- Eradicated or unknown diseases in the U.S. are present in many foreign countries.
- Employers can protect the health of their business travelers by providing them with a Travel Medicine Program. This includes pre-travel vaccinations, a pre-travel physical exam, and a travel health consultation.
- A Travel Medicine Program will result in a considerable return on investment from diminished employee medical costs, less absenteeism, and greater productivity.
- Business travelers are at a higher risk of disease exposure.
- A single day of missed work abroad costs corporations an average of $1,201.
Your company just landed that hard-won overseas contract. Now, you are preparing to send a team of highly-trained specialists around the globe to implement the deal. Sending employees overseas involves more than securing passports, plane tickets, and hotel reservations. It is also crucial to ensure employees are up-to-date on travel vaccines and knowledgeable about health issues. A Travel Medicine Program is key to protecting your investment – in your people and in your business.
Your company is likely staffed with globe-trotters. Global travel is at all all-time high, and much of that is driven by corporate travel. The latest statistics from the United Nations World Tourism Organization show that 1.035 billion tourists traveled the globe in 2012. Of those billion plus travelers, approximately 27 percent, or 280 million employees, traveled on business.
As businesses seek new deals, new markets, and lower production costs, the exposure to risk increases. International business travelers have an increased risk for injury, illness, and exposure to diseases that are unknown at home. This can raise the corporate liability of employers.
One way for employers to protect the health and well-being of employees is preventing disease in the first place. A Travel Medicine Program that includes pre-travel vaccinations, a pre-travel physical exam, and a travel health consultation is the key to doing this.
What Are The Benefits of Vaccination?
The life-saving benefits of immunizations are widely documented. According to the World Health Organization, 2 to 3 million deaths are prevented globally each year as a result of vaccination efforts. Industry-leaders like the Gates Foundation recognize the overwhelmingly positive impact of vaccines. The Foundation has invested $10 billion to strengthen global immunization programs and save 10 million lives by 2020.
Many health risks that come with global travel are not routinely vaccinated against in the U.S. Without guidance, employees may be unaware of the disease risk in their destination country. A Travel Medicine Program will help ensure your employees are aware of, inoculated against, and equipped with a strategy to handle health concerns abroad. It will result in considerable return on investment from diminished employee medical costs, less absenteeism, and greater productivity. More importantly, it may save a life.
The Health Risks of International Travel: Disease Exposure
International travel poses some inherent risks. Many countries have disease that are not present in the United States. Because of this, various vaccinations have been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control for travelers:
- Typhoid– A food and water borne illness, typhoid affects millions of people every year.
- Yellow Fever– This mosquito-borne in many parts of the world, especially South America and Africa. Some countries require this vaccine in order to enter.
- Rabies– While not always recommended, the rabies vaccine is something to seriously consider for long-term travelers to certain regions.
- Polio– This disease is still present in some parts of the world, if you have not already been vaccinated, you may need to be.
- Japanese Encephalitis– Common throughout Asia, this vaccine is very important for travelers to the region.
- Hepatitis A– Another foodborne disease, hepatitis A outbreaks have been documented in many countries over the last five years including developed nations.
- MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella)– Most of these diseases have been eliminated in the U.S. but are still common in other nations.
Not all infections can be prevented with vaccination. Some require pills or can only be remedied, not necessarily avoided:
- Malaria– Some countries are still struggling with malaria. If you plan on traveling to an affected region, antimalarials are a must.
- Traveler’s Diarrhea– The most common ailment amont travelers. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine to prevent this illness. But, there are many good remedies like DiaResQ.
To learn more about these infections and their vaccines or treatments, see their respective pages.
The risks of disease abroad are not just hypothetical. A recent case study showed just how tragic the lack of pre-travel education and vaccination can be:
When 15-year-old Cara Munn traveled to China for a summer study abroad program with her prep school, no one from the program warned her or her parents about insect-transmitted diseases in China, and no one took steps to ensure the high school students were taking precautions against insect bites during the trip. The result – Cara Munn contracted encephalitis after a tick bite on a school hiking trip near Mount Panshan. Cara’s family arranged for her medical evacuation, but her illness brought with it a host of life-long injuries, including the inability to speak. A jury found her school, which sponsored and led the trip, guilty of negligence. Cara Munn and her family were awarded $41.7 million in damages.
With global air travel on the rise, both the CDC and WHO have reported an increased risk of exposure to infectious diseases. Some infections like measles and mumps are passing into the United States through unvaccinated people.
