What we have learned from the Clinical Claims Innovation Lab when we focused on Cardiovascular Health.

As Medical Director, US Clinical Claims, and as a Family Medicine physician, my training and experience has taught me several things: Preventative Care is always preferred; people are healthier, happier and live longer lives when they have work; and you have to meet people where they are. While in a perfect world we would all have a balanced diet, plenty of exercise and regular sleep, see our primary care doctors regularly, and follow all advice regarding screening, testing and treatment, the reality is a little trickier.

When we launched our clinical claims lab, we set out to determine what employees with cardiovascular disease are thinking, feeling, and doing after going out of work because of their disease, and what educational and supportive materials we need to improve their health and function. Watch my video that explains this work.

Did you know? Research from the IBI shows that the prevalence of heart disease causes 190,000 new disability claims a year resulting in $1.9 billion dollars in disability payments and 13.7 million lost workdays due to disability leave.

The Reality of Cardiovascular Health and Work

When speaking with disability case managers, the thing that comes up the most often is that no one wants to retire early for medical reasons. We find that employees truly want to return to work, and to the lives they had prior to their illness. Even people with higher levels of exertion can, and do, return to their jobs.

Accommodations, like a reduced schedule or a change (temporary or permanent) can help ease them successfully back into their roles.  

Mental Wellness can play a part in returning to work and should be a consideration as a possibility of a secondary diagnosis. Everyday stress can delay cardiac recovery and the concern about a recurring heart attack can impede an employee’s progress. Since disability case managers talk with employees on cardiovascular claim regularly, they are a partner in identifying mental health concerns early and refer employees accordingly. Positive attitudes from all members of the team, including physicians and managers, toward returning to work can help employees be more successful.

Discussing returning to health, life, and work early and in a positive manner, puts individuals in the right mindset for success.

An employee’s specific set of circumstances, their individual event, treatments, and interventions all contribute to anticipated recovery times. Disability case managers ask lots of questions about the treatment an employee receives in order to help ensure they take advantage of their support system. For example, case managers may inquire whether employees go to their prescribed cardiac rehabilitation therapy. Government guidelines for certain industries offer flexibility for returning employees to work. In one example, truck drivers with pacemakers are often able to be back on the road sooner if their route remains within their state. Guidelines exist for other industries, like nursing, too.

Support in the workplace can be key to address both the illness and any return to work worries.

Starting a conversation around healthy cardiovascular health in your organization can even help prevent future incidents. As a further takeaway that you can implement immediately, we have listed seven ways to influence heart health awareness at work.

For more information and updates on cardiovascular health in the workplace, and other focus areas from the Clinical Claims Innovation Lab, please visit: Clinical Claims Innovation Lab.

This article is meant to provide general information only. It’s not professional medical or legal advice, or a substitute for that advice.

Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, Wellesley Hills, MA. For New York group policies: Sun Life and Health Insurance Company (U.S.), Lansing, MI