforts to combine technology, worker's comp and the health plan into one unified force will stand the test of time. Together, they care for the health of the whole person; this way, high cost claims, injuries, and illnesses can be prevented and treated before it is too late. Businesses will not just have one good year — there will be sustained improvement in the health and lifestyles of their people that creates positive change, every year.