Cancer Screenings Fall Short of Targets

Findings pose a challenge to reducing costly disability leaves for cancer

In 2016, cancers accounted for about 6% of all new short-term disability (STD) claims, and were among the costliest to employers in terms of wage replacements for employees on disability leave. For cancers with proven methods of prevention and detection, and for which effective treatments are known, employers clearly have a business interest in ensuring that their employees make use of health benefits that include cancer screenings.

However, a new analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that screening for three cancers—breast, cervical, and prostate—declined between 2008 and 2015. Colorectal cancers screenings increased, but screenings for all cancers fell short of the targets of the Healthy People 2020 (HP2020) initiative. Importantly, screening rates fell short of the HP2020 goals even among people with health insurance.

The CDC authors suggest guidance for providers to help improve screening rates for their age-appropriate patients. Yet they also make suggestion that potentially apply to employers in their capacity as payers and sponsors of care management and well-being initiatives.

Evidence-based, multicomponent interventions have potential to substantially increase screening rates among population groups with low screening rates. Efforts that result in better continuity and coordination of care, such as community-based patient navigation programs, may be particularly useful. Care coordination is a key strategy with potential to improve health care system effectiveness, safety, and efficiency. Well-designed, targeted coordination efforts can improve patient, provider, and payer outcomes [page 5].

Employers may benefit from reviewing their own care management and well-being initiatives for opportunities to partner with providers in their network and community groups focused on improving cancer outcomes.