June 16, 2024

Life Harbor

Information regarding Healthcare

5 things to know: Helping employees with digestive health conditions and reducing healthcare costs

3 min read

In the U.S., 66 million people have a chronic digestive condition. Digestive conditions affect people two times more than diabetes.

Treating members with digestive health conditions can reduce overall population healthcare costs for employers. It can also improve employee health, longevity, productivity, and engagement.

  • 01

    One in four employees live with chronic, debilitating digestive issues

    But they aren’t likely to talk about it or say why they’re calling in sick. The prevalence of chronic digestive conditions continues to rise, and many suffer in silence. Studies show that two out of three Americans experience digestive symptoms every week, impacting every aspect of life and work. In fact, almost a third don’t yet have a diagnosis or are misdiagnosed.

  • 02

    Digestive issues drive significant costs, year over year

    Digestive health is consistently a top-5 and even a top-3 cost category for most employers — driving over $136 billion in medical spend in the U.S. Surprised? Claims data and digestive health is complex. The true picture of the prevalence and cost of digestive conditions in your insured population is often understated in actuarial claims analyses and demands a more robust actuarial model to capture otherwise “hidden” spend.

  • 03

    Traditional healthcare is complex for patients and employers

    Patients bounce between primary care, specialists, imaging, and procedures. The typical diagnostic journey for a digestive member is two to three years long, during which people continue to struggle, miss work, and rely on urgent care during flares. It can also take up to nine months to a year to see a gastroenterology specialist appointment. Only 29% of IBS patients are satisfied with their current care.

    Frustrated patients are opting out of our healthcare system. They turn to social media and try to figure out complicated symptoms on their own, where they find it difficult to identify what works and what doesn’t. Many will end up in the ER where they won’t get answers – digestive symptoms are the number one reason for treat-and-release emergency room visits.

  • 04

    Virtual digestive care gives employees convenience, confidentiality, and hope

    The majority of digestive conditions can be diagnosed and treated through telehealth, easing the burden of travel, and weathering long wait lists for an appointment. Telehealth and virtual care options also enable frequent touchpoints with digestive-specialized providers to discuss dietary changes, behavioral interventions, and symptom response. This helps guide patients to understand their unique conditions and finally find sustainable answers to keep symptoms under control.

  • 05

    Stress, anxiety, and GI symptoms have a cyclical relationship; gut-brain interventions can help

    Stress and anxiety and physical digestive symptoms are a “chicken and egg” scenario. Many with chronic symptoms struggle with the emotional burden of managing their condition. Anxiety about foods triggering symptoms or lack of fast access to bathrooms leads many to socially isolate, often impacting depression and mental health. This vicious cycle can be untangled with highly effective gut-brain cognitive interventions, although digestive behavioral health specialists are difficult to find outside of academic medical centers and often not reimbursed by insurance.

  • Digestive health is a massive and overlooked drain on workplace productivity and avoidable spend within the system. Unmanaged symptoms cause high rates of absenteeism and presenteeism and is one of the biggest addressable cost categories for employers. Better options are available.

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