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The Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey: Closing Knowledge Gaps

The Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey reaches 1,500 employees and over 400 employers annually and has evolved over the past 22 years from a brief whitepaper into a comprehensive survey to identify the crucial areas needed for positive change in employee healthcare.

Every year, it monitors the pulse of health benefit plans, and analyzes the changing opinions of plan members and plan sponsors to find out the varying perceptions in order to shed light on specific areas that need improving towards the role of the workplace in employee well-being.

Identifying gaps for the changing needs of a multi-generational workforce

The 2019 report focuses on topics including workplace wellness, health concerns and the impact of chronic disease, in order to identify and address the changes needed from both sides of the equation. Aligning plan members and plan sponsors together on the same page will help inform industry-wide actions in key areas affecting health benefit plans.

‘Doing more together’ is the general theme and mindset that stood out through the report that embodies what we can all do to achieve our common goal – which is to ultimately improve the health and productivity of all Canadians.

Four main gaps presented in the 2019 report

The 2019 survey results come from 1,505 plan members and 403 plan sponsors, displaying a number of opportunities and challenges that translate into many different calls to action for the benefits industry – starting with these four main ones in this years’ report.

  1. Prescription drug plan

Both plan members and plan sponsors significantly underestimate the number of drugs covered by their workplace prescription drug plan.

  • Private is viewed to be on par with public plans: Both plan members and plan sponsors believe that private prescription drug plans and public drug plans cover close to the same number of medications. According to the CLHIA, private drug plans cover between 10,000 and 12,000 drugs, while public plans cover between 2,000 and 8,000, for an average of 5,000 – highlighting low levels of awareness.
  • Confusion over Pharmacare: 42% percent of plan members and 22% of plan sponsors report not knowing anything at all about a possible national Pharmacare program in Canada.

It has been shown that every year through this report that the prescription drug plan is the most valued and most used part of the employee health benefit plan. So it comes as no surprise why it is crucial that together we ensure the private sector can continue to offer this benefit to employees and their families.

  1. Doing more for chronic disease

This years’ report emphasized the area where plan sponsors continue to underestimate the presence of chronic disease or conditions in their workforce, which suggests many could also be underestimating their impact. The top five chronic diseases or conditions are mental illness, hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis and diabetes; and while the gap is closing, it still represents a gap to do more in the area of chronic-disease management.

  • Half of the workforce is affected: More than half of plan members (54%) report having at least one chronic disease or condition.
  • An overwhelming need for more knowledge: 87% of plan members would like to know more about their chronic condition and how to treat it, and 82% of plan sponsors would like their carrier to do more to support plan members with chronic conditions.
  • Cannabis coverage: 64% agree medical cannabis should be covered by their health benefit plan.
  • Targeted communications: 65% of plan members would consent to receive health-related information and 74% of plan sponsors want their benefits provider to send targeted health information to members.

Lost productivity, absenteeism, the cost of the drugs, and disability are all connected to one another, and these numbers showcase the need for new solutions in order to take care of the health of our workforce.

  1. Improving mental and physical fitness

Improved physical fitness is a priority for plan members, whereas improved mental health is a priority for plan sponsors as they look to invest more in wellness initiatives.

  • Mental health training: 51% of plan sponsors have a mental health training program in place for their team. One-third of plan sponsors feel their health benefit plan
    does not provide enough coverage for psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy.
  • Investing in wellness: 71% of plan sponsors intend to invest funding and/or staff resources in at least one area of employee wellness over the next three. Dedicating resources for emotional/mental health, physical fitness, prevention of illness and/or management of chronic conditions social well-being and financial health.

While we are seeing drastic movements towards mental health, it is important to note that our health strategy should include all the conditions that affect productivity, well-being and quality of life.

  1. Understanding and minimizing absenteeism

There was an overwhelming desire this year to better understand what absenteeism looks like in the workforce with four out of five plan sponsors highlighting the need to focus on the real reasons behind absenteeism.

  • Missing data: 43% of plan sponsors formally track absenteeism, and 39% do so “informally.” There is growing concern around the use of members’ disability benefit.
  • Early interventions needed: The cost of disability claims can exceed the cost of drug benefits, meaning that it is essential to help put in place early interventions, such as chronic disease management programs that can prevent extended absences from work.

This snapshot shows the building blocks for decision-making appear to be in place, but there are still some gaps that need to be filled in order to completely and holistically support employee health.

You can read the full report right here.