Our company recently started requiring employees to get annual physicals or pay higher premiums if they don’t. We did this for a couple of reasons. First, we want our employees to be as healthy as possible because this improves productivity, attendance and attitudes (a healthier employee is a happier employee). Second, we believe that it will reduce healthcare costs in the long run, both for employees and the company.
Right now, I think doing this is something of a blunt instrument, as some people who live very healthy life styles probably don’t need to go every year. But for now, it’s the best way to get regular screenings and health and wellness advice to our people annually. In the future, I believe we’ll all be wearing devices (smart watches for example) that will monitor our health and connect to our medical providers, alleviating much of the need to physically go to the doctor’s office. However, those devices are still on the horizon so we need to do it the old fashioned way.
Only about 20% of people in the U.S. get an annual checkup. On the other hand, 66% go to the dentist at least once a year. This is kind of strange when you think about it, because it shows that on one hand people believe in preventative care, but on the other hand they don’t.
Most people wouldn’t dream of showing up at the dentist for the first time in ten years and expect to walk out with perfect teeth. But that’s precisely what happens when people go to their doctor only when something is wrong. After years of no exercise, poor eating, smoking, etc., a person gets sick and then goes to the doctor expecting to be “cured.” It doesn’t make sense, does it? I don’t think most people realize the power of preventative medicine as opposed to going to the doctor only when something is wrong.
For example, identification and early treatment of cancer is WAY cheaper than trying to fix it in the later stages. In many cases, like skin cancer and colorectal cancer, early detection dictates minor, in-office procedures that can actually prevent them from turning into a big, sometimes fatal, problem. Not only is this much less expensive, but alters the trajectory of a person’s entire life for the better.
To make all this work, employers and insurance companies have to take the long view, as the cost for a preventative procedure today takes years to pay off. But pay off it will.