Nearly three years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers across the country continue to see low employee engagement in preventive medical services. The pandemic forced many hospitals to limit—if not pause altogether—non-essential procedures, many of which fall under preventive care. As a result, participation in an array of important services experienced dramatic reductions in rates that have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels. Yet, employers can play a key role in reversing those numbers. A significant area that employers can encourage their workforce to engage in is routine health screenings—an area of preventive care that millions of Americans rely on every year to diagnose health issues early. By implementing strategies that mitigate employees’ out-of-pocket costs and provide peace of mind for preventive screenings, employers help build a healthier, happier, and more productive workplace.
How can employers promote preventive care?
Routine health screenings and tests are vital to helping your employees spot health problems early and prevent more difficult, serious conditions. Despite its importance, only eight percent of adults in the US engage in the preventive care recommended to them. When employees refuse to seek care for seemingly minor ailments, those untreated conditions can cause higher rates of presenteeism and absenteeism—two trends that dramatically impact business productivity and overall success. According to a 2018 study, researchers found that the illnesses with the highest estimated daily productivity loss and annual cost per person were:
Chronic back pain
General anxiety and depression
Considering one in eight employees will experience depression, yet only nine percent will undergo proper screening for it, it’s clear that millions of employees are missing out on critical care services that they may already be able to access. When employees feel empowered to take control of their health and well-being, your organization could save millions of dollars.
For employees to engage in preventive health decision-making, they have to know where to start. By educating your workforce about what preventive health care looks like in practice, you empower them to make the best health choices possible. Consider encouraging employees to participate in the top ten most common health screenings and tests:
All adults should be screened at least every three to five years or yearly for those at risk.
All adults should get a cholesterol test at least every five years.
Adults age 35 and older should be screened for type 2 diabetes or prediabetes every three years.
Colon cancer screening
All adults over the age of 50 should be screened every 10 years for colon cancer.
Prostate cancer screening
Men over the age of 55 should be screened every 2-3 years for prostate cancer.
Cervical cancer screening
Pap tests are recommended every three years for women over the age of 21 to screen for cervical cancer.
Influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations
Most adults only need to get the pneumococcal vaccine once. Adults age 65 and older, and those at risk, should get the shot at least every 5 years. Everyone aged six months and older should get a flu vaccine every year.
Bone density test
Women aged 65 and older should be screened for osteoporosis or low bone density every year.
Starting at age 50, mammograms should be done every one to two years to screen for breast cancer.
Vision and hearing screenings
A complete eye exam should be done every one to two years. Similarly, a hearing test should be done every year.
What barriers stop employees from practicing preventive health care?
Many employees may recognize the significance of preventive care but be unable to seek appropriate care due to various consequential barriers. The biggest reason employees avoid preventive health screenings and procedures is fear of medical debt. Receiving a diagnosis of a potentially serious condition during a health screening could drastically increase the cost of that appointment due to additional necessary tests. Even though getting an early diagnosis can dramatically improve health outcomes, patients may refuse care due to a fear of costs for additional tests that require out of pocket costs.
Ensuring you communicate with your workforce about available services and how much they can expect to pay fosters organizational health literacy and helps employees feel confident in taking charge of their health. Reminding employees of benefits such as chronic care management and wellness programs accessible under their health plan promotes a positive, productive workplace culture where people are comfortable embracing preventive care.
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