If you were to think of jobs where the employees might be the least healthy — all kinds of jobs come to mind. The toll booth worker on the New Jersey turnpike sits in a booth and breaths exhaust all day. A casino worker is exposed to smoke, epileptic lights and broken dreams. And there are tons of tech companies where loyal coders hunch over screens 12 hours a day living off of Mr. Pibb and 14 month old Cheetos from the vending machine.
But not so. Truven Health has come out with a study that shows U.S. hospital workers are the least healthy in our workforce. They are more likely to develop chronic illnesses and more likely to be hospitalized (5%). This adds to increased healthcare costs of about 9% more than the rest of our population.
One surprising aspect of the study was despite being surrounded in a facility where highly effective preventative screenings are easily available, hospital workers are much less likely to engage in them.
According to the study, compliance with “common preventive service measures (lipid testing; breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening) were consistently lower among hospital employees and their dependents.”
What was not surprising is that hospital workers tend to have unhealthy diets, therefore battling obesity more than others. It’s not unthinkable that the stress and the pace of the job combined with standard hospital cafeteria fare leads an employee to make less healthy decisions.
This has a significant impact on the financial health of a hospital. A one percent reduction in health risk saves $1.5 Million per 16,000 employees annually. Considering that health care benefits are 4% of the hospitals operating revenue, a few percentage point reduction could result in significantly larger revenue.
Not only that, but a hospital with healthy employees is good business. The study quotes Becker’s Hospital Review:
“Employee health management is an opportunity for hospitals to put their money where their mouths are. When a large employer asks how a hospital plans to manage population health, a successful organization should be able to illustrate that answer by referring to its own workforce.”
With a healthy work force, everybody wins. The study concludes that “Hospitals and health systems have a historic opportunity to lead the change in healthcare, beginning with their own employees… according to Raymond Fabius, MD, chief medical officer for Truven Health, ‘Ideally, the healthcare workforce would be a model for healthy behaviors and the appropriate use of medical resources. Hospitals that tackle this issue can strengthen their business performance and community service.’”