Health news round-up, week of 9-23-11

Could fresh fruit in the office kitchen keep your health care costs low?

Promoting wise health consumerism — and providing the tools

A health care company in Buffalo, NY is putting a limit on how much it will pay for medical tests and procedures, giving employees an incentive to shop around — and more importantly, a set of tools for making wise health care decisions. It’s worth reading the entire article if your first reaction is, ”STINGY!”

It isn’t a new concept, of course. But it does signal a wider push toward making better data on cost and value available, educating employees on how to make better health care choices, and ultimately empowering  patients  to be an active partner in their care (asking questions, for example, about whether some tests are really necessary, or how much a procedure might cost and if there are any less expensive options).

Says Sarah Gardner, the company’s Vice President of Benefits:

“Just having people pay attention to it is huge … They’re now asking the questions they never asked before: Is this test necessary? Can I do it at a different facility?”

Creating a culture of health — and saving money

From the ROI files, an insurance company in Denver, Colorado is seeing simple changes pay off in a big way. Half-hour walking breaks, yoga classes at lunch time and fresh fruit in the office kitchen have all helped the company’s health care costs stay flat in a time when those costs are rising at unprecedented rates. The CEO estimates they’ve saved $3 for every $1 spent.

Do-it-yourself health

A post we love from Jane at Health Populi connects the DIY ethos taking hold in American homes to a self-care, self-service, sustainable approach to health. Her focus is on digital solutions: apps that track your vital stats, searching the web for health care information. But we think this promising shift could also bode well for demand management and self-care programs in general — even the more traditional on-paper (or telephonic! or in your e-news!) tools. Are you promoting self-care as an engaging, enterprising and empowering cost-saving solution for your employees?

People all over the world — quit smoking!

An announcement yesterday about a global smoke-free workplace initiative spurred discussion about the state of smoking cessation programs in general, workplace smoke-free policies particularly, and exactly how far we have to go to lower rates of tobacco use across the globe. While 27 U.S. states have bans on smoking in the workplace (including bars and restaurants), the World Health Organization reports that just 11% of people around the world are protected by national smoke-free laws. Is yours a smoke-free workplace? What would it take to make it so?

What health news mattered to you this week? Tell us in the comments, share with us on Facebook or tweet it our way.

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