Healthcare costs have continuously been on the rise, with an expected increase of 5% for 2020. Therefore, employers have been looking for more ways to deal with the rise in medical care expenses and have started spending more on prevention (preventative care?) in the hopes of decreasing care costs (cure). Many employers have rolled out internal health and wellness programs designed to encourage their employees to prioritize fitness and nutrition in order to maintain healthy lifestyles; however, employers have recently turned to another way to help manage healthcare costs: healthy sleep habits.
Medical benefits experts say “promoting a good night’s sleep for employees is as important as making sure their blood sugar and cholesterol are under control.” While this should come as no surprise as the effects of sleep deprivation are well-known and include weight gain, mental fatigue, and a risk of heart disease, sleep is still not prioritized among the workforce. Employees are much more likely to stay up late preparing for a presentation or answering emails than getting a full eight hours.
But more and more companies are realizing that sleep is a business issue, not just a personal one. Well-rested employees are more likely to have higher levels of productivity, creativity, and innovation as well lower rates of absenteeism at the workplace. Insufficient sleep actually accounts for a loss of 1.2 million working days every year, creating an economic loss of up to $411 billion per year. Beyond that, though, employees with untreated sleep disorders are more likely to have higher insurance costs than those who do not have them.
In fact, insomnia patients actually have more than double the average healthcare costs of a regular employee. Sleep disorders also negatively contribute towards mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, ADHD, and bipolar disorders. Unfortunately, one study found that 38% of their sleep disorder cohort was also affected by mental health related issues. Optimizing one’s sleep health to help manage mental health is yet another way to help employers save on healthcare spending.
Approximately 1 in 4 large companies provide programs to help employees optimize their sleep and more than half have plans to implement similar programs by 2021. According to a 2019 survey done by benefits firm Willis Towers Watson, “curbing the cost of healthcare and increasing affordability remain the top priorities for almost all employers over the next 3 years (93%).” Conversely, almost two-thirds of the same employers think that healthcare affordability is one of the biggest challenges they face.
Atlanta-based electric utility company, Southern, is one of many employers looking to cut down on future healthcare costs by building and maintaining a sleep-healthy workforce. With a workforce of 30,000, tackling individual health issues can be a serious challenge; but Southern has screened approximately 4000 employees for sleep apnea, and have treat 1500. In just 2018 alone, this saved them $1.2 million. Treating sleep apnea and managing other sleep disorders allows employers to save on future costs of treating issues such as heart disease, depression, and other risks associated with sleep deprivation.
Because sleep disorders are associated with many comorbidities such as high blood pressure, strokes, diabetes, and heart disease, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to paying for sleep disorders. One report estimates that undiagnosed sleep apnea had a total economic cost of $150 billion in 2015 with $30 billion of that total from just increased healthcare and medication costs from treating those related comorbidities. That same report calculated that if every patient in the U.S. who has a sleep disorder was diagnosed and treated, there would be an economic savings of $100.1 billion per year.
While this data is both extensive and impressive, the matter of managing a sleep disorder largely falls on the individual employee. Lee McDonough, the Washington Surburban Sanitary Commission’s wellness program manager initiated a program to help the company’s employees manage any sleep disorders. However, he found that many employees were not using the CPAP machine regularly, if at all.
However, McDonough partnered with an outside firm and found that when they had the sleep apnea patients partner with doctors and respiratory specialists to counsel them on how to manage their sleep disorder and how to use the CPAP mask, they had a much higher success rate.
Somnology, a digital healthcare enterprise focused on sleepcare, offers an end-to-end solution where a company’s employees can be tested for sleep disorders and have access to doctors and sleep coaches to help them understand how to best manage their sleep health. Somnology’s combination of innovative healthcare technology and individualized, personal care is an effective way to manage an employee’s sleep and save employers money on future healthcare costs.
Instead of offering just one component in handling sleep disorders, Somnology helps individuals manage their sleep by providing not only assessment, but also continuous monitoring and ongoing care management for the patient. These health steps comprise Somnology’s Sleep Lab as a Service sleepcare platform (SLaaS™). Through SLaaS™, users have ready access with secure privacy to their sleep data, enabling them to connect with doctors and sleep coaches to improve their comprehension of their sleep character and gain comprehensible actionable steps towards improving and managing their sleep health.
Read more about Somnology and their services at SomnologyMD.com.