Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a prevalent chronic condition that can have significant impacts on individuals, including reduced quality of life, increased healthcare utilization, and lost productivity. Self-insured employers should pay attention to COPD as it affects a considerable proportion of the workforce and can result in significant direct and indirect costs. In this article, we will explore the burden of COPD on employees, the direct and indirect costs of uncontrolled COPD, and the role of programs like telemedicine in controlling COPD costs.
The Burden of COPD on Employees & Employers
COPD is a chronic respiratory condition that affects approximately 16 million people in the United States, according to the American Lung Association. The burden of COPD can be significant for individuals, with symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, and wheezing interfering with daily activities and reducing quality of life. Employees with COPD may also experience frequent exacerbations, which can result in missed workdays, reduced productivity, and increased healthcare utilization.
In addition to the direct impact on employees, COPD can also have indirect effects on employers. COPD-related absenteeism and decreased productivity can result in significant financial costs for self-insured employers, affecting both the employee and the company’s bottom line. Therefore, self-insured employers should take an active role in addressing COPD in the workplace to improve the health and well-being of their employees and control healthcare costs.
The Direct Costs of Uncontrolled COPD
Uncontrolled COPD can result in significant direct costs, including healthcare expenses like hospitalization, emergency department visits, and medications. According to a study published in the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, the average annual direct medical costs for individuals with uncontrolled COPD were $12,100, while individuals with controlled COPD had average annual costs of $6,400.
COPD-related hospitalizations can also be costly, with an average cost of $13,600 per hospitalization, according to a study published in the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Hospitalization rates for COPD have decreased in recent years, but individuals with uncontrolled COPD remain at increased risk of hospitalization.
Comparing the Costs of Uncontrolled COPD to Other Chronic Conditions
The cost of uncontrolled COPD may be comparable to that of other chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. A study published in the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease found that the average annual direct medical costs for individuals with uncontrolled COPD were similar to those with uncontrolled diabetes, at $12,100 and $11,700, respectively. However, COPD-related indirect costs, such as absenteeism and decreased productivity, may be more significant than those associated with other chronic conditions.
A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that employees with COPD had significantly more missed workdays and reduced productivity than employees without COPD. Therefore, addressing COPD in the workplace may have a more substantial impact on overall costs than addressing other chronic conditions like diabetes.
In addition, COPD and diabetes often coexist, with individuals with both conditions experiencing increased healthcare utilization and costs. Self-insured employers should consider addressing both COPD and diabetes in the workplace to improve the health and well-being of their employees and control healthcare costs.
Bringing it All Together
Self-insured employers should pay attention to COPD in the workplace, as it is a prevalent chronic condition that can result in significant healthcare utilization, absenteeism, and lost productivity among employees. Uncontrolled COPD can result in substantial direct and indirect costs, which may be comparable to those associated with other chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Addressing COPD in the workplace may have broader benefits for employees’ families, as the burden of COPD can extend to caregivers and family members. Nightingale’s Care Management program can help self-insured employers control the costs associated with COPD by promoting early intervention and better COPD management with a patented wearable lung monitor and access to Respiratory Therapists via telemedicine. By improving COPD control and reducing healthcare utilization, self-insured employers can improve the health and well-being of their employees and reduce healthcare costs over the long term.
Respiratory Therapy & Remote Monitoring: A Long-Term Solution
Respiratory Therapy combined with remote monitoring is a proven method for managing and reducing the symptoms of Asthma and COPD. Studies show that Respiratory Therapy works as well as or better than other approaches and has effects that last even after the therapy is done, reducing the long tail of costs while developing a healthier and happier workforce.