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Chronic illness and comp


While chronic health problems already present when an employee suffers a work accident can increase the care necessary to treat the work injury, the good news is that more employers are taking time to learn about their workers' total health.

More employers are asking, when a work-injury is first reported, about other health problems the employee may suffer from, Teresa Bartlett told Comp Time.

Ms. Bartlett is an M.D., senior vp and medical director for Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc. Those employers that are asking about other health issues are also investing in wellness programs to address their workers' chronic health problems, Ms. Bartlett said.

That is important because as Comp Time reported yesterday, a survey of 27,000 employees conducted by the Integrated Benefits Institute found that nine in ten said they suffer from more than one chronic health problem.

The survey relied on the employees to self report their health conditions and Comp Time does not know whether a different group of employees, say younger workers, may have provided different responses.

Nonetheless, it's safe to say plenty of American workers suffer from multiple chronic illnesses such as depression, diabetes, heart disease and asthma.

“Strategically, many of our clients have formalized approaches to comorbid conditions,” Ms. Bartlett said. When “we become aware at the moment of intake (for a workplace injury) that the employee has diabetes or cardiovascular disease, there is an automatic transfer” to an employer's wellness program.

That can include a referral to an employer-sponsored smoking cessation or healthy back program.

Employers are not likely to stop offering such programs because their data is showing that the efforts reduce healthcare costs and other expenses, such as the need to hire replacement workers.

So an increasing number of employees may be getting better health care attention after reporting a comp injury.

But that may be happening mostly for employees working for large, sophisticated employers. Comp Time suspects smaller employers are less likely to offer such services.

How do we bring them aboard?