Cancer accounts for 1 of every 5 deaths in the United States, highlighting the importance of a cancer care navigation platform. The 2023 Business Group on Health survey on Healthcare Strategy and Plan Design reported cancer is now the No. 1 driver of employers’ healthcare costs.
It’s impossible to read the news without seeing an article about the cost of cancer and the impact on patients, caregivers and their families. Most of us have a friend, family member or colleague who has (or had) cancer. Many of us have experienced that sinking feeling when you learn someone you love has cancer — your first thought is “What do I need to do?”
Cancer care is complicated by many factors, including the type and stage of cancer, access to medical care and the ability to find reliable, well-trained caregivers. Increasingly, shortages in health care staff mean family members must step in as untrained nurses and caregivers. In fact, among family caregivers who provide care for complex and chronic illnesses such as cancer, 46% perform medical and nursing tasks. This makes family care pivotal to a patient’s recovery and clinical outcomes.
While many patients with cancer diagnoses have closely managed treatment plans, the complexities of cancer and navigating an already burdened and costly health care system can be daunting and overwhelming. There are not enough hours in the day to be organized, thoughtful and prepared for the road ahead.
With cancer now employers’ top category for medical-cost spending, many organizations are asking “What else should we consider to address our people’s needs?” Helping employees who care for family members is one way.
Considering next steps in cancer care
Family members are the primary source of social and emotional support for patients and play a major role in how well patients manage or recover from cancer. Yet most people are not taught how to be a caregiver, and resources on caregiving can be scarce. The result is many caregivers spend hours each day trying to navigate myriad issues, typically the most pressing matters at that moment.
Despite the rising cost of health care, employers have been reluctant to shift costs to employees. They recognize that families need more support, and they are trying to find new and innovative ways to address employees’ needs while managing health care costs.
Historically, employers have enhanced their leave programs to allow employees to take time off to focus on caregiving, and they have added benefits such as backup child care or elder care. However, needs for chronic and complex care, like cancer, extend well beyond what is provided or covered by most medical plans.
Health plans often provide clinical programs, connecting employees who have cancer to oncology nurse specialists and enabling access to preferred oncology medical networks. While these cancer patient support programs are important and commendable steps, gaps in cancer care remain.
The issues facing a patient with cancer and the family are broad, complicated and ever-changing. Many moving parts need to come together to provide comprehensive support.
A care navigation platform for family care benefits can help employers curb medical plan costs
An issue not talked about enough is the impact on mental health and quality of life for caregivers and their families. Several studies show 40% to 70% of caregivers suffer from clinical symptoms of depression, feelings of social isolation, stress and loneliness. These feelings extend to the entire family. Cancer can be cruel in that no one in the family support network is exempt from its impact.
The impact of caregiving results in other direct and indirect costs to an employer, considering that upwards of 75% of all caregivers are women, some of whom can be mid-career and senior executives. Many caregivers feel they can no longer make the same commitment to their careers, and the result is that one-third leave the workforce.
In the 2023 Economic Impact and Value Report by Grayce, the financial impact of providing comprehensive family caregiving support can produce a 6-to-1 return on investment by reducing turnover and improving productivity. It’s essential to consider the cost of the caregiver’s own health care, both mental and physical, as employee caregivers often delay their own care because their family member takes priority. Grayce plans to measure the medical cost impact in an update to their 2023 report.
A comprehensive family care solution complements employer medical plans
When employers are considering caregiving benefits, providing access to the full range of care needs is key to ensuring the most complete support for employees and their families. This type of comprehensive benefit can also have a positive business impact on medical costs.
Grayce is one such solution. Our model is focused and deliberate in designing services and a platform to address all the caregiving needs of a family — needs such as child care and elder care, as well as chronic care and complex care for cancer.
They recognize that families — not just the caregiver — have ongoing care challenges and needs that can and will change over time. This is never more true than with cancer and other complex conditions. Cancer care needs run the gamut from medical to functional to social and legal. Understanding family caregiving needs and creating appropriate solutions to support those needs is at the heart of Grayce.
Employers can help employee caregivers access solutions they need
Grayce’s comprehensive family care solution involves more than navigating a platform to find answers. It means working with an expert, developing a path forward and sharing the responsibility for actions that need to be taken. Their experts can and will do the “heavy lifting,” which is what’s needed to close care gaps, keep families intact and help employees manage what comes next.
While it goes without saying that a cancer patient is the top priority, it’s important to care for the caregivers and the entire family too. Cancer turns lives upside down, and with the expert support of Grayce as a comprehensive care navigation platform, you can make navigating the impossible seem more possible for one of the most important jobs a family will have: caring for a loved one.
Reach out and learn more about how Gracye can help you offer a comprehensive family care solution that benefits your employees and helps lower medical plan costs.