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Empowering Occupational Health professionals through digital technology

By Rachel Rowe SiSU

Published 12 September 2023

SiSU Health Station

In late July, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced they are looking at plans to widen access to health support in the workplace. Employers will be encouraged to take up Occupational Health offers to help employees access vital mental and physical health support at work. But how do we scale quickly and provide occupational health services that are affordable, particularly for the smaller and medium organisations? Traditional occupational health services often face challenges in reaching a large number of employees due to logistical constraints and costs. 

It was announced in June that Digital NHS Health Checks (free for those eligible over 40 years old), will be rolled out from next Spring to alleviate the pressure on GP surgeries. The initiative will deliver one million checks in the first four years, according to the DHSC. Tens of thousands of cases of hypertension are expected to be identified and hundreds of strokes and heart attacks prevented with patients accessing the health check via digital means. A great example of how innovative technologies can be rolled out at scale and can transform the healthcare system in the UK.

When will this technology be available to utilise in the workforce? Technology that gives you detailed real-time data and insights on the health of your workforce, facilitating early intervention of those who might become unfit for work is already available today. 

Leading companies such as Aldi and Currys have been early adopters of self-service health check technology in their workplaces.

SiSU Health Station
SiSU Health Station

SiSU Health Stations have empowered the Health and Wellbeing Teams with detailed insight into their workforce health, well-being and the productivity impacts over time.

This technology offers cost effectiveness and increased efficiency when compared to traditional people-embedded service. By digitising various aspects of health monitoring and data collection, Occupational Health Teams can optimise resource allocation, and offer more personalised services to a larger employee base. The data collected can be used to target and tailor wellness programs enhancing the effectiveness of these initiatives with ongoing, accurate measurement of impact. 

The increased accessibility, real-time monitoring, data driven insights and personalised user experiences, can empower occupational health practitioners to transform employee health and wellbeing propositions at scale. Embracing such digital solutions not only benefits the individual employees but enables employers to monitor health at scale whilst reducing costs and enhancing productivity and wider society benefits in the long run.  

The data produced by these digital solutions is both accurate (measured by a medical device and not self-reported) and incredibly powerful. For example, did you know that employees in Transportation have the highest number of health risks (and the highest levels of smoking). Transportation also has the highest proportion of employees living in deprived areas. However, we also see the greatest improvement in BMI risk in Transportation when platforms such as SiSU health are implemented.  (Source).

With NHS services stretched to their limits, employers are needing to re-consider their role in supporting the health of their employees.  But to truly scale and be fully inclusive, these solutions also need to flex to the different needs of individuals and to the new hybrid ways of working and therefore cannot only be available in the physical workplace or just via apps. Solutions need to exist in places where people live their daily lives – supermarkets, pharmacies, leisure centres, libraries. 

Local authorities such as Luton Borough Council and Buckinghamshire Council are already being proactive in adopting digital health check technology for their communities. Working together with workplaces, the promotion of self-service health checks in the community, can not only positively impact the health of workforces but also the wider community in improving longer term health and addressing health inequalities.

SiSU analysed millions of data points from their UK health checks to better understand the issues around health inequalities. 

The results highlighted that 74% of people who completed a health check, had not had their blood pressure measured in the last 12 months, but in males who recognised as being of mixed ethnicity, it was over 80%.  Put another way and more concerning, 62% of people who measured a blood pressure risk, had not recently measured it and so were likely unaware.  Users identifying as Black, reported the highest levels of BMI and blood pressure risk with the prevalence of people with BMI obesity (BMI 30+) strongly aligned to their deprivation.

Regarding the potential impact on health literacy and motivation to improve health, 35% of people reported not being aware of the health risks identified by the health check and that rose to over 50% for Asian people. Over 70% of people who completed a health check reported they were motivated to make positive changes to improve their health because of the check and that rose to over 90% in those identifying as black. Demonstrating the real power and impact of these highly accessible, scalable solutions for everyone. 

Testimonials from that cohort are formidable:
Now l am more aware that if I do not keep my weight and BP in check, I might suffer stroke and heart diseases.”

However, these platforms not only come with the ability to identify and support health risks, but also to integrate and signpost people to the most appropriate health service for them, according to their level of risk and the services available. For example, by directing people with high blood pressure, high perceived stress, high BMI, smoking, alcohol risk etc. to an onward service, whether that be an occupational health service, pharmacy, partner or an NHS service.  

In the rapidly evolving landscape of healthcare, the integration of technology has proven a powerful force for change. The realm of occupational health services is no exception as digital health checks emerge as transformative tools to drive cost-effective scaling, promoting employee wellbeing and addressing health inequalities .

Christina Gleeson, Public Health Manager at Luton Borough Council and says “Working with SiSU Health has enabled localised, tailored opportunistic health screening aiming to tackle modifiable health risk among some of our poorest and marginalised communities in the town. The high proportion of the calls to action identified has enabled greater support to be provided by our local integrated wellbeing service already tackling health inequalities faced by such communities.”

Health inequalities arising from poor access and poor engagement with healthcare services result in low health literacy and preventable health risks. This results in a cost to business and to the NHS.  It costs the NHS c.£4.8 billion each year for the greater use of hospitals by people in deprived areas (source).  This is because those living in more socio-economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods and minority ethnic groups have higher rates of hypertension, diabetes, asthma, COPD heart disease, liver disease, renal disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity and smoking.

SiSU analysed millions of data points from their UK health checks to better understand the issues around health inequalities. 

The results highlighted that 74% of people who completed a health check, had not had their blood pressure measured in the last 12 months, but in males who recognised as being of mixed ethnicity, it was over 80%.  Put another way and more concerning, 62% of people who measured a blood pressure risk, had not recently measured it and so were likely unaware.  Users identifying as Black, reported the highest levels of BMI and blood pressure risk with the prevalence of people with BMI obesity (BMI 30+) strongly aligned to their deprivation.

Regarding the potential impact on health literacy and motivation to improve health, 35% of people reported not being aware of the health risks identified by the health check and that rose to over 50% for Asian people. Over 70% of people who completed a health check reported they were motivated to make positive changes to improve their health because of the check and that rose to over 90% in those identifying as black. Demonstrating the real power and impact of these highly accessible, scalable solutions for everyone. 

Testimonials from that cohort are formidable:
Now l am more aware that if I do not keep my weight and BP in check, I might suffer stroke and heart diseases.”

However, these platforms not only come with the ability to identify and support health risks, but also to integrate and signpost people to the most appropriate health service for them, according to their level of risk and the services available. For example, by directing people with high blood pressure, high perceived stress, high BMI, smoking, alcohol risk etc. to an onward service, whether that be an occupational health service, pharmacy, partner or an NHS service.  

In the rapidly evolving landscape of healthcare, the integration of technology has proven a powerful force for change. The realm of occupational health services is no exception as digital health checks emerge as transformative tools to drive cost-effective scaling, promoting employee wellbeing and addressing health inequalities .

SiSU Health provides highly accessible, self-service health checks, utilising a medical device (class 11a) health check machine, the SiSU Health Station. A typical health check takes about 5 minutes and includes Height, Weight, BMI, Blood Pressure (BP), BP medication and recency of check, Heart Rate, Body Fat, Smoking, CVD risk, Alcohol, Physical Activity and Perceived Stress. No supervision is needed. SiSU Health’s Mission is simple: “to help people live a healthy life”. Read the UK Health Equalities Report in full: https://www.sisuhealth.co.uk/uk-health-report

 

OH Today Spring 2023
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