Firstly because of the cost of healthcare, which is second only to payroll as an HR expense, and increasing more rapidly. Payroll follows the general price index. Healthcare plans track medical inflation and this has been consistently higher. By improving employee health, companies are more likely to control healthcare costs. However, companies are also switched on to the link between workplace wellbeing and productivity. Health programs are widely valued in Brazil as a way to improve quality of life as well as a tool for financial sustainability in a scenario of high medical inflation.
It is not a recent trend but it is intensifying. At Amil, we have been pioneering health promotion initiatives since the 90s, now with 400,000 beneficiaries engaged. The stabilization of inflation in Brazil allowed all economic sectors to gain a better understanding of costs. The globalization of the 90s gave Brazilian companies access to international information about health management, accelerated by the direct action of multinational groups. The creation of the Alliance for a Healthy Population in Brazil in 2012 was a landmark event, integrating companies and institutions in the development of best practices to promote health. We are now working closely with corporate clients to manage employee health needs through programs from quality-of-life screening to early detection of chronic disease and guidelines for discharged patients.
Firstly, our awareness of the downside in terms of how chronic diseases result in high costs. And secondly, we understand the upside, the clear benefits to employees when chronic diseases are properly monitored and managed. The fact that a high percentage of Brazilian companies have programs to analyze and collect employee health data is a significant reason for both real and perceived success.
At Amil, we have been analyzing data for many years. In the last 13 years, approximately 233,000 people were monitored as part of our program to manage high-risk patients, including people at risk of cardiovascular disease. Today we can show that the medical costs for the people who joined the program are 42% lower than for patients with the same characteristics who did not take part.
the reduction in medical costs for patients on the AMIL high-risk management program versus non-participants with the same medical characteristics.
Similarly we have been working with a corporate client to help cap employee health plan claims from procedures associated with cardiovascular diseases, mapping disease, providing telephone follow-up for patients at risk, and education. As a result, medical costs from admissions generated by cardiovascular diseases fell 28% per year over three consecutive years. Admissions were lower complexity and the number of authorizations for admissions stabilized, implying better outcomes for the employees involved.
All over Brazil companies are reporting success rates. In a recent global survey undertaken by Towers Watson*, 47% said they had been effective in creating a corporate culture of health and wellbeing. Data and analysis is everything, both in monitoring success and promoting investment. It’s a virtuous circle.*Source: Towers Watson (The Business Value of a Healthy Workforce 2013/2014)
Employee participation is vital. According to the Institute for Study of Private Health Care, successful health programs should set realistic goals and employ mechanisms to motivate behavioral change.
Creative messaging is an important ally in disseminating the benefits of prevention programs. Programs are also more effective when they include the visible participation of senior management. Perhaps in Brazil, you can’t rule out our other influential assets – the clement weather, a coastline of sandy beaches and the social nature of Brazilians.
The need to face the real challenge of societies today: to balance increasing medical costs with an aging population and the expansion of access to healthcare. It will need further integration between corporate initiatives such as Occupational Health and Health Plan schemes. Only by broadening our efforts, by focusing on individuals as well as organizations, can we rise to that challenge.Contact us now to learn what we can do for your organization
Dr. Antonio Jorge Gaulter Kropf
Dr. Antonio Jorge Gaulter Kropf is with Amil, a UnitedHealth Group company and Brazil’s largest healthcare company.
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