How health engagement drives the health of a business

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The business benefits of a healthy and engaged workforce are about more than low sickness absence figures.

Employees who feel that their employer cares for their health and wellbeing are more likely to be motivated and engaged and less likely to leave the organisation.

Deciding to invest in a long-term healthcare strategy can seem like a giant leap for some organisations. After all, we are still in the aftermath of an economic recession and regulatory change. But NHS waiting times are on the rise, resulting in unnecessarily high employee absence while staff with a health complaint wait for treatment, so now is the perfect time for employers to act and either create or develop a healthcare strategy.

Although navigating through the complexities of the healthcare market can be tough, the good news is that the market is constantly innovating to support employers and uncover workable, evidence-based and cost-effective health solutions. This may come in the form of delivering better insights to drive employers’ business health priorities, or ensuring that their employees are supported at every step of their health journey.

Private medical insurance is integral to an integrated health strategy
The right private medical insurance (PMI) plan is an integral part of an employer’s health and wellbeing strategy. It helps employers to attract and retain key talent, manage absence and productivity and promote a healthy, engaged workforce. This is why designing a PMI plan that meets an organisation’s needs has never been more important, and why it is key that employees make the best use of their plan.

Online support tools, such as our Health Navigator, allows employees to make the most of their PMI plan while accessing resources to support their wellbeing. Employees are supported at every stage of their health journey, not only when they come to make a claim.

This may help employers to address PMI plan issues, such as low take-up. In our experience, only around 25% of PMI plan members make a claim each year, so providers and employers need to find ways to better engage the 75% who do not, particularly the proportion with the greatest healthcare needs. If we engage all plan members with their health, they will make better choices, and better choices lead to better health.

This could include practices seen in the United States, such as the active engagement of employees with the costs of their treatment. This works by employers giving staff responsibility for their health plan funding and rewarding them for the right health behaviours, which helps organisations to drive down longer-term plan costs.

By working with their PMI provider, employers can provide staff with access to a range of information to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle.

But engaging employees with their health requires support, advice and motivation.

Health tools can help to boost employee engagement
There are a growing range of tools available with which employers can encourage their staff to make appropriate lifestyle choices. Health and wellbeing portals, for example, are a great tool for engaging with employees and sharing information.

Through a portal, employers can share top tips for healthy living, as well as information on how to manage living with various health complaints and, perhaps, providing access to websites that can offer additional support.

These tools are perfect for employers that are looking to manage employee health in a cost-efficient way, and are a much better alternative to restricting benefits choice.

Ultimately, the only way for employers to manage long-term costs is to help staff become fitter and healthier. By supporting them in making the right lifestyle choices, they will ultimately improve their health risk profile and maintain a healthy workforce in a cost-efficient way.

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Investing in PMI is part and parcel of this long-term approach, and focusing on health engagement will drive down usage costs and help employers to retain a healthy, motivated and engaged workforce.

Kirsty Jagielko is head of insight and product at Cigna HealthCare Benefits