Mitigate Health Risks with Travel Medicine
Disease risks can be mitigated by a Travel Medicine program that includes:
- Travel vaccines – protect against disease
- Health advice – prepare for health risks in the destination country
- Pre-travel physical exam – identify latent conditions
These programs protect a company’s investment in its employees and save employees the heartache and hassle of being sick while away from home. By providing protection against diseases and by helping pinpoint health issues, the risk of medical emergencies occurring abroad is greatly mitigated. The risks of travel and resulting need for travel medicine are clear.
What Is A Typical Travel Medicine Appointment Like?
First, an office visit should be scheduled at least six weeks before travel. Some vaccines will take a few weeks to fully protect someone. The appointment will include:
- A review of prior immunizations to determine whether booster shots are required.
- Routine vaccinations, against diseases such as polio, measles, or hepatitis B may be given based on medical history.
- Other, destination-specific vaccinations such as yellow fever, typhoid fever, and rabies, may be given based on a traveler’s itinerary
- A routine physical exam helps to identify latent health issues.
By scheduling an office visit well in advance of a trip, business travelers and their employers can rest easy, knowing that vaccinations provide crucial protection from foreign diseases.
A typical Travel Medicine appointment only requires about an hour of time. Much less time and money than having a sick employee abroad. The choice is clear: it pays to be prepared.
Decreased Healthcare and Insurance Costs
A Travel Medicine Program does not just save time and protect health. It also saves money through decreased healthcare and insurance costs. According to the U.S. Department of State, most American health plans are not accepted abroad. Employees would have to pay out of pocket for emergency care. In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service.
Medical coverage from a United States insurer may not cover treatment of complications from a vaccine-preventable disease. If an employee becomes severely ill from a disease, treatment can become an heavy cost burden.
Most insurance plans do not cover travel vaccinations in the first place. If employers do not offer a Travel Medicine Program, it is up to the employee to seek out and pay for Travel Medicine services on his or her own.
Often, employees don’t take that extra precautionary step. They are too busy, uncertain about where to find the services, or unaware of the risks. In the case an employee does have the time, he or she will have to submit expense reports and receipts for pre-travel medical expenses. This can add more paperwork and hassle for human resources managers. Leaving vaccination up to the individual means compliance is likely to be low, sickness is more likely and healthcare costs may rise.
Can Travel Vaccines Save Me Money?
From the standpoint of an employee traveling overseas, the benefits of vaccinations should be obvious. An hour visit with a Travel Medicine Specialist is preferable to even a day of sickness abroad. Travel medicine helps prevent lost workdays on important assignments and reduces the risk of medical evacuation.
If a company does not a have an insurance program in place that covers evacuation, it can be costly. Expenses can range from $10,000 for a last minute commercial plane ticket and travel preparations to $100,000 for a full evacuation with on-board medical assistance. No business wants to spend $100,000 unnecessarily. And in these situations, even a few days of lost employee time overseas represents a significant financial loss.
- Average Salary: $130,000
- Travel Days/Year: 19.4
- Wage Paid while Traveling: $6,910
- Average Cost of a Business Trip: $4,098
- Average Trips/Year: 3.8
What does it mean? The average business traveler takes four, five day trips per year.
- $23,302 = Total business travel wages and expenses per employee/year
- $1,201 = Business travel wages and expenses per employee/day
A consultation, physical exam, vaccinations, and medications may cost about $550. This represents 2.3% of the total travel investment on an annual basis. However, many travel vaccinations provide immunity for years. The cost of each appointment is likely to go down with time and more travel as many vaccines will already have been administered in the past. Over five years, the average business traveler takes 15.9 trips. Given a likely declining cost per appointment, the travel medicine investment over time becomes just a fraction of a percent.
“Vaccination makes good economic sense,” the WHO said in a recent briefing, “and meets the need to care for the weakest members of societies.” Travel Medicine and vaccinations save your company money and represent an important investment in the health of the traveling employee population.
Conclusion and Implications
Global business travel is on the rise. This makes corporate pre-travel health programs more important than ever. A Travel Medicine Program with pre-travel vaccinations and consultations makes good business sense. The initial investment is small but the savings have the potential to be astronomical.
How can you protect your employees from vaccine-preventable diseases, while also improving your company’s bottom line? A national account with Passport Health, the largest and leading nationwide provider of immunizations for international travel, makes pre-travel vaccination and education simple and easy for your corporate travelers and for your in-house human resources managers.
