Clinical Claims Innovation Lab focus: Cardiovascular Disease

Employees with cardiovascular disease benefit from early clinical intervention

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease refers to a number of conditions including heart attack, heart disease and stroke. Cardiovascular events are the leading medical reason why employees need to take time away from work. The good news is that advances in medical treatment mean most employees on leave for cardiovascular disease are able to return to work, and many can return sooner than anticipated.  

Sun Life’s Clinical Claims Innovation Lab focused on members with cardiovascular disease. Among the many findings from our focus on cardiovascular disease: the importance of early clinical intervention.

How members recovering from a cardiovascular event benefit from Sun Life early clinical intervention

  • Members are assigned case managers who are knowledgeable about the newest treatments and medications supporting cardiovascular recovery.
  • Their case managers are empathetic to their situation and talk positively about the future, setting expectations early for a return to life, health and work.
  • Their case managers encourage them to take advantage of their support systems, like prescribed cardiac rehabilitation therapy or their employee assistance program.
  • Members have an advocate who listens for mental wellness concerns and who can help them identify when stress, anxiety or depression may impact their recovery and advise them of resources to help manage their mental well-being.
  • Members benefit from the experience of vocational rehabilitation counselors who help them identify what they can do.
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  • Members receive tools that help them plan their return to work, possibly with accommodations, with their physicians.
  • Members have advocates who connect directly with both their physician and their employer to help them return to work with confidence. 

Early intervention also starts at work 

Sick leave, healthcare and prescription drug and disability experience data can indicate your business’s need for greater education and early intervention. Employers can influence heart-healthy change through programs offered at the worksite and through benefits programs.


Read more - 7 ways to influence heart health awareness at work

Returning an employee to work, life and health after a heart attack: A case study

Cardiac recovery

What disability case managers wish employers and physicians knew about cardiac recovery

  • No one wants to retire early for medical reasons. Employees want to return to work and return to the lives they had prior to illness.
  • Every day 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 the employees on claim often, they are a partner in identifying mental health concerns early and refer employees accordingly.
  • New technologies and treatments can reduce recovery times. An employee who had a heart attack five years ago may have been unable to return to work. That is not necessarily the case for individuals who have a heart attack today.
  • An individual’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.
  • People with higher levels of exertion at their job can and do return to work. They sometimes need an accommodation, like a reduced schedule or a temporary change in duties to ease back into their roles.
  • Discussing returning to health, life and work early and in a positive manner, puts individuals in the right mindset for success. Positive physician attitudes toward returning to work can help employees be more successful.
  • Government guidelines for certain industries offer flexibility for returning employees to work. For 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.

Cardiovascular disease is a growing concern among younger populations

7 ways to influence heart health awareness at work
  1. Start by analyzing your data. Sick leave, healthcare and prescription drug data, Stop-Loss claims, and disability experience data can indicate your business’s need for greater education and early intervention.
  2. Review sick leave and PTO policies to ensure employees have the flexibility they need to continue meeting with their physician.
  3. Review annual out-of-pocket expenses to learn how affordable it is for employees to adhere to medical visits and prescription drugs.
  4. Remind employees of resources available to them through their health plan and your employee benefits package. Encourage annual physicals and visits to the dentist to establish baseline details and uncover indicators of heart disease.
  5. Encourage physical exercise for healthier bodies, particularly important for sedentary workers. Many companies encourage wearables, establish walking groups, have contests to encourage physical activity and weight loss.
  6. Post heart health information in your employee newsletters or intranet. Here are several from the American Heart Association.
  7. Consider holding a virtual wellness fair in partnership with your health insurance carrier or kick start a renewed focus on health, wellness and nutrition, at the same time as annual benefits enrollment for life insurance and supplemental health benefits like critical illness and hospital indemnity insurance

    Mental wellness and return to work success

    Heart attack patients often have a fear of recurrence which can impede their ability to return to work successfully. Here’s advice from the American Heart Association about Life After a Heart Attack.


    Read more

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Group insurance policies are underwritten by Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada (Wellesley Hills, MA) in all states, except New York, under Policy Form Series 93P-LH, 15-GP-01, 12-DI-C-01, 12-GPPort-P-01, 12-STDPort-C-01, 16-DI-C-01, TDBPOLICY-2006, and TDI-POLICY. In New York, group insurance policies are underwritten by Sun Life and Health Insurance Company (U.S.) (Lansing, MI) under Policy Form Series 15-GP-01, 13-GP-LH-01, 13-LTD-C-01, 13-STD-C-01, 06P-NY-DBL, 12-GPPort-01, and 12-STDPort-C-01. Product offerings may not be available in all states and may vary depending on state laws and regulations. The group insurance policies described in this advertisement provide disability income insurance only. They do NOT provide basic hospital, basic medical, or major medical insurance as defined by the New York State Department of Financial Services.

SLPC 31044 6/22 (Exp 6/24)