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Disability 360: Top Trends, Tools & Tactics (Part 2/3)

Posted by Marc Avaria and Travis Kelly on December 19, 2018

Welcome to the second part of our three-part blog on disability management. In our first blog we looked at what is trending in disability and, in particular, the rise in mental health claims. In this blog, we share best practices that employers can adopt to reduce risks of illness and injury, contain plan costs and get employees back to work quickly and safely.

  • Get everyone onboard – Building a culture of physical and mental wellbeing requires the buy-in and involvement of everyone in the workplace. Senior management can take the lead by becoming health and wellness champions and setting examples of smart health for employees to follow.
  • Keep employees informed – Organizations need to clearly communicate the objectives and benefits of their health and wellness strategies so that they are embraced by employees. This can be done through targeted emails, desk drops, lunch and learns and town halls.
  • Invest in training – Training will help managers to address potential health issues before they reach the disability stage. This should include learning to identify employees who are struggling with a mental health issue. The earlier symptoms are recognized, the sooner the employee gets the treatment they need and the faster they recover and return to work. By keeping an issue from escalating, training can also prevent an absence from work altogether.
  • Early intervention - Intervention is a proactive way to identify claims that need to be specially handled for quick resolution. Research indicates that 80% of disability claimants, who receive treatment early, will recover fully. One research study found that on average, employees receiving early intervention returned to work 20% faster than expected, or 2.7 weeks sooner than their expected return to work date.
  • Ounces of prevention – Prevention can mitigate the frequency and severity of injury or illness. Initiatives should promote both physical and mental well-being and can include a range of health management resources, from an employee and family assistance program to an online health risk assessment tool.

Our Managing Chronic Disease benefit is a good example of a program that can help employees control and even reverse or delay the onset of diseases and their potentially disabling impact. How? By providing direct access to and reimbursement for personalized health coaching and disease management education by our specialized network of health professionals. Coverage is currently available for lung health education and support services (asthma, COPD), diabetes care and education, heart health (high blood pressure, high cholesterol) and smoking cessation services and supports – and no doctor’s referral is required.

  • Health education and coaching – Employees would welcome these services according to the 2018 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey. Of the respondents who have chronic disease, 84% would like to know more about their condition and how to treat it while 75% would be interested in the counselling services of a pharmacist if covered by their plan.
  • Put a policy in place – A disability prevention and management strategy should include a policy that clearly defines roles and responsibilities for management. It should also spell out rules and timeframes for employees to follow in the event they have to take time off due to an illness or injury. For example, an employer can specify that one week after an employee calls in sick, they should seek medical attention.
  • Be open to accommodation - We collaborate with employers to develop a plan that eases employees back into their jobs. Depending on the nature or extent of the disability, it may be a gradual transition in which the employee’s tasks or hours are modified. Other options include offering the employee a different job or performing their tasks through telework from home.
  • Improve accessibility - Making workspaces more accessible will allow people with physical disabilities to participate more fully in the workforce. According to a recent report by the Conference Board of Canada, better workplace accommodation could lift overall economic activity by $16.8 billion by 2030.
  • Follow the trends - There are lots of good reasons to stay on top of the trends. Whether it’s online psychotherapy or pharmacogenetics, employers need to keep pace with advances in AI and technology and incorporate it into their practices. Employers should make this a priority, given the ever-changing, fast-moving and highly complex environment in which we operate today.
  • Measure the results – You can’t manage what you can’t measure and this certainly applies to disability management. Employers insured with Medavie Blue Cross have the ability to run their own disability reports through the group administrator portal via our website. Our reporting tools provide data analytics that employers can leverage to measure the effectiveness of their programs and help employees improve their health.

These are challenging, but exciting times that hold plenty of opportunities to improve employee’s access to quality care, while making sure plans are sustainable for the future. Be sure to seize those opportunities!

Editor’s Note: This blog is based on a webinar titled “Disability 360: Surveying the Disability Management Landscape, presented June 7, as part of our series of learn-and-earn CE credit opportunities. To sign up for future webinars, email [email protected]