From yellow fever to rabies, Passport Health offers all of the vaccinations your business travelers need to ensure they are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. Schedule a Consultation for Travel Vaccinations and Immunizations today.
- With one injection, travelers can guarantee themselves 10 years of protection from yellow fever.
- Yellow fever is not in the US but citizens have died from it than some wars.
- Vaccination is the most important step in preventing yellow fever.
- Awareness of the disease, mosquito netting, and repellents also play a key role.
- The risk contracting yellow fever is high in many African countries.
- Estimates suggest more than 200,000 people contract yellow fever every year. As many as 30,000 of them die from the disease.
- Those traveling to an area with yellow fever should vaccinate before they leave. Visit a
travel health specialist at least 10 to 14 days before travel.
Traveling to a foreign country can be exciting, even for the most experienced travelers. Unfamiliar conditions and diseases can cause nervousness and fear.
Research is a key component before leaving for a trip. Travelers should ask: “Do I have everything I need?” This question covers more than just the obvious items of clothing or prescriptions. Many individuals forget the importance travel health can play. Vaccinations and other preventative measures are necessary to help stay healthy while away.
Vaccines or other preventative measures may seem to expensive or unnecessary. But, exposure to a deadly disease like yellow fever could ruin a well planned trip.
- The nation’s health crisis is taking a financial toll: Employers spend an average of $18,000 per employee each year on costs related to illness and worker productivity.
- Early detection of disease during a physical exam is a key means to cut costs that result from chronic disease.
- Absenteeism, and the consequent need for sick pay, replacement employees, and re-training is extremely costly, as is the decline in productivity from sick employees.
- Exam programs have been shown to significantly decrease rates of absenteeism and boost employee productivity.
- Physical Examination Programs have a measurable, positive Return on Investment.
Healthcare expenditures are rising exponentially within the United States. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, national healthcare spending comprised a shocking 17.9%[i] of annual GDP in 2011 – and this figure is expected to grow to 19.6% of GDP by 2021. Since 1960, total health expenditures have increased at a significantly faster pace than the economy.[ii] One must wonder: What is the culprit?
In 2011, the nation spent $2.7 trillion on healthcare,[iii] and studies have shown that approximately 75% of healthcare expenditures are spent on the treatment of chronic diseases such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes.[iv] This percentage comes as no shock given that over 100 million Americans presently live with at least one chronic disease.[v] However, disease does not only take a toll on individuals and their families; the burden of disease on employers is financially significant as well. Employers now spend, on average, at least $18,000 per employee per year[vi] on costs directly related to illness and the impact of illness on worker productivity.
Taken at an aggregate level, these statistics are even more alarming. Poor employee health is anticipated to cost the national economy at least $260 billion each year in lost productivity.[vii]
Clearly, steps need to be taken to mitigate the nation’s health crisis and the resulting financial toll on employers. Fortunately, the detrimental side effects and mounting costs of many diseases can be avoided altogether. What is the best way to avoid disease? The answer is simple: early detection. Indeed, employee wellness programs that include physical exams and biometric testing can detect diseases in their earliest and most treatable stages, significantly reducing employer medical expenses and, of course, also potentially saving employees’ lives.
The majority of US employers offer some type of employee wellness services. However, programs can be quite basic, and a 2012 survey released by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans revealed that 30% of American employers[viii] currently do not offer employee wellness programs at all.
Is your company part of this 30%, or do your wellness initiatives lack a physical examination component? Even though there is a cost associated with implementing a new program, physical examinations have a measurable, positive return on investment (ROI) on both your employees’ health and your company’s financial statements through reduced health care costs, lower rates of absenteeism, and enhanced productivity.
