ANN ARBOR — Physician, good luck healing thyself.

Health care spending is 9 percent higher for hospital employees than it is for the general employee population, according to study results released today by Ann Arbor-based Truven Health Analytics, formerly the Healthcare business of Thomson Reuters.

The paper, 10 Steps to Developing a Culture of Health for Hospital and Health System Employers, outlines unique health care challenges faced by hospital workers and offers a framework for population health management in the hospital setting.

The research found that hospital employees are more likely to be diagnosed with asthma, obesity, and depression, and those with chronic conditions are more likely to be in the “at risk” or “struggling” categories. Hospital workers and their dependents are also 5 percent more likely to be hospitalized than the overall United States workforce.

In addition, the study found that health benefits costs consume 4 percent of hospital operating revenue. For the average medium-size community hospital, healthcare benefits for employees and their families consumed 68 percent of operating profit, or all operating profit generated from January 1st until the end of August each year.

“Hospitals and health systems have a compelling opportunity to improve the health of their workforce,” said Michael Taylor, MD, vice president and national business medical leader for Truven Health Analytics and co-author of the paper. “In doing so, they will strengthen their business performance and set the standard for the broader community.”

The study analyzed the health risk and healthcare utilization of 740,000 hospital workers and their dependents and compared them with 25 million employees and their dependents across industries for 2010. It found that a hospital or health system with 16,000 employees stands to save an estimated $1.59 million annually in medical and pharmacy costs for each 1 percent reduction in health risk.

Among the best practices outlined for developing a culture of health and reducing health risk in the hospital setting are steps such as: analyzing the health risk of the specific population, defining clear goals and quality objectives, getting buy-in from senior management, establishing a measurement strategy, and measuring progress while adjusting programs accordingly. The paper also provides a foundation for understanding how these concepts could apply to the broader development of an Accountable Care Organization (ACO).

“The current approach of paying for volume of services delivered, not health outcomes, is unsustainable,” said William Bithoney, MD, national business medical leader at Truven Health Analytics and co-author of the paper. “New models of care, such as Accountable Care Organizations, are designed to improve the health of entire populations rather than care only for sick patients who come through the doors of a facility. These models offer both a tremendous challenge and opportunity for hospitals and health systems.”

The researchers used the Truven Health MarketScan Research Databases, a repository of healthcare claims representing the real-world healthcare experience of millions of Americans. The study looked exclusively at workers with employer-sponsored insurance.

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