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Quality health care means savings for employers

Health care is a bottom-line issue for businesses. Six out of 10 Americans receive health care insurance from their employers, so the high cost of health care weighs heavily on the shoulders of businesses large and small. Businesses, patients and insurers spend nearly $700 billion a year on services that may not improve people's health. It is not only important to reduce cost but improve quality of care, a hidden cost.

P2 Collaborative of Western New York is working with the Aligning Forces for Quality program to lift the quality of local health care. But to truly make a change, employers must also be actively engaged in these efforts. When employers get involved, they can help employees get the better quality care, which leads to a healthier, more engaged work force and a better bottom line for businesses.

In the current health care system, we pay hospitals and physicians for the amount of services, visits, images and procedures they provide. But a staggering 30 percent of U.S. health care spending is the result of poor-quality care. And since employers pay for nearly three-quarters of premiums, they're the ones footing the bill.

After all, unlike cars or other products we purchase, health care providers don't issue recalls on their services. Instead, people quietly go back to the hospital over and over again for the same illness when proper care might have prevented it.

Quality care leads to better overall health, and employers save money when workers are healthy, fit and have fewer chronic diseases. Employees who are well are more likely to show up and be productive than employees who are sick.

Helping employees manage their health is a sound investment in human capital, and a healthy work force can lead to lower health care premiums for businesses and fewer sick days. And although communicating with employees about what they can do to get high-quality health care can be a challenge, there are tools to help.

As part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Aligning Forces for Quality program, P2 Collaborative of Western New York offers local businesses a free tool kit to help communicate to employees about the quality of the care they receive. It includes tips for getting quality health care, finding trustworthy health information online, and making wise use of health care dollars.

We need everyone, including businesses -- the people who purchase health care -- to help us create a healthier and more productive work force. Private employers are paying the price for poor quality care and the epidemic of chronic illness -- and it's time to start doing something about it.

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Kevin Donovan is chairman of the P2 Collaborative's board of directors. Shelley Hirshberg is executive director of P2 Collaborative of Western New York. To access a free employee outreach tool kit on quality care, visit businessgrouphealth.org/usinginformation.

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