How to Maximize Your Occupational Health Investment

24 May 2017

What is occupational medicine? According to Wikipedia, occupational medicine specialists work to ensure that the highest standards of occupational health and safety can be achieved and maintained. While it may involve a wide number of disciplines, it centers on the preventive medicine and management of illness, injury or disability that is related to the workplace.1 The interesting part of this definition is the last: “related to the workplace.”

What does that mean? The obvious meanings include injuries or illnesses that occur at the workplace (e.g. slipping on the shop floor, injury caused by malfunctioning work equipment, or a contagious disease acquired at a hospital). Some meanings might even include injuries that happen outside of work but impact the worker (e.g. an arm broken at a sporting event that prevents normal job duties). Ask most people about occupational medicine and you’re likely to get an answer that somehow reflects back on these sorts of circumstances.

Increasingly, however, companies that manage workers are substantially broadening their definition of occupational medicine. These employers are providing employee benefits that carry a high and rapidly increasing cost and those benefits plans cover impactful health conditions that result from factors well beyond the traditional scope of work-specific medicine. Furthermore, research shows that an employee’s overall health actually has a significant impact on the quality of their work productivity. Given the large investment companies are making in employee health and the causal link between overall health and quality of work, doesn’t it make sense for companies to maximize the impact of their investment?

Many companies are concluding that the answer to that last question is an emphatic “Yes!” and many are re-evaluating how they choose occupational medicine providers. The goal of this paper is to explore some of the dynamics that have led to this change and to provide some perspective for companies considering new service partners to help with their employee health initiatives.

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