Health Care Cost Reduction
The seven most common chronic diseases, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and mental and pulmonary disorders, cost employers at least $1.3 trillion each year.[ix]
However, many of these diseases can be readily detected during their early stages via the basic tests such as blood pressure monitoring, complete blood counts, chest X-rays, and urinalysis that comprise a typical physical examination, and early detection saves money. Indeed, by providing employee wellness programs that include event-specific physicals, many nationwide employers have decreased their employee health care cost burden by $1 – $3 for every dollar spent.[x] Other analyses show that wellness programs, including annual physical exams, have reduced employers’ health costs by an average of 26.1%.[xi]
In 2010, Health Affairs released an analysis of wellness programs that include employee physical exams. This study found that such initiatives reduced companies’ health costs by $3.27 for every dollar spent.[xii] Another investigation discovered wellness programs and physical exams diminish workers’ compensation and disease management costs by up to 32%.[xiii]
Here is yet another example of the cost-saving benefits of corporate physical examination programs. Since 1983, Bank One has conducted executive physical exams at its corporate headquarters. During a three-year period, Bank One discovered that it paid $5,361 in medical claims for executives who received annual physical exams. In contrast, it paid $6,426 per executive who was not evaluated each year. In other words, the company’s physical examination program allowed Bank One to save over $1,000 per employee on an annual basis.[xiv]
- Annual physicals saved Bank One $1,000 per employee each year.
- Lafarge North America saved $30 million over 3 years with a wellness program that included physical exams.
- Chippewa County, Wisconsin, cut expenditures on county employee healthcare by $500,000 following the implementation of wellness services.
Further examples of cost-savings tied to physical examinations abound. In an effort to ease medical costs, Chippewa County, Wisconsin, established a wellness program for county employees that includes a physical exam with biometric testing, resulting in a total health care cost reduction of $500,000 in 2008 alone.[xv] Lafarge North America, a large supplier of construction materials, saw similar results with its “Building a Better You” program, which includes on-site physicals. Over a span of three years, the company saved $30 million in medical and pharmacy costs and saw fewer employee hospital visits and less disability incidence due to healthier employees.[xvi] Finally, by offering employees annual physical exams and other wellness initiatives, Confluence, a financial services software provider, decreased its healthcare premiums by 13%.[xvii]
As the previous examples demonstrate, the short-term costs of annual employee physicals are far less than the long-term expenditures that result from employee illnesses, hospitalizations, and surgeries. Time after time, researchers have found that by investing proactively in employee healthcare, companies have been able to realize a much healthier bottom line.
In addition to unpredictable or seasonal illnesses, employee absenteeism can be caused by hospitalizations, surgeries, and other medical procedures that become necessary to provide care for chronic conditions. Multiple costs result when employees are away from work. For example, businesses must pay for employee sick and disability leave and may need to invest time and money in finding a temporary or replacement employee. However, it is possible to take preventative steps to mitigate these costs. Indeed, according to a 2013 Cornell university study, by emphasizing and investing in employee health to identify diseases and latent conditions, many US-based companies have been able to reduce absenteeism by 28% while cutting health care and workers’ compensation claim costs by similar margins.[xviii]
- Sick pay and hiring and training replacement employees add up.
- Physical exams that identify diseases before they become serious conditions have reduced rates of absenteeism by 28%.
- Studies have found that every dollar invested in employee wellness cuts the costs of absenteeism by $2.73.
US companies aren’t the only ones working to reduce absenteeism via investment in employee health, and the cost savings from lower rates of absenteeism has been noted worldwide. In recent years, a wide range of global companies have taken steps to reduce the financial impact of absent employees by implementing employee physical exam programs. For example, by setting up on-site physical exam clinics, Parcelforce Worldwide, an express parcels provider, has decreased rates of employee absence due to illness by nearly 30%. Similarly, Foyle Food Group’s physical exams have helped diminish absenteeism by 15% overall, have kept short-term absence below 3% of the workforce, and have decreased the number of employees out of work for more than seven days by 84%. Furthermore, Ernst & Young’s London headquarters’ annual employee physicals have resulted in a 3% fewer days lost to absence across the total workforce, even though the total size of the workforce has grown.[xix]
The financial benefits of physical exams and employee wellness programs have been well-documented in leading American-based healthcare publications and journals. Health Affairs noted that for every dollar spent on employee wellness, absenteeism costs fell by $2.73.[xx] The publication also revealed that wellness programs that include a physical exam can moderate sick leave, disability costs, workers’ compensation, and other health plan-based costs by at least 20%.[xxi]
Frequently, companies’ solutions to absenteeism, including temporary hiring and work-from-home alternatives, constitute immediate fixes instead of long term solutions to the problem. However, as the previous examples demonstrate, by identifying employee illnesses during physical exams, companies can lessen the financial burden of absenteeism. Importantly, exams also provide companies with an opportunity to make sure employees are up-to-date on all of their vaccinations, another crucial means of staving off seasonal illness and promoting general good health.
