New Tool for Enhanced Productivity

What if new technology let employers stay within HIPAAA guidelines while helping employees achieve medication adherence?

Generating a superior return on investment is crucial to any company’s longevity. It is essential for even the smallest company to use assets effectively to achieve profitability. Companies that rely on automated equipment most often have maintenance programs in place to insure functionality and productivity. In many firms, their main assets are their employees. Like those relying on equipment, these businesses need maintenance programs in place for their employees to ensure they operate at peak performance. Optimizing employee productivity is a topic of concern for all business owners. Few would disagree that providing employees the right tools is essential to achieving superior output. Items such as ergonomic workstations; training and guidance; and effective technology are tools that almost every company provides. You could call them mainstream items. Unfortunately, regardless of the tools provided to an employee, if employees' health status is compromised, their output will be reduced. An employee’s health and ability to function in the workplace are often directly related. This correlation is vividly evident in how the government views individuals with disabilities. For employees with qualified disabilities, the federal government requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to aid the employees in successfully performing the duties of their position. Examples of reasonable accommodations include providing interpreters, readers or other personal assistance; modifying job duties; restructuring work sites; providing flexible work schedules or work sites (i.e. telework); and providing accessible technology or other workplace adaptive equipment. What can employers do for employees that do not qualify under the disability guidelines, but still have health-related conditions that compromise their work output? Visionary business owners tend to look outside the box for unique solutions and options. See also: Empathy Transforms Health Insurance   Employees can possess both physical and mental health conditions that directly affect their work production. Some employees are very open about their health status, while others tend to stay very private. The degree of assistance an employee seeks to manage a health condition can also vary greatly. Some choose to engage the support of a physician, while others may look to self-remedy. The spectrum is broad and very subjective. This poses a very challenging environment for an employer. Many individuals look to medications, in one form or another, to treat health conditions. If prescribed accurately and consumed in accordance with proper intake guidelines, medications can help an employee’s work performance. The negative symptoms associated with the underlying health condition become non-existent, thus paving the way for the employee to focus on work-related activities. However, improper medication adherence can exacerbate an employee’s health condition and result in, among other things, reduced productivity and high absenteeism. Medication mismanagement, whether it be taking too much, not taking enough or taking the wrong medication, can lead to an adverse drug event (ADE). Approximately 1.5 million preventable ADEs occur each year due to medication errors, at a cost of more than $3 billion. This direct health care-related cost is completely outside the costs incurred by an employer when an employee has an ADE. An ADE that requires a hospital admission is easily quantifiable from a cost perspective. However, those ADEs that are not as acute and do not require hospitalization, which are the most prevalent, can materially affect employee productivity. This financial impact is what the employer experiences. Accordingly, it is prudent to say any help an employer could provide to their employees to ensure the integrity of the employees’ medication adherence makes good business sense. Historically, small employers have not entered the arena of employee medication administration. Larger, self-insured firms, as a byproduct of their insurance platform, have participated, to some degree, in the employees’ medication administration. However, neither navigates to the granular level of medication adherence. There could be multiple reasons why employers have not chosen to address employees’ medication adherence. One of the biggest obstacles is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAAA). The HIPAA Privacy Rule legislation establishes national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information and applies to health plans, healthcare clearinghouses and those healthcare providers that conduct certain healthcare transactions electronically. The rule requires appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information and sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without authorization. The law is encompassing, and the potential liability to an employer for breaching it is substantial. See also: The Science That Is Reinventing Healthcare   What would be the outcome if new technology made it possible for employers to stay within HIPAAA guidelines while simultaneously providing all of their employees an unparalleled way to achieve medication adherence? The answer is healthier employees who produce more and miss fewer days. That time has come because the technology is available. Those visionary employers referenced earlier, specifically the ones looking outside the box for employee productivity solutions, know what a game changer comprehensive medication administration can be to their profitability. They can validate the value in providing their employees a system that embraces a support team environment, whereby family members and loved ones can help an employee with medication. They know how important it is for employees to take medications on time and in the proper dosage. They realize that timely refills mean continuing compliance and improved adherence. They understand that any positive steps they can take to help their employees with medication administration will be directly reflected on the company’s bottom line. Doctors prescribe medications for their patients. As a general rule, they do not provide them medication management tools. Further, insurance companies pay for medication. They also do not provide medication management tools. Those two scenarios combine to be the root of the medication mismanagement crisis currently being experienced in the U.S. Employers can be the solution. Because employees frequently obtain their health insurance from their employer, it just makes sense for employers to fill the medication administration void perpetuated by the current physician and insurance carrier inaction. It is time for employers to be a resource for their employees and provide them medication adherence solutions. Employee health is enhanced and employer profitability is increased.

Ronald Riewold

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Ronald Riewold

Ronald Riewold is president and COO of the National Medication Management Initiative. He has extensive experience in managing, operating and growing companies since 1978.

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