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Chronic health issues are more common than ever. Younger people may have autoimmune issues or asthma, as well as ongoing mental health concerns. As people age, they’re more likely to develop conditions like diabetes, arthritis, and more.

These conditions have a considerable impact on employers. People with chronic health issues often need more time off, whether to attend doctors’ appointments or because they’re experiencing a flare-up of symptoms. If a condition isn’t diagnosed and controlled at early stages, it can cause significant disability or other complications. This could lead to employees taking short-term and long-term disability.

As Canada has an ageing workforce, these concerns are important. What can you do to address chronic health issues in your organization?

The Business Case for Addressing Chronic Health Issues

Employers must consider the business case for addressing chronic health issues. Chronic health issues result in lower productivity and higher absenteeism. Employees may need time off to manage their conditions, or they experience symptoms that keep them from work. Even when they are at work, they might not be at their best.

Good management of health can help limit these costs to the business and improve productivity. One study suggested that organizations that invest in and improve the health of their employees earn more than 300 percent in stock valuation over time, compared with just 105 percent for companies that don’t.

Preventive Measures: Stopping Problems Before They Start

The best measure anyone can take is to stop a chronic health issue before it becomes one. That usually means investing in preventive health programs.

These can take quite a few different shapes in your organization. It could look like an exercise program or a paid gym membership for your team members. It could be support for mental health. It might even be financial counselling and coaching or a smoking cessation program.

Even workplace culture and compensation can play a role. People without dental benefits are less likely to visit a dentist, but there appear to be links between good oral health and good overall health. Exercise, good nutrition, and sleep are also important. Stress is a major factor in the development of many chronic issues, so a high-stress workplace could put your team members at risk.

Run the Data

Next, you should the data around chronic issues in your workplace. What kinds of conditions do your employees develop most often? If people are always taking time off for back pain, an exercise program might help. A better strategy would be to look at the ergonomics of their workspaces. Are employees able to maintain good posture at their desks? Is there a way to reduce back strain or repetitive lifting? Are they lifting heavy items properly?

Employers are often leery about preventive measures because they don’t yield results instantly. While you do need to wait for these measures to bear fruit, using data-informed strategies is key to identifying common issues and the root causes.

Look for Efficiencies in Processing Chronic Health Claims

What can you do for those who already have chronic health issues? There’s no cure for diabetes or arthritis, so management is usually the focus once people have developed these conditions.

You need to be sure you’re offering the right support for your team members and the conditions they have. If the most common chronic illness is arthritis, then offering a program aimed at good dental care and heart health won’t offer the best support.

Reducing the burden of chronic illness will mean you need to find efficiencies in your claims process and improve workflows. Your focus should be on improving the employee experience, so above all, ask your team members what would actually help them.

An HRIS Can Help You Plan the Right Program

Technology is important here. If you’re not already using an HRIS, then it’s high time to look for one. With better data collection and streamlined benefits processing, you can help your team members manage their health the smart way.

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Mario Malatesta

With experience in the financial services industry and the group benefits industry, Mario Malatesta founded GroupQuest Benefits Resources Inc with just his business partner. Today, GroupQuest is a leading Group MGA in Canada with about $150M of group insurance premium in force and a support team of over 35 staff members including: renewal, marketing, sales, and service support teams. GroupQuest has offices in Vancouver, BC and Calgary, AB, as well as a head office in Mississauga, ON.   Mario is married with two children (twins). He enjoys many different sports and travelling with his family.

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