Research has shown strong relationships between employee health and productivity, and companies are increasingly turning to wellness programs to improve employee health in an effort to become more competitive. However, with an aging U.S. workforce, employees retiring later, and a high prevalence of chronic diseases, wellness programs alone are not a complete solution for health care cost containment. Disability management is an important opportunity for employers to manage workforce productivity, control medical costs, and promote employee health.

To better understand the relationship between disability and medical costs, ReedGroup has initiated a multi-year effort to build a comprehensive picture of medical utilization and costs throughout a temporary disability episode. To date, ReedGroup has connected more than 1 million short-term disability claims for a 15-year period with over 41 million inpatient, outpatient, and pharmaceutical records at the employee level. We have identified the specific medical procedures that occurred during the disability episode and created a timeline of medical costs by condition and treatment.

Our initial findings, as presented at the Integrated Benefits Institute Annual Forum in March, show that although a large proportion of the total medical costs are incurred in the early stages of the absence, significant expenses continue to accrue even after the point when individuals could reasonably have been expected to return to work.

A more detailed look at this research can be viewed in our latest Research Paper, “Measuring Medical and Pharmaceutical Costs Along the Disability Continuum”.

Future research will address multiple questions, such as whether diagnostic procedures or treatments drive the costs at the beginning of the disability episode, which conditions or case characteristics predict high-cost cases, and if evidence-based clinical practice guidelines can contain medical expenditures.

Don’t Miss the Next Two Articles in This Series::

“Medical Costs Along the Disability Continuum” – 6/27/17
“Calculating Avoidable Medical Costs by Reducing Disability Durations” – 7/25/17

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