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Rarely do we stop to wrap our minds around the tremendous impacts on productivity and the bottom line caused by a valuable team member being forced to miss multiple days of work because of a lingering health issue that does not seem to be improving

In 2011, a Stats Can study found that businesses lost 105 million work days due to employee illness and personal reasons, an average of about 9.3 work days lost per employee1. According to a 2012 Conference Board of Canada study, these absences cost the economy an astounding $16.6 billion2. When the costs associated with those absences are double and sometimes triple the cost of drug claims, we know we have a bigger problem than we may have first imagined.

Statistics Canada reports show that, in the manufacturing sector specifically, an average of 10.4 days per worker was lost in 20143; greater than the national average. This has tremendous repercussions, especially in an industry that considers labour costs and the aging workforce to be top challenges to develop a globally competitive labour market in Canada.

While extensive absences for treatment and recovery are required for certain illnesses, many find themselves in medical limbo causing them to miss work. There is no definitive ­diagnosis and, as a result, no viable treatment plan. These are the employees left to endure unnecessary suffering while leaving their employers with decreased productivity and the resulting financial burdens.

But why, in this age of unprecedented medical knowledge, technology and health care investment, can this still be such a costly problem? And how can we help prevent it?

Many proactive organizations now allocate resources towards health promotion, try to develop a more health‑conscious work environment and create better work-life balance. In addition, many employers are connecting patient advocacy with improved health outcomes. This involves employees educating and empowering themselves to ask more questions, investigate family medical histories, seek a second opinion and have pathologies re-tested. A relentless patient who advocates for his or her own care is far more likely to receive a confirmed diagnosis and follow through on the treatment plan.

It’s important that employers understand that investing in each employee’s health and well-being is not only a meaningful gesture, it’s good for business. This is why many leading employers now offer employee benefits that provide in-depth expert medical reviews, customized health coaching and much more. The concept is simple, yet impactful: make sure our employees are getting the right diagnosis and treatment plan. This will significantly minimize the loss of productivity that comes with medical uncertainty and an inconclusive diagnosis

Today, more than five million Canadians have access to Best Doctors, a global company that brings together the best medical minds to help people get the right diagnosis, treatment and information. Its unique approach helps members find the best specialists, navigate the health care system and get confirmed medical answers, which in turn increases productivity, reduces lost time and ensures that employees realize better outcomes

When employees and employers work together, they can form a powerful team against medical uncertainty and the millions of lost workdays that result from incorrectly diagnosed or improperly treated conditions. Getting the right diagnosis and treatment plan should be at the heart of every medical decision and employers should support this, because it ultimately leads to a happier and more productive workforce.

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1 http://www.sunlife.ca/static/canada/Sponsor/About%20Group%20Benefits/Focus%20Update/2013/Special%20Edition%20-%20Sept.%2023%20-%20%20Sun%20Life%20co-sponsors%20major%20new%20Conference%20Board%20of/MissinginAction_SUN%20LIFE_EN.pdf
2 http://www.conferenceboard.ca/press/newsrelease/13-09-23/absent_workers_cost_the_canadian_economy_billions.aspx 
3 http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/pick-choisir?lang=eng&p2=33&id=2790031#F3
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