New research from Truven Health Analytics, formerly the health unit of Thomson Reuters, finds health care spending for hospital employees is 9 percent higher than the general workforce, and hospital employees and dependents are 5 percent more likely to be hospitalized.

“The very nature of hospital workers is to care for others, sometimes at the expense of themselves,” according to a white paper on study results. “In addition, hospital workers may feel that they possess the knowledge needed to improve their own health and don’t require outside assistance.”

Hospital workers also may seek health care at competing facilities, which can raise insurance costs for their employers, who should consider structuring benefit plans to encourage use of the home hospital system. “For example, some organizations have chosen to levy a $3,000 to $4,000 per-admission deductible for employees who seek care at a competing hospital for services that can be provided in their own system, while no deductibles are charged for employees who are admitted to their home institution.”

In the study, Truven Health analyzed health risk and health care utilization of 350,000 hospital employees and their dependents--a total of 740,000 individuals--and compared it with results of 25 million employees and their dependents in other industries. Hospital employees and dependents were considerably more likely to be diagnosed with asthma, obesity and depression. Hospital employees also had higher rates of emergency department utilization and admission for a range of chronic conditions. The employees and their dependents also received lower preventive services.

The study concludes that a health system with 16,000 eligible employees could save $1.5 million a year for each 1 percent reduction in health risk. The study, available here, includes a 10-point program to develop a culture of health in a provider organization.

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