A recent article in the New York Times (see: Seeking Savings, Employers Help Smokers Quit) provides an overview of corporate smoking cessation programs for employees and their cost. The rationale for such programs, obviously, is to promote a healthy workforce and avoid the unnecessary health costs associated with smoking. Corporate wellness programs are now very much in vogue. Below is an excerpt from the article (boldface emphasis mine):
Corporate America has made big strides toward the smoke-free workplace. Its next goal: the smoke-free worker. Many businesses are seeking to reduce their medical bills by paying for programs to help employees stop smoking. A decade ago, such programs were rare. But recent surveys indicate that one-third of companies with at least 200 workers now offer smoking cessation as part of their employee benefits package....The programs are yet another example, along with various other corporate wellness efforts like weight management and diabetes control, of how private employers are taking health care reform into their own hands,....For businesses, it is a bottom-line calculus. Spending as much as $900 or so to give a participant free nicotine patches and drugs to ease withdrawal, as well as phone sessions with smoking addiction counselors, can more than offset the estimated $16,000 or more in additional lifetime medical bills that a typical smoker generates, according to federal health data.
After reading this article, It occurred to me that direct a access testing (DAT) option, about which I have posted a number of previous notes, might be a suitable low-cost addition to corporate wellness programs. DAT would provide more of a diagnostic approach than a remedial one for employees. However, a repetitive lab testing program could obviously highlight both undetected disease as well as inadequate attention to known chronic problems.
Here are just two examples of DAT services available on the web to highlight both the comprehensive nature of the test panels as well as their low cost. Other DAT web sites can be easily found using a search engine. HealthCheckUSA offers a panel of 26 serum chemistry tests ("Chem26") for $47. MyMedLab offers a general health screen including 30 different test results for $60. These prices are inclusive of the blood drawing fee with the sample collected at a local patient service center PSC). All lab testing is performed by major national reference laboratory. The name of the lab performing the testing becomes apparent when the customer is directed to a PSC for the blood draw.
I have in mind a corporate wellness program whereby an employee would be offered, say, one comprehensive test panel per year with the company covering the cost. Now comes the interesting part. Under DAT programs, the test results are reported directly to the healthcare consumer. What steps could the sponsoring company take to ensure that abnormal test results are acted upon? If I were developing such a program, I would provide some type of bonus (e.g., a turkey each Thanksgiving) as an incentive for the employee to discuss the test results with a company physician or a health counselor.
By way of disclosure, I serve as a member of the Medical Advisory Board of MyMedLab.