Often, employees opt to continue to work on a full-time or part-time basis in the midst of illness, disease diagnosis, and other health maladies, but this decision can lead to weakened on-the-job performance, often referred to as “presenteeism”. Employees who are physically weakened or overwhelmed by health conditions cannot fully concentrate on job responsibilities, leading to diminished productivity, project postponements, and below-average work quality, all of which negatively impact a company’s bottom line.
Employee productivity is a primary concern for any employer. In fact, a report released by Hewitt Associates found that 65% of surveyed employers viewed employee health and productivity as one of the top three business issues.[xxii] Across the globe, organizations are reacting to employee presenteeism by developing worksite clinics and offering wellness programs with annual physicals to their employees.
For example, by providing on-site health clinics and physical examinations, Parcelforce Worldwide has increased employee productivity considerably. Indeed, productivity increased by nearly 13 percent following implementation of the company’s exam program. In a similar vein, AstraZeneca saved up to £700,000 as a result of wellness programs, and much of this savings was tied to enhanced employee productivity.[xxiii] In yet another example, by offering employees prevention-focused healthcare programs such as blood pressure monitoring, GlaxoSmithKline has increased employee performance and productivity by 7 to 13 percent.[xxiv]
Conclusion and Implications
Employee wellness programs and physical exams have been broadly utilized by global companies to significantly diminish healthcare costs and reduce rates of absenteeism and presenteeism. Such programs have a measurable ROI and will enhance your company’s bottom line. Only one question remains: How can you best implement a physical examination program to save your company money? Passport Health makes the answer simple. Building on extensive corporate wellness contract experience and a history as the nation’s largest provider of travel medical and immunization services, Passport Health offers a wide array of examination options, including pre-travel, pre-deployment, and employment exams that are specifically tailored to the unique needs of any company. To keep your employees well to work, set up a comprehensive Passport Health Physical Examination Program today!
[i] Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “National Health Expenditure Projections 2011-2021.”
[ii], Foster, Richard, “The Financial Outlook for Medicare, Medicaid, and Total National Health Expenditures,” February 28, 2012.
[iii] Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “National Health Expenditure Projections 2011-2021.”
[iv] National Business Group on Health, “The Role of Clinical Preventive Services in Disease Prevention and Early Detection.”
[vi] Matson Koffman, Dyann, et al., “Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke: A Six-Step Guide for Employers,” 2005.
[vii] Davis, Karen, et al., “Health and Productivity Among U.S. Workers,” The Commonwealth Fund, August 2005.
[viii] International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, Wellness Programs and Value-Based Health Care Third Edition, 2012.
[ix] Norman, Gordon. “Build a Better Business Through Better Healthcare for Employees,” International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, 2009.
[x] Society for Human Resource Management, “Study: Wellness Programs Saved $1 to $3 per Dollar Spent,” September 12, 2012.
[xi] Bolnick, Howard, “Wellness Programs: What Can Be Learned from US Company Experience,” Benefits & Compensation International, April 2009.
[xii] Baicker, Katherine, David Cutler, and Zirui Song, “Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings,” Health Affairs, February 2010.
[xiii] Bolnick, Howard, “Wellness Programs: What Can Be Learned from US Company Experience,” Benefits & Compensation International, April 2009.
[xiv] Burton, Wayne, et al., “The Value of the Periodic Executive Health Examination: Experience at Bank One and Summary of the Literature,” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, August 2002.
[xv] Fendrick, A. Mark, Kimbery Jinnett, and Thomas Parry, “Synergies at Work: Realizing the Full Value of Health Investments,” National Pharmaceutical Council, February 2011.
[xvi] Fendrick, A. Mark, Kimberly Jinnett, and Thomas Parry, “Synergies at Work: Realizing the Full Value of Health Investments,” National Pharmaceutical Council, February 2011.
[xvii] Shaw, Janis, “Incentivizing Good Health: A Mid-Sized Firm’s Success Story,” Society for Human Resource Management, October 25, 2012.
[xviii] Central Health Connection, “Health and Health Care Trends and Innovations in Central Texas,” October 2011.
[xix] Business in the Community, “Healthy People = Healthy Profits,” February 2009.
[xx] Baicker, Katherine, David Cutler, and Zirui Song, “Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings,” Health Affairs, February 2010.
[xxii] Hewitt Associates, “Wellness and Beyond: Employers Examine Ways to Improve Employee Health and Productivity and Reduce Costs,” August 2008.