Empowered patient? You’re on your own

UnknownKEY TAKEAWAY: More and more employers are reducing wellness programs and with the shortage of doctors, patients might feel like they are on their own in managing their own health.  Strategically, this is going to lead to higher health costs while the key message seems to be “manage your own health”.

According to the WSJ “a big new survey of benefits from the Society for Human Resource Management found that employers are cooling toward certain wellness benefits. Originally designed to cut employers’ health costs, benefits like on-site flu shots, 24-hour nurse hot lines, health coaching and insurance-premium discounts for weight loss all have declined over the past year, the study found.”

Just 37% of the employers studied offered health coaching—counseling designed to motivate employees to make healthy lifestyle choices. Last year, nearly half of them offered that benefit. Fewer employers are making seasonal flu vaccinations available at work, with 54% doing so, down from 61% last year

With Americans spending do much time at work the message seems to be “when it comes to managing your health, you’re on your own”.[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]  While there is talk about mobile health apps, let’s be clear that these apps are not a replacement for an HCP.[/inlinetweet]  Only a HCP can adequately determine which patients need more tests and prescribe treatments to head off more serious health issues.

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About half of American adults have either diabetes or prediabetes, a study says.  In 2011 to 2012, more than 12 percent of U.S. adults had diabetes, and 38 percent hadprediabetes, a condition in which blood sugar levels are abnormally high, the study found.  In other words wellness programs and interventions are needed NOW.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]In 2011, the average annual health spending for individuals with diabetes was $14,093[/inlinetweet]. Two years later, it had risen to $14,999, according to the Healthcare Cost Institute. In contrast, a person without diabetes spent about $10,000 less in medical costs in 2013. Pharmacy provider Express Scripts said that 2014 was the fourth year in a row that medication used to treat diabetes were the most expensive of any traditional drug class.

Bad News

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]In all, diabetes costs totaled an estimated $245 billion in 2012, including both direct medical expenses and indirect costs from disability and lost work productivity.[/inlinetweet]

It is estimated that the ROI of wellness programs could be as high as 10:1 but companies see them only as an expense that interferes with share price on the balance sheet.  Rather than talk about DTC ads the AMA should be addressing the need for wellness programs and the integration of wellness programs at doctors’ offices,