7 in 10 employers want better reporting on ROI of health, wellness programs

Impact of chronic disease underestimated: Survey

Canadian organizations that offer health benefits to employees are looking for more information and analysis regarding the plans, according to the 2015 edition of the Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey.

Seventy-two per cent desire better reporting/evaluation of the ROI of the health and wellness program; 76 per cent want a better understanding of how the benefit plan affects health outcomes, productivity and absenteeism; 62 per cent want a better understanding of the claims data; and 68 per cent want a better understanding of connections between claims and utilization of programs.

"It's encouraging that plan sponsors are looking for more information in these areas. It tells us there could be an appetite to do more, which we really haven't seen before," says Marilee Mark, vice-president, market development, at Sun Life Financial and a member of the advisory board for survey.

Chronic disease
Plan sponsors and plan members are not making the link regarding their plans and the prevalence of chronic disease in the workplace, found the survey of 1,504 primary holders of group health benefit plans. While plan sponsors estimated about one-quarter (26 per cent on average) of their workforce has a chronic condition, 56 per cent of plan members indicated they have such a condition.

"Right now, there is clearly a disconnect between traditional plans and what will be required in the workplace due to chronic disease. Plan designs require more strategy along the lines of health and productivity," said board member Nathalie Laporte, vice-president of product development and marketing, group and business insurance, at Desjardins.

On the wellness front, 45 per cent of employers report offering programs or support for health and fitness (such as weight-loss programs, fitness challenges), a finding that has not changed much since first explored in 2012.

Among employees who say they have access to such programs, 34 per cent said they definitely (11 per cent) or somewhat regularly (23 per cent) participate — unfortunately, participation is even lower among employees who describe themselves as being in poor or very poor health (30 per cent), and 39 per cent do not participate at all.

Paramedical services
Almost one-half (47 per cent) of plan members submitted at least one claim for paramedical services in the past year, and those that did submitted a total of 7.3 claims on average — a frequency second only to prescription medications (9.5).

While paramedical services can help make the connection between health productivity for those suffering from injury or chronic pain, this level of use may suggest the need for eligibility based on clinical criteria rather than self-perceived needs, said Sanofi.

"When you consider the disability issues in some workplaces and the issues around specialty pharmaceuticals, which can be life-changing for plan members, the cost and use of some paramedicals just don't seem to make sense," said Paula Allen, vice-president of research and integrative solutions at Morneau Shepell.

Other findings:

•Three-quarters (77 per cent) of plan members said they would not move to a job that did not include health benefits.

•Drug (94 per cent), dental (basic 92 per cent; major 83 per cent) and vision care (89 per cent) remain the most valued components of health benefit plans, according to plan members.

•When offered a list of seven possible new health benefits, plan members were most likely to select onsite health risk screenings (45 per cent), followed by onsite immunizations for infectious diseases (40 per cent).

•85 per cent of plan members said they have one or more health or fitness goals — and one in five (21 per cent) said their workplace is a barrier to reaching those goals.

•Almost one-half (47 per cent) of plan members said they will definitely or most likely purchase private health benefits when they retire.

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