Physicians Believe Employers Should Coordinate with Docs to Help Chronic Care Patients

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , March 16, 2010

Most physicians believe that employers should play a role in the health of their employees with chronic conditions, such as informing physicians about programs in the workplace that could help their patients manage heart disease, according to a poll conducted by the Midwest Business Group on Health.

"Physicians have a great influence on a patient's decision to participate in employer-sponsored health management programs," said Larry Boress, MBGH president and CEO, referring to the poll findings in which 72% of physicians said employees should play a role in the health of employees with chronic conditions. "Employees trust their doctor above all others when it comes to their health," he said.

The MBGH is a nonprofit coalition of more than 100 private and public employers. More than 200 U.S. physicians participated in the survey, funded by Sanofi-aventis.

According to the poll results, 59% of physicians said that employers should let doctors know about workplace efforts to help a patient manage chronic disease.

According to the poll:

  • About 82% of physicians support the use of incentives to motivate employees to manage their chronic disease and stay healthy.
  • 70% support the use of reduced or waived copays to increase medication compliance.
  • 32% of physicians said employers should play no role in the health of their patients, citing concerns such as the "employer doesn't know the patient" and "I don't want to lose control of my patient's care."

"There's a tremendous opportunity to impact people's health if we work together. The idea isn't for the employer to try to practice medicine, and there are concerns about privacy issues," Boress says. "In this poll, physicians are referring to employers using available information about programs in the workplace and doctors want to know about those tools and programs."

When asked what a employer would need to do to get a physician to encourage his/her patients to participate in employer health improvement activities:

  • 61% of physicians wanted information on what the employer is offering to the patient so the doctor can counsel him or her on the value of participation.
  • 47% believe employers should design programs as an extension of the physician's treatment regimen that leaves them in control of their patients.

"An increasing number of physicians understand that employers can be supportive of impacting employee health," said Jan Berger, MD, president of Health Intelligence Patterns and medical director for MBGH, in a statement. Berger said there should be "active communication between employee, employer. and physician. Communication is the foundation of good health."

"We will use the findings to help our members and their health plans create programs that actively include physician participation and hope to collaborate with doctors to develop programs that will improve the health of not only our members' employees, but in the community," said Boress.

Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.

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