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Blue @ Work

Crohn's: A costly disease your workplace can't ignore

With a $1.3 billion price tag

We’ve all seen the pharmaceutical commercials where a person is supposed to be having a wonderful day spent with family or friends, but instead they are left searching for the nearest restroom wherever they go.

This scenario isn't an act. It's the reality for 780,000 people External Site in the United States currently living with Crohn’s disease.

While Crohn's may not be commonly discussed, it severely impacts the overall well-being, productivity and engagement of an employee dealing with the condition.

And, if proactive measures aren't taken, it can come with a hefty price tag — for both you and your employees.

What is Crohn’s disease?

First things first: It’s important to put yourself in the shoes of your employee(s) who maybe living with Crohn’s disease.

According to the Mayo Clinic External Site, Crohn's disease affects the small intestine and the ability to consume food and dispose of bodily waste. Symptoms can range from abdominal cramping and nausea to life-threatening infections. For employees struggling with Crohn’s disease, managing these symptoms while trying to get work done can be incredibly difficult.

The costly implications of Crohn’s disease in your workplace

Let’s not forget that 75 percent of the workforce External Site will consist of the millennial generation by 2025. And, based on the Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® Health of America Report®, External Site once a millennial hits age 27, they begin to see a decline in their health (making them unhealthier than their Generation X counterparts).

Guess what physical condition made the top 10 conditions affecting the millennial generation?

Crohn’s disease.

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10 percent increase in prevalence from 2014-2017.

8 workdays missed per year for half of the people living with Crohn's disease.

$1.3 billion cost to employers in lost productivity due to Crohn's.

$11,209.77: the estimated expenditures per patient per year with Crohn's disease (ages 31-46).

$55,000-$110,000: the fine amount employers pay if they fail to comply with the American Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines.

Sources: Healthline Blue Cross and Blue Shield Health of America Report

Tips for accommodating employees with Crohn’s disease in the workplace

According to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM®), the length of an average workweek External Site for a full-time employee is 47 hours. With all this time spent at work, your employees expect a thing or two from you.

Consider incorporating these five tips in your workplace to support employees dealing with Crohn’s disease. But first, evaluate each employee's needs on a case-by-case basis. One employee can experience the disease completely different than another — that’s why it’s important to consider all situations.

  1. Offer emergency kit essentials.

    What you need to remember about Crohn’s disease is that it can flare up at any time — so have some emergency kit essentials on hand to help make an employee’s situation easier. Keep these kits handy in restrooms, drawers or lockers where employees can easily access them. Emergency kits can include everything from moistened wipes and odor eliminators to heartburn and pain reliever medication.
  2. Accommodate work schedules.

    An employee can go from remission of Crohn’s disease symptoms to a flare-up within days (or even hours). If an employee experiences a flare-up, encourage them to work from the comfort of their home, or take a half day depending on the situation.
  3. Move employees’ workstations closer to restrooms.

    While this may seem like a simple fix, it’s an essential one — especially for an employee living with Crohn’s. Even if your workplace likes to pair team members close together, be willing to make seating accommodations if an employee has Crohn’s disease.
  4. Create an open, safe and judgement-free workplace.

    Employees who struggle with any debilitating health condition tend to avoid sharing due to judgement, and possible discrimination of advancement opportunities. Create a safe and open environment for your employees to express their concerns and needs for a comfortable (and accommodating) work environment.
  5. Encourage personal relationships with a primary care provider.

    Although Crohn’s disease may not have a definitive cure, there are various treatment options for your employees to help manage flare-ups or symptoms. And, when your employees develop a personal relationship with their primary care provider, they can confide in them and experience greater satisfaction, better overall health and lower hospital and emergency room use.

Millennials are two times more likely to access medical advice online through blogs and social media rather than consult with their primary care provider. According to the BCBSA HOA Report External Site, only 68 percent of millennials have a primary care physician (PCP) compared to 91 percent of Generation X — which is key to preventive care.

Chronic disease increases the risk of colorectal cancer

According to the Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® Health of America® Report External Site, employees who have a chronic condition like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are at nearly two times the risk for being diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Additionally, if you have employees who have been diagnosed with diabetes or obesity, these individuals also see increased risk in colorectal cancer, than those without the chronic conditions.

The report finds that 61 percent of those over the age of 50+ cite finding the screening process uncomfortable both emotionally and physically. For the 18-49 age range, they do no believe they are at risk for colorectal cancer. All age groups agreed that their primary care physician has not recommended the screening.

Encourage employees to use myWellmark® as their health plan sidekick

If an employee within your company is diagnosed with Crohn's disease — encourage them to register for myWellmark Opens in a new window. myWellmark can serve as their one-stop-shop for finding an in-network doctor, to finding a local pharmacy and calculating drug costs. Not to mention, they'll also be able to:

  • Get easy-to-understand claims information with personalized insights.
  • Find complete coverage details specific to their plan.
  • Estimate cost of care for procedures and services before they go.
  • Get helpful, relevant well-being content, news and special alerts.
  • Make informed decisions regarding their health and health care spending.

Looking for different ways to promote myWellmark to your employees? Check out all the promotional materials you can download and share with your employees by visiting the Wellmark Marketing Toolkit External Site.

Questions? Contact your authorized Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield account representative, or email us at Send Email.