Metabolic health is an important issue to employees and employers alike and it’s especially top of mind in February, which is American Hearth Month.
Metabolic health is becoming a top priority for 64% of employers over the next three years, according to Willis Towers Watson’s “Best Practices in Health Care Survey.” While that’s a fine initiative in the abstract, it’s important to have practical and tangible solutions to assist employees in this effort.
As tends to be the case in modern society, technology is at the forefront of these solutions. Many employers are utilizing apps as an added layer of support for their workers who are suffering from diabetes. And, telemedicine services continue to increase in popularity, as 88% of organizations offered the service in 2019, which is up from 73% in 2017, according to WorldatWork’s “2019 Inventory of Total Rewards Programs & Practices.”
As it relates to heart health, a study by Health Recovery Solutions found that the combined approach of telehealth and traditional care was proven to improve diabetes symptoms and communication between patients and providers.
“We see a number of different solutions in the marketplace that combine both digital along with telephonic support for patients,” said Anne Richter, RN and health management practice co-leader at Willis Towers Watson. “We see lots of remote patient monitoring through connected devices using technology. Those technologies can connect back to their electronic medical records, which allows physicians to digitally monitor their patients.”
Providing technological resources for your employees has proven to be an effective practice in improving their health. But, there are other resources organizations can provide in-house to their workforce, such as stocking the cafeteria with healthy snacks or, depending on the size of the organization, offering healthier options at a lower cost to employees than junk food. With poor nutrition as the leading cause of type 2 diabetes, many employers are implementing nutritional programs focused on diabetes prevention, like offering healthy snacks and reducing the size of plates.
“We spend an incredible amount of time in the workplace, so making it easier for people to make the healthy decision, whether it’s more affordable or making it free, or removing the temptation to begin with is important,” Richter said. “I’ve seen more and more of my clients focus on that and it’s also about creating an overarching culture of health.”
Employers can also provide their employees with working conditions conducive to better health, such as standing desks, which help blood sugar levels return to normal faster after eating. On-site fitness centers are a popular add as well, with 58% of organizations offered this in 2019, according to the “2019 Inventory of Total Rewards Programs & Practices” survey.
“Walking paths, onsite fitness facilities or group challenges that get people motivated to get up and moving and make it fun,” Richter said. “Those are the programs we see have the greatest amount of success in the workplace.”
These measures are a worthy cause for employers to improve the overall health of their workforce and could also lead to massive savings for the organization, as diabetes treatment costs the U.S. a total of $174 billion annually; $58 billion of which results from disability payments, lost productivity and premature death.
What’s more, a healthier workforce generally means a more productive workforce.
“They spend less time away from the workplace or less time not focused on their work. They’re spending less time out on short-term disability,” Richter said. “They’re more intentional and focused on the things that they’re accomplishing in the workplace.”
About the Author
Brett Christie is a staff writer at WorldatWork.