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Compute $$ saved by preventing illness
Prove their worth
Preventing an illness or disease from happening in the first place may seem like "invisible" gains to many, but you don't have to settle for that. Instead, come up with figures to show the large dollar amount of savings that occurs by preventing just one costly diagnosis.
"We spend a lot of money on identifying disease when we really should be spending money preventing it," says Linda K. Glazner, DrPH, RN, COHN-S, CCM, FNP, FAAOHN, an occupational health consultant with Linda K. Glazner & Associates in Wausau, WI. "What I'd like to do is take some of the money spent on treatment and put it into primary prevention."
Coming up with impressive figures, which are readily available, can help you to do just that. Glazner gives the example of screening for colorectal cancer which can be done for about $1 a person. This means you can screen 25,000 employees for $25,000. "This is really dramatic, because the cost of the treatment is so expensive and prevention is so cheap," she says. "Also, the likelihood of finding at least one case is great."
In general, though, Glazner says that the results of "prevention are harder to show, and harder for the nurse to say 'I made the difference.' In the case of colorectal cancer, you can cite the cost from the time of diagnosis to the employee's return to work. This is much less if the condition is detected early."
Prove the ROI
What is your biggest hurdle in obtaining resources for prevention programs? Often, it's proving the worth of those programs, according to Brenda Schanhofer, wellness coordinator at Miron Construction Co. in Neenah, WI.
"Saving money on purchasing or operations is easily quantified. Improving the wellness of your workforce can be tougher to prove," says Schanhofer.
Many times, a prevention program is forced to work with minimal resources in order to accomplish its goals. "This creates the question of where you should focus your time accomplishing your goals or proving your worth and value within the company," says Schanhofer. "It is possible, and necessary, to do both."
Your programs, in order to be effective, must be supported by upper management and embraced by the company overall. "In regards to ROI for worksite wellness programs, we sometimes get too narrow in our scope of determining the success of a program by creating a 3:1 ROI," says Schanhofer. "But we need to look at the bigger picture."
That involves rewarding wellness versus treating illness. "This is an incredibly pro-active way to manage a worksite wellness program," says Schanhofer. "If you do that, the ROI will take care of itself over a period of time. Even a ROI of 1:1 is a successful outcome for this type of program."
She recommends using these approaches:
Look at worksite wellness as a long-term business investment.
"It must be connected to company strategy, shared with employees, and supported by upper management," says Schanhofer.
Use certain measures to provide quantitative proof.
For example, your wellness challenges can provide statistics on weight loss, blood pressure, body mass and other biometrics. Weight loss is an easy way to gauge a successful wellness or fitness challenge, and as you begin to see results in the weight loss category, very likely you will see the same results in reducing high risk factors such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and even metabolic disorders such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Obtain statistics from your health risk appraisals.
"Determine the amount of lifestyle-related illnesses and the percentage of change over time," says Schanhofer. "This information will also give you targets for future programs."
[For more information on obtaining resources for prevention, contact: Linda K. Glazner, DrPH, RN, COHN-S, CCM, FNP, FAAOHN, Linda K. Glazner & Associates, Wausau, WI. Phone: (715) 849-1776. Fax: (715) 849-2840. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Brenda Schanhofer, Wellness Coordinator, Miron Construction Co., Neenah, WI. Phone: (920) 969-7079. Fax: (920) 969-7393. E-mail: Brenda.Schanhofer@miron-construction.com.]