2020 Research Agenda

Projects proposed by IBI Research Committee

At IBI's October 2019 Research Committee meeting, members collaborated to identify three areas in need of greater research to help employers make better investments in workforce health and productivity. For each project, members will contribute their expertise to a report section that helps employers incorporate the research findings into their health, benefits and absence management strategies.

  1. Reducing the health and productivity burden of preventable and treatable high-cost conditions: The role of preventive screenings. The study will examine the impact of preventive screenings for a variety of conditions—such as colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers, diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol on healthcare costs and utilization of high cost services, absence, disability leaves, work engagement and job performance. In addition to organizational and demographic factors that can influence screening behaviors, particular attention will be paid to understanding how plan design—for pharmacy, medical care, absence and disability—might influence follow up care after screenings occur. Employers’ creative approaches to screening and employees’ attitudes about screening will provide additional context for developing effective workplace programs.
  1. The health and productivity implications for employees who provide care for chronically ill family members. Employees who provide short- or long-term care to an elderly, chronically-ill, or special needs family member face unique career challenges. Balancing caregiving with work responsibilities may contribute to higher risk of absence and turnover, distractions and stress that complicate job performance and work engagement, mental health and self-care difficulties, longer-term health events such as disability leaves, and utilization of costly ER and inpatient care, and financial burdens from caregiving expenses and diminished career trajectories (e.g., missed bonus cycles, lower performance-based pay). The study will examine the scope of employees’ caregiving responsibilities and the link to their health, absence, and financial well-being, and to operational and productivity impacts for employers. The study will also explore employers’ caregiver leave benefits and the potential to mitigate personal and business impacts.
  1. Paid parental and family leave policies: Broader implications for business performance. This study will capitalize on and extend IBI’s existing body of work on paid leave issues (such as paid maternity, parental, and family leave). It will examine the impact of leave policies on employee health, absence, job performance, engagement, satisfaction, and retention across employees with different eligibility for leave, and with different leave experiences (including the experience of co-workers’ leaves). Linking paid leave experiences to later health indicators such as BMI, lab results or healthcare and disability claims will also shed light on the total impact of corporate and mandated leave policies.

Projects developed in 2019 for 2020 Implementation

IBI worked with two member organizations to utilize their proprietary data or to access to market-leading employers for support of projects that will benefit IBI's general membership.

  1. Impact of consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) on workforce productivity. To better understand how cost-sharing policies common to CDHPs impact productivity, IBI is working with a Board member organization to specify analyses of their integrated, longitudinal data resources. The study will examine employees' health, healthcare utilization, and illness-related absences from work—including sick days, short- and long-term disability (STD and LTD), workers' compensation (WC) and unpaid leave taken under the Family and Medical Leave Act—in the two years before and after their employer switched entirely from a traditional health care plan (e.g., HMO, PPO or FFS) to a CDHP, and different levels of cost-sharing. Findings will be drafted for a peer-reviewed journal article and submission to scientific and professional conferences, with collateral products (executive summary, infographics, tip sheets, and slide decks) disseminated to IBI member organizations, patient and policy groups, and trade and national media. The effort will also produce a report of interviews with subject matter experts (insurers, providers, absence management specialists) on strategies for mitigating underutilization of necessary and beneficial care.
  1. Linking Health and Productivity to Business Outcomes. IBI is working with a Board member to conduct a meta-analysis that synthesizes its empirical work with several clients. Analytic findings of the correlations between health engagement and operational outcomes across companies in different industries will be standardized to produce a weighted, general estimate of the business value of health employee behaviors.The project will also identify employers for a qualitative study of how companies establish linkages between workforce health, productivity and the performance of their business. The goal is to produce an IBI publication offering guidance on making the business case for efforts to promote a healthy, high-functioning workforce. Of particular interest is how personnel responsible for the H.R., benefits, and employee medical functions identify, understand, and link health and productivity information to the operational metrics used by top leadership. Topics covered will include the use of operational metrics in evaluations of health and productivity initiatives (or the challenges to doing so), the types of data and reporting used to assess workforce health (including health engagement), productivity, the effectiveness of corporate health and productivity initiatives, and examples of strategies to minimize operational disruptions caused by employee absences.

Sponsored projects for 2020

IBI has secured sponsorship of two research projects for 2020.

  1. CFOs’ views of health benefits and business value. IBI’s fifth survey of Chief Financial Officers will examine their views of the business value of health benefits and health promotion initiatives, and how they are developing benefits strategies in light of rising healthcare costs, an uncertain business environment and policy proposals arising from the 2020 election cycle. The intent is to provide insights that VPs, Directors, and Managers of corporate health benefits can use to implement health and productivity programs that align with C-suite perspectives and to develop business-relevant evidence for the investment value of a healthy workforce. Findings will be disseminated as an IBI research report and supplemental products such as an executive summary, press releases, infographics of key findings, webinars, and a presentation at IBI’s Annual Health and Productivity Forum in September 2020.
  1. The Risk of Workers’ Compensation and Short-term Disability Claims Associated with Osteoarthritis (OA). The project will use an integrated, longitudinal dataset (Truven MarketScan) to examine whether employees with OA are at a higher risk of a later occupational injury and non-occupational disability leave compared to employees without OA. It will also examine Workers’ Compensation (WC) and short-term disability (STD) wage replacement costs, and WC medical and pharmacy costs associated with OA. The project will produce a research report suitable for submission to a peer-reviewed scientific journal, as well as ancillary materials suitable for communicating findings to audiences of business leaders and employee benefits professionals (e.g., summary reports, infographics, presentations to professional audiences).