Health is Wealth

© 2014 Dr. Sharon Norling

Are you an executive for a large corporation or a small business owner who is working hard to be successful while keeping an eye on the budget?

The financial fitness of any business is dependent on the health of the employees, managers, executives and owners. The three biggest challenges in the workplace today are absenteeism, decreased productivity and decreased presenteeism.
Presenteeism is the increasing phenomena in the U.S. workplace where workers are on the job physically, but suffering from chronic disease, pain or other physical or psychological issues. It’s not enough in this hyper-competitive 21st century suffering global economy to get workers just to show up—they need to be healthy, pain-free and happily engaged.

The Statistics are Telling

Employees showing up for work on a multitude of pain or mood-altering drugs significantly impacts business success. All these scenarios greatly reduce the employees’ optimal level of productivity and increase the health care costs of the company.
A Gallop study showed that employees with thriving overall well-being have 41 percent lower health care costs than those with moderate levels of well-being, and 62 percent lower costs than those with low levels of well-being.

Additionally people with thriving well-being have a 35 percent lower turnover than those with a low level of well-being. Robison, Jennifer “The Business Case for Well Being.” Gallup Business Journal, June, 2010.

Other research shows that 15 percent of the workforce is actively disengaged. These unhappy, unhealthy people go to work making each other unhappy. The actively disengaged group of workers cost companies $350 billion a year!

Another part of the American work force, 57 percent, is disengaged and showing up for work to just get through the day, without achieving nearly their potential for the success of the company.

Consequently, only 28 percent of the workers are actively engaged. This is a tremendous loss of human potential and a major obstacle to a company’s optimal performance and bottom line. Robison, Jennifer “Despite the Downturn, Employees Remain Engaged.” Gallup Business Journal, January, 2010.

What Integrative Medicine Can Do

As a physician with a MBA I was senior management and medical director at the University of Minnesota Hospital and Clinics responsible for 42 clinics, 325 employees and a multimillion dollar budget. The health care costs were enormous and the health of the employees while providing world class health care was a challenge.

Having been ill in the past, suffering from complications and misdiagnoses, I personally know the impact of symptoms and disease on costs and lost revenue. Today I am fortunate to be very healthy and have an integrative medicine center with healthy employees. It is by its nature an environment that promotes health and wellness and is supported by education.

Integrative medicine is rapidly finding a place in corporate America. Its benefits and values are well-matched to the employer. Today 80 percent of health care cost is for chronic illnesses. The CDC reports that chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and arthritis are among the most common, costly and preventable of all health care problems in the U.S. This is where integrative medicine excels!

More than 50 U.S. academic medical centers now feature some form of an integrative medicine program. Integrative medicine is personalized care—assessing and treating the mind, body and spirit using natural approaches whenever possible. The key is finding the root cause of disease or illness.

Two dozen quality studies indicate the cost-effectiveness of delivering integrative health care. This research was well-described in a piece in the Huffington Post by John Weeks, editor-publisher of The Integrator Blog. The Corporate Health Improvement Program (CHIP) is located at the University of Arizona and includes members such as Corning, Ford, IBM, Kimberly Clark, NASA, Nestle and Knight Ridder.

In numerous randomized controlled trials for the past 10 years, Dean Ornish, MD, has found that people with severe coronary heart disease were able to halt disease progression or reverse it without drugs or surgery by making comprehensive lifestyle changes. These findings were published in The Journal of American Medical Association, Lancet and other major medical journals.
According to the American Heart Association, in 2006 1.3 million coronary angioplasty procedures were performed at an average cost of $48,399 per procedure, or more than $60 billion total; and 448,000 coronary bypass operations were performed at a cost of $99,743 per surgery—more than $44 billion total. It is no wonder our health care costs continue to sky rocket.

Prevention is Key

What can we do rather than the costly invasive surgical procedures and drugs? The INTERHEART cardiology study published in Lancet followed 30,000 men and women on six continents and found that changing lifestyle could prevent at least 90 percent of all heart disease!

It is easier and less expensive to prevent the onset of disease than it is to treat it once the disease has developed. Nearly 60 percent of all after-tax profit is spent on corporate health benefits. Eighty percent of these costs are spent on 10 percent of the employees. Healthy employees save their employers money.

• Duke Prospective Health reports a $2,200 per employee per year savings from an integrative approach.
• Penny George Institute reports their inpatient integrative care initiative is saving $2,000 per patient per hospital stay at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, part of the Allina system. Of note, I initiated and developed this program as Senior Management and Director of Integrative Medicine at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in 2002.
• Parker Hannifin, a large global company, offers integrative medicine to their 60,000 employees. I am privileged to be a credentialed physician for the self-insured program to help them decrease their health care costs and improve their employee’s health.

Today more 100 million Americans receive their health care benefits through self-insured companies.

Emerging Trend

Self-insured employers are adding integrative health care services as an extension to their wellness and prevention program.
Savings

Direct medical cost-savings can occur via integrative health care delivery.

Efficacy

The three-legged stool—nutrition, exercise and stress reduction are known to support typical outcomes like pain reduction, weight loss, sleep and quality of life, resulting in decreased absenteeism, improved productivity and decreased presenteeism.
Whether you are an employee or an executive working for a Fortune 500 company or a small business, investing in your health is the best investment you can make. Integrative medicine is wealth—it is the key for healthy, productive, happy workers. Your financial fitness depends on it.

Written By: DR. Sharon Norling, MBA