Thursday, 27 October 2011

Employer Healthcare Congress (2). Day one - A mixed bag

Day one of the congress provided a good selection of speakers and thankfully the logistics of finding the right educational seminar room and streamlining our individual schedules was much easier this year. Here is an overview of some of the sessions I attended.

Dr Cecil Wilson: ‘The future of healthcare and healthcare reform in America.
The keynote speaker, past president of the American Medical Association launched the event with a fairly lack lustre presentation which didn’t really live up to the hopeful title but did include some interesting facts and figures. We were subjected to a list of the rules and regulations of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which will be no doubt be included in the certification workshops later in the event. What I really wanted to hear was Dr Wilson’s view of the political implications of the reforms, which are, according to surveys, understood by less than half the US population. (Unlike the UK where, according to my straw polls, 100% of the population do not understand the NHS reforms).

One interesting slide demonstrated the estimated cost of the governmental delay in clarifying the situations regarding SRG (sustainable growth rate payment formula for physicians). The dispute regarding the fixing of this rate could cost up to $600 billion by 2016. Andrew Lansley (UK Secretary of State for health who is still unclear on how best to proceed with the NHS reforms) – please note – dithering costs money!

The figures facing the healthcare system in the US are eye-watering for a Brit – we are used to talking in £ billions for our healthcare provision. But in the US, the estimated annual health care spend will increase from $2.2 trillion (16% GDP) in 2010 to $4.4 trillion (20% GDP) in 2018. Like the UK, the major issues are obesity and chronic disease. One additional burden for the US which has less impact than the UK is the cost of medical liability which contributes $70 – 126 billion annually.

All very depressing.

Steve Cyboran and Linda Spurlock: Investing in a health culture – achieving results via a healthy enterprise.
This was a fascinating presentation by a consulting actuary and a director of human health. In a nutshell – a healthy enterprise is defined as ‘creating an environment where employees can engage and thrive’. Personal and professional development of individuals should incorporate all aspects of ‘health’ – intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual and physical.

Steve Cyboran provided a scientific approach to this potentially woolly subject, including a workable framework for ‘vision driven solutions’.  The Sibson maturity model seems logical and practical, focussing on maturity from focus on treatment to focus on preventional management and finally focus on optimal behaviour. He stressed the need for robust metrics, so often the weakest link in any wellness initiative. I particularly liked his comment that ‘health is not just the absence of illness or issues’

Linda Spurlock spoke of the value of honouring businesses that take a leadership role in health and wellbeing. Wellness programmes that encourage employees to engage in community work were especially useful and this emphasises the importance of linking corporate social responsibility with individual input.

Denise J Holland: An introduction to Corporate Health and Wellness
I consider myself an ‘old hand’ at this particular game, but felt it would be useful to hear the views of the Director of Employee Healthcare at a major food production organisation

Denise was a lively and entertaining presenter and I agreed with most of her advice on how to set up a wellness programme. I felt that more emphasis could be put  on consultation in the process and the need to engage employees at a very early stage in the development of a programme.

I was impressed by her success in engaging not just employees but their families and thought the idea of sending postcards to female spouses encouraging male employees to have health checks was inspired. Another excellent tip was to remind employers not only of the value of benchmarking (as Denise said – this was a ‘duh’ point’) but to remember that vendors can provide valuable information and HR systems in a company will have already amassed some vital demographic data.

I liked her observation that a wellness programme is not just a collection of perks and her realistic approach to incentives. As she said – offering money doesn’t always work adding ‘I’ve done some crazy things just for a T shirt’.

Now that would be an interesting subject….

As with all conferences – the networking and socialising is a key part of the whole experience and yes, I am taking full advantage of this opportunity (it would be rude not to as my grandmother used to say)

The wine glasses are still oversized (I’m not complaining), the chatter thought -provoking and the company varied and entertaining. Like a little patch of healthcare heaven…


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Occupational Medicine

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