Life Sciences

Employer medical director focuses on wellness, dollars saved, productivity

Medicare & Reimbursement Advisor Weekly, October 9, 2009

Larry Catlett, MD, who serves as medical director for Cianbro, one of the East Coast’s largest civil and heavy industrial construction companies (2,500 employees), has in recent years shifted focus to wellness initiatives by trying to convince his employer clients to pay $18 for a preventive wellness program per employee versus $1,000 in sick time. Catlett has also focused on studying the costs of unhealthy risks and pain on the job and their potential effect on employers. His company’s work is influencing other employers, and the data gained from these studies may be useful as insurers, states, and the federal government look to apply best practices to health policy. “We look at dollars saved or not spent,” Catlett says. His private company, Occupational Medical Consulting, has sent data for each Cianbro employee to the company’s insurer, CIGNA, about the cost risks of overweight, high blood pressure, depression, and stress, and how these conditions lead to unproductive work. Employees have been placed into categories; five or more risks land them in the highest cost-risk grouping. Interventions take place on-site to help employees manage or reduce risky behavior. The goal is to reduce the number of high and medium cost-risk employees and work with employees who are at risk for unnecessary overutilization of medical services, tests, and prescriptions. “I hope this program will start to give employers cost data that they can use to meet their goals.”

Educational interests

Managed markets focused on the employer segment can learn from Catlett’s focus on wellness and prevention, and on how medical directors in his position acquire knowledge for medical decisions and influence. Catlett’s preferred resources include:

  • Top resource: American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
  • Meetings: New England College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine annual meeting
  • Publications: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
  • Wellness resources: Major interest area/focus
  • Wellness Councils of America (welcoa.org)
  • Web: Reputable sites only (such as JNC 7 for hypertension guidelines)