Integrated Benefits Institute Study Finds National Surveys Missing Critical Productivity Data

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Costs of lost productivity on the U.S. economy could be impacted by improved health-related lost-time measurements. As significant resources are spent nationally on health and productivity research, the nonprofit Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) looked at ten of these surveys to determine its usefulness in associating lost productivity with poor health. Today IBI released the report findings which found that necessary data linking productivity to health was not available. With the addition of just a few items, however, we could start to answer these critical questions and improve the nation's health.

While these reports provide a wealth of information on employment behavior and health, the surveys lack the necessary details to quantify lost productivity

America's healthcare system ranks the lowest among industrialized nations and U.S. employers are struggling to accurately estimate what illness costs them in terms of lower productivity and to measure the return on investments in the health of their employees. As significant resources are spent nationally on health and productivity research, the nonprofit Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) looked at ten of these surveys to determine its usefulness in associating lost productivity with poor health. Today IBI released the report findings which found that necessary data linking productivity to health was not available. With the addition of just a few items, however, we could start to answer these critical questions and improve the nation's health.

A summary brief of the report, Evaluation of the Content of Publicly-available, Nationally-representative Datasets for Use in Measuring the Costs and Causes of Health-related Lost Work Time, is publicly available and can be accessed on IBI's Web site: http://www.ibiweb.org/publications/research/59/ .

"While these reports provide a wealth of information on employment behavior and health, the surveys lack the necessary details to quantify lost productivity," said Thomas Parry, PhD, president of IBI. "As a nation, we should measure what we care about and employers need baseline measures around health-related absence and presenteeism (being present at work but working at a reduced capacity) to focus and validate their investments in health, wellness and healthcare. National surveys can easily be improved - and be of greater benefit to employers - by incorporating work productivity questionnaires or scales."

The report is a result of IBI's first Health and Productivity Research Fellowship, given to an academic prominent in the field of workforce health and productivity. Donna Gilleskie, PhD, an associate professor and health economist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, reviewed all publicly-available national datasets for measurement of costs and causes of health-related lost work time.

Key findings include:
-- No matter who pays for healthcare, employers bear a substantial part of the lost-productivity burden of the ill health of their employees.
-- Publicly-available datasets do not capture full, health-related costs of absence and presenteeism.
-- To be useful in making a business case for specific health investments, surveys must capture these full costs.
-- To focus interventions, surveys should identify causes of lost time and lost productivity to permit development of strategies to minimize their occurrence.
-- The lost-productivity effects of lost time can be managed better given information on lost-productivity effects of various conditions.
-- National survey efforts could be supplemented by workforce productivity questions to measure health-related lost time and the conditions that drive it.
-- Four areas should be considered to improve measurement of health effects: lost time, employee benefits, specific health conditions and access to employer information.

"Our evaluation suggests that the currently available survey questions are not sufficient for measuring the critical components of health and productivity analyses," said Dr. Gilleskie. "While these datasets provide a wealth of information on employment behavior and health, the questionnaires lack the necessary detail to quantify lost productivity without requiring the researcher to make quite a few assumptions."

Report methodology
The survey paper provides an assessment of the currently available nationally representative datasets for measurement of the costs and causes of health-related lost work time. Several methods were used to identify publicly-available, nationally-representative data that allowed for measurement of the costs and causes of lost work time. The Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), one of the largest archives of social science data for research in the world, was used. Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Web sites were reviewed for additional dataset information. From these and other sources, ten datasets were identified with the potential to calculate lost productivity costs and causes.

About the Integrated Benefits Institute
The Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) is a national, not-for-profit organization that focuses on health and productivity issues across group health, workers' compensation, disability and other leave programs. IBI provides a full range of health and productivity research, educational forums and benefits measurement and benchmarking tools. The Institute's work is supported by employers and leading benefits and program providers. For additional information visit: ibiweb.org.

Note to editors: For media, the full report is available upon request.

IBI Media Contact: Cary Conway
Office 972-731-9242

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