Integrative Wellness in the Workplace
Research comparing the cost effectiveness of integrative therapies has significant potential for improving employee wellness but also for the care defined by company insurance plans.
The Case for Integrative Health Care for Employers
In case your regular physician, employer or anyone else (your insurance company) scoffs at the idea of using holistic / integrative therapies “because there’s no proof,” the attached sheet may help bring them up to speed on state-of-the-art research describing the benefits of integrative health, notably in workplace settings.
If you are a company’s HR or healthcare manager (or even an employee), you might ask: “Really? By how much?” The data has been accumulating in many studies done over the last decade, but not until recently has it been pulled together. The sheet you see here, “Wellness in the Workplace” (click image to download), summarizes some of the research into this question, and presents compelling examples worth considering for anyone interested in reducing the cost of healthcare .
- A program in which naturopathic doctors educated patients on diet, exercise, stress reduction and dietary supplements resulted in an annual employer savings of more than $1,100 per participant.
- A similar program that taught health habits, activity, stress management and smoking cessation that included MDs trained in integrative medicine saw a 48% reduction in annual employer costs per participant.
These examples are excerpted from a longer, more substantial review of integrative healthcare cost-comparisons that is available from the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC): “Integrative Health and Medicine: Today’s Answer to Affordable Healthcare: Health Creation Economics.” (See References below for access to the full report; IHPC is the parent of CoverMyCare.)
Published in March of 2015, and written by the nation’s top researcher in the field, this report shows the advantages of acupuncture, massage therapy, naturopathic medicine and chiropractic when used to treat a variety of conditions: used separately and also when used in concert with conventional therapies.
Holistic Origins to Integrative Wellness
Note that the examples above are heavily oriented to lifestyle improvement, which is the primary focus of the most innovative employer health programs today. Much of the mindfulness, mind-body-spirit, nutrition (gut-brain connection), whole-person and collaborative support underlying these techniques derive from integrative traditions and practice.
Integrative disciplines also belong in the health care plans as treatment options, which is one of the original objectives of Section 2706. One telling example from the IHPC Study cited above: A 2012 British study on patients suffering from chronic knee pain:
- Of patients recommended for total knee replacement one third received acupuncture instead. Each experienced long-term pain relief and avoided surgery two years later.
- The cost saving for each acupuncture patient: $8,100.
- In the U.S. in 2010, 719,000 knee replacement surgeries were performed. The British experience suggests that had the acupuncture option been available to a comparable portion of patients treatment savings could have approached $1.9 billion.
One of the reasons that CoverMyCare insists that Section 2706 be adopted across the country is that integrative therapies and approaches to care can not only provide great treatment, they can and do often cost less than standard care. For chronic illness that can require costly symptom management over many years, badly depleting the productivity of even highly skilled employees, this can make a huge difference. “Wellness in the Workplace” shines a light on the numbers that reveal these facts of integrative life. (Which, of course, also apply outside the workplace.)
Reference for this section
Download the single sheet
Download the full report
The American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC)
2015-2016 Campaign: “Reimbursement for Integrative Healthcare.”
Companion ASBC Article:
“Cost Benefits of Integrative Health Practices”
The Center for Optimal Integration
At the Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care:
Reducing per-capita costs: Employers/Workplace