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Research findings from Aetna International’s report on Business of health 2020: Why overcoming employee health inertia is essential for organisations, showed that non-communicable and lifestyle-related diseases continued to rise despite access to information and technology.
As a leading global health benefits provider, Aetna International explored the attitudes that 4,000 office workers in the USA, UK, UAE and Singapore had towards health. The research was focused on the health fears of today’s workers and probed the gaps in their health knowledge.
Despite the fact that 96% of those surveyed thought about their health at least occasionally, 40% did not visit a doctor to get health issues checked, even if they were concerned. Nearly a quarter (24%) said they were too scared to receive a health check. Inflexible and long working hours compounded the problem, as employees were unable to take time off to manage their health.
The data shows the extent of the challenge but also provides an opportunity for employers to build happier, healthier and more productive businesses.
Businesses can implement the following measures to reduce personal health inertia:
Know your audience
By analysing the factors that motivate employees, their health needs and the social determinants at play, employers can embed health care and healthy behaviours into daily working routines and corporate culture.
It is important to create an environment that gives employees some control over their health support options. Companies can commit to reviewing and revising initiatives while involving employees in this process.
Providing good health and wellness benefits could go a long way in helping the company foster loyalty amongst employees.
Apart from providing health benefits to employees, it is important to also motivate employees to be more conscious of their own health. Educate employees on the importance of taking preventative action to stay healthy and well.
This can be accomplished through consistent and ongoing communication. Promote a culture of openness and acceptance around emotional, mental and physical health through simple and clear messaging.
At any stage of an employee’s personal health care journey, they will feel less isolated and be more productive when there is a greater level of support from their employer.
By providing confidential health and wellness support, employers have the power to become equal partners in an individual’s health care journey. This partnership entails providing motivation, support and access to workplace health advice.
For example, a range of health and wellness services, tools and options tailored to the workforce can be implemented. Ensure that it is easy for employees to find and access the health support they require. In addition, provide clearly written and published privacy statements, and demonstrate that firewalls are in place to safeguard employees’ privacy.
The role of technology cannot be ignored. Based on Aetna’s Expat Social Determinants Report 2019, people are ready for more technology in healthcare and employers should capitalise on this.
Virtual health care services offer ease of access to personal health advice and diagnoses and could be used worldwide to tackle health inertia. Better access to online health consultations would encourage nearly a third of the people surveyed to receive regular check-ups.
Better health outcomes can be achieved through reliable information sources, improved symptom checkers and online triage tools. Beyond diagnosis, personalised treatment journeys that offer better support can be developed.
Other health care technologies, such as personalised DNA tests, are making it possible to predict, prevent and manage health in new ways.
Build a culture
People delay seeking help for health issues due to anxiety, nervousness and a lack of time. This is compounded by the stigma attached to stress and mental health. Therefore, it is important to establish workplace policies that empower people to adopt healthy behaviours, which includes them taking time out to investigate and invest in their health.
Leaders should also embrace wellness and stay informed about what their employees are thinking and what they may need. This will help organisations assess if these wellness initiatives are working and understand what can be improved upon.
Lastly, companies can introduce health clinics within office settings so that employers can see a doctor on-site. Even though technology is able to fulfil many aspects in healthcare, it is unable to replace the human touch.
This article originally appeared in the Entrepreneur's Digest print edition #90 and has been edited for clarity, brevity and for the relevance of this website.
About the Author
Derek Goldberg | Managing Director, Asia Pacific | Aetna International
Having relocated from Connecticut to Hong Kong in 2008 and to Singapore in 2010, Derek understands the importance of having access to quality healthcare and support. He is now based in Singapore and continues to lead Aetna’s business expansion in Asia. In 2017, Derek was named CEO of the Year by the Insurance Asia Awards. Under Derek’s leadership, Aetna International has won several Insurer of the Year awards in Asia Pacific.