The future of health care: Investing in prevention

By: Pierre Marion

balanceIs our health care system doing enough to prevent illness– or are we too focused just on treatment? Should there be a balance?

We were proud to sponsor this year’s Sanofi Canada HealthCare Survey, Merging Pathways to Sustainable Health which looks at these issues. RecentIy, I presented the survey outcomes to some of our stakeholders here in Quebec – and like that audience – some of the survey findings might surprise you.

Employees looking for more than just treatment coverage from their plan

About 15 years ago most employees looked to their benefit plan to cover the cost of a prescription or a trip to the dentist. Usually they didn’t want their employer too involved in their personal health issues. But times have changed. 69 per cent of employees surveyed think their employers should take on greater responsibility in preventing rather than just treating disease, illness and injury.

So why the change?

A lot of it has to do with today’s work world. Gone is the 9-5 workday. For many of us our work world and personal lives are constantly intersecting – it’s made finding time to learn more about healthy choices and engaging in healthy activities more challenging. It makes sense that people are turning more and more to their employer – where they spend a bulk of their time – to provide those supports and opportunities.

Employers also want to provide more prevention supports

Employers are even more on board with 91% feeling they should be doing more in the area of disease prevention rather than just supporting treatment.  It’s a strong number – and it’s in line with the increase we have seen over the years from our clients looking for effective approaches to attendance management.

Employers are recognizing that wellness supports are not just a “nice thing to have” – they make good business sense. By taking an interest in employee wellness employers can reduce absenteeism and the incidence disability, increase employee productivity and strengthen employee engagement.

Most people don’t know they are at risk – do you?

According to Health Canada – about 58 per cent of Canadian adults have at least one chronic condition. However, plan sponsors participating in the survey estimate only 31 per cent of their employees suffer from a chronic condition while 24 per cent indicated they did not know.

Those numbers don’t add up. We may be talking more about chronic disease prevention but that doesn’t mean we know how to identify our own risks. So what can we do about it?

Chronic disease prevention – we all have a role to play

Our health care system has many touch points. We look to our health benefits for coverage and assistance. We visit our doctor, pharmacist and other health care specialists for treatment – and then there’s navigating our federal and provincial

While all the touch points aren’t always perfectly coordinated for the most part there are well-defined linkages when it comes to treatment. But when it comes to prevention and intervention there’s a gap mainly because our health care system is focused on acute care – but there’s an evolving need to address chronic care. In fact, in this year’s survey most people said they would like to see a co-ordinated focus on prevention supports at the same level they see treatment co-ordination.

This growing need for prevention and intervention supports at all levels of health care delivery is one of the main reasons we launched My Good Health – a free on-line tool for all our members that allows them to assess their health risks and develop personalized action plans to improve their health – including where they can access supports in their given community.

Prevention can have big impact

Over the years, our health care system has focused a lot on treatment – and that’s good. But according to the views of employees and employers in this year’s HealthCare Survey – a focus on prevention supports is equally important. It can have a big impact on both our personal health and the sustainability of our health care system in the years to come.

What do you think?

Take our quick survey and let us know what you think.

Pierre Marion is Senior Director, Sales and Business Relations at Medavie Blue Cross and along with Theresa Rose, Director of Group Product Management, sits on the Sanofi Canada HealthCare Survey Advisory Board.

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