Health scores on the job

Health scores on the job
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First Published: Mon, Oct 05 2009. 08 40 PM IST

Updated: Mon, Oct 05 2009. 08 40 PM IST
A new approach to healthcare at the workplace is now taking into account the impact your desk hours have on your health. Some organizations are hiring professional healthcare companies to provide a medical analysis for employees—it’s termed health risk assessment, because it details employees’ risk for illness and allows companies to take remedial action for the staff. “Typically, employees in high-pressure work situations will remember to work late nights to meet a deadline, but will have no time to return for a recheck of high cholesterol levels; that is why it is important to have an official follow-up programme,” says Vasanthi Vaze, medical director, Pulse Healthcare, a multi-speciality clinic and diagnostic centre offering similar services.
For someone such as Bruno Goveas, 33, a product specialist at the Bangalore-based software company Akamai Technologies, these annual check-ups at work are a boon. Last year, latent tuberculosis led him to surgery. However, despite the surgery, he doubts he would have got his tests done this year if not for People Health, a Bangalore-based healthcare management company, and their arrangement with his organization. “Without the incentive of the office-sponsored scheme, one tends to put off these things.”
Treating both the worker and the workplace
The annual health check from companies such as People Health includes clinical tests plus an assessment model that highlights causative factors. Follow-up action includes a health manager regularly alerting individual employees to return for a monitoring of problem areas. Individual reports are given directly to employees and are strictly confidential. Employers are privy only to the company-wide statistical health risk assessment, a report that lets companies tailor their in-house health and wellness programmes.
The People Health plan also tracks genetic influence on health and helps people balance their risk. “For instance, a professional with a clinical cholesterol reading of 300, who works out four times a week and has no family history of cardiac arrests, is at a lower risk level than someone with a 200 cholesterol reading, but with poor lifestyle habits and a family history of cardiac problems,” says Krishnamurthy Ganesan, chief executive officer, People Health.
For VeriSign India, an information security company, which uses a corporate health scorecard from People Health, the benefits are visible: The company is now able to coordinate a wellness calendar for employees. “At the end of every annual health check, an employee gets a composite health score (0-5, based on various weighted factors). Broad trends are used to tailor a company-wide wellness calendar of eye health camps, nutrition and cardiac health campaigns, and most recently, awareness programmes on H1N1,” says Kiran Punja, human resources (HR) manager, VeriSign.
Employees feel better
For employers, it is about taking responsibility for the workplace’s affect on the employee. If we take the information technology industry as an example, workplace issues seem to definitely impact health, with problems ranging from back problems to high blood pressure, and cholesterol readings showing up in employees in their 20s and 30s. “We are aware of the fact that the technology industry that we work in has a very sedentary work pattern. We have a median age of 28, and are keen to ensure that our employees know what they need to do to stay healthy,” says Chetan Kadamba, manager, HR, at Akamai Technologies. With greater cardiac risk associated with professionals in the information technology/information technology-enabled services industry (IT/ITeS), it makes sense for Akamai Technologies to closely monitor its employees and seek solutions.
Certainly, intervention at the workplace can be more effective than individual check-ups. Says Kadamba, “ I have had employees come up to me and tell me that they would never have opted for a preventive healthcare check if not for the fact that it is offered by the company.” Apart from ease of access and cost benefits (see Cost to Company), peer influence can be a great incentive: “When we noticed Chetan (Kadamba) altering his diet after a health check, it got everybody else in Akamai interested,” says Goveas.
H.M. Venkatappa, medical director of healthcare firm Kanva Diagnostics, feels that for effective preventive healthcare, all professionals above 30 should get a health profile, and for those above 40, it should be mandatory. “With aggressive type A personalities and deadline-driven work environments, people in their 30s are showing high morbidity,” says Gururaja Rao, director, Clumax, a diagnostic services company that recommends mandatory basic blood tests, sugar, lipid profiles and liver and kidney function tests for all professionals aged 35 and above.
Cost to company
The costs are borne by the employer. People Health’s packages cost Rs2,000-6,000 each, based on age and range of tests. “For age groups below 30, the cost of testing is lower. It is highest for those in the above-40 bracket,” says Ganesan. The cost also varies with the follow-up services a company chooses (the Rs2,000 plan does not include any). It also depends on organization size, with volumes translating into economy, something readily appreciated by businesses.
Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com
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First Published: Mon, Oct 05 2009. 08 40 PM IST