Overcoming Cancer Challenges: The Vital Role of Comprehensive Cancer Support

BY Katie Chambers | September 12, 2023

The average cost of medical care and drugs in the year following a cancer diagnosis is $42,000, well beyond the U.S. median income of $31,000. This can be devastating to an individual who is not only battling the physical, psychological, and emotional effects of the illness, but now also facing the daunting financial impact. How can employers help cover these costs effectively while also providing general wellness support for their team members who are suffering?

Cancer recently emerged as the top healthcare cost for employers. In fact, Accolade, which improves employee healthcare outcomes and reduces employer healthcare costs through its all-inclusive suite of physician and case management services, estimates that the treatment of cancer worldwide will cost an estimated $240 billion annually by 2030. This change — and the potential impact of 10 million missed cancer screenings — has made oncology support even more crucial. As employers look to manage this growing healthcare threat, many may consider adding a new point solution.

Some employers are already offering an integrated solution that offers employees the cancer support they need. During a recent From Day One webinar titled “Overcoming Cancer Challenges: Is Your Existing Solution the Answer?” team members from Accolade discussed how a personalized approach to healthcare can offer cancer prevention and support that improves care, cost, and outcomes.

Enhancing Cancer Prevention and Detection

Preventative care is key, notes Erin Hirshorn, VP of case management at Accolade. But it’s often delayed due to extenuating circumstances. “About 9.5 million cancer screenings were delayed as a result of COVID,” Hirshorn said. As a result, 13% of employers have seen more late-stage cancers impacting their workforce and 44% expect that higher prevalence to continue. Employers would benefit both from investing in outreach encouraging employees to get cancer screenings, and from budgeting and bracing for the potential impact of a serious diagnosis down the line.

Through Accolade’s targeted digital approach, the organization takes a holistic look at each member’s health and reminds them to get annual checkups, connecting them to its own team of in-person and virtual primary care physicians as needed. “We ensure that the patients do have that proper screening to include any sort of annual labs or age-appropriate preventative screenings aligning to evidence-based recommendations,” said April Ries, VP of clinical operations at Accolade. This also includes communications that encourage a healthy lifestyle, including advice on tackling obesity or other issues that could make someone more at-risk to cancer.

Accolade’s stratification methodology allows them to quickly identify when a member may be facing a cancer diagnosis. “Where you start your treatment journey can make a big difference,” Hirshorn said, so Accolade prioritizes matching patients with the right nursing and care team to best match their diagnosis and personal circumstances. Expert panelists are available to virtually review patients’ medical records to make sure they are getting the best, most up-to-date, and most cost-effective care.

Different Approaches for the Oncology Clinical Pathway

“A cancer diagnosis really takes someone on a journey,” noted Morgan McHugh, VP of customer sales at Accolade, who moderated the conversation. “And it’s important to be specific about where [patients] are in that pathway and make sure that you’re serving them in the way that’s most meaningful.” McHugh notes that Accolade doesn’t approach cancer from one specific point solution but takes a more holistic approach. “We refer to this as integrated cancer support, all the way from prevention to either survivorship or palliative care,” McHugh said.

Morgan McHugh, bottom right, moderated the discussion among Accolade colleagues April Ries and Erin Hirshorn (photo by From Day One)

Ries notes that Accolade helps and encourages patients to attain second opinions, since the selection of a treatment plan is a crucial – and somewhat permanent – step in the cancer journey. Accolade’s team provides anticipatory guidance on what is to come and guides patients through the array of options available.

Hirshorn notes that Accolade provides specific programs for individual cancer journeys, including a women’s health program and a high-risk maternity program. It also has behavioral health experts on board to assess how patients are managing from that perspective, and a 24/7 nursing hotline where members can ask questions about their symptoms the moment they arise.

Even after patients are cancer-free, McHugh says, Accolade continues to work with them on organizing and paying any remaining bills and ensuring they are getting the proper screenings so that they stay in remission. Should patients need end-of-life support, Accolade is there too. “It takes a very special type of person to guide somebody through that decision making,” McHugh said, “to [help] make decisions in the context of their values, and in the context of their family life.” Accolade provides consultations with both palliative care and grief specialists.

Planning, Guidance and Whole-person Care

“Cancer is an incredibly complex clinical diagnosis. And it requires a multidisciplinary approach, both from a clinical perspective, but also from an administrative perspective, a financial perspective,” McHugh said.

Accolade provides patients with in-depth support on the administrative and financial side of their diagnosis. “How does leave of absence work? How does short-term disability work? How do I use my HSA account? All that information can be overwhelming,” Hirshorn said. “So, in addition to our clinicians, we have health assistants who are experts in this and can walk people through the different ways to file for those things.” Accolade also provides services in various languages to make sure communication issues are not a barrier to healthcare access.

“It can be a very overwhelming moment, not just for that person, but for their family,” Hirshorn said. And McHugh notes that unfortunately most patients get only 10 or 15 minutes at most with an in-person clinician, even when trying to process a devastating diagnosis. Accolade supplements those appointments with oncology consultations that are on average about 40 minutes long and provide a human touch to the discussion of next steps. “These are top experts across the country at major academic institutions,” McHugh said. “To get that level of guidance and peace and calm and have someone walk you through your next steps can be game-changing for the person going through the journey, [and] also the family members involved.”

Elevating Healthcare Experiences

McHugh notes that allowing for virtual options can help increase access, especially as the U.S. faces a primary care shortage. “Supplementing your existing strategy as an employer and providing some type of virtual opportunity can increase adherence to primary care visits and screenings,” she said. This can even include at-home testing, which can be a literal and figurative lifesaver for busy parents. “You want to make sure as an employer, you’re creating a lot of opportunity for individuals to get the care that they need in the form that fits their life best,” McHugh said.

It’s not just doctors who direct a patient’s oncological journey. Hirshorn explains that Accolade has a transition care program staffed by nurses who provide support alongside case managers to make sure patients receive a steady stream of personalized care in the hospital and also understand the treatment plan for when they are discharged. Pharmacists are also incorporated into the program to provide insight into the complex medication regimens and review them with case managers.

Accolade case managers can help patients navigate some of the barriers they may face with local care, including encouraging cross-collaboration among oncologists and accessing proper insurance authorizations. They can connect them with local cancer support groups to help them build their support network beyond their family and friends, as well as clinical psychological support for the depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues that can result from the cancer journey. “We have a firm belief that we can’t change healthcare alone,” McHugh said, so Accolade also partners with other organizations to provide additional support.

Providing Personalized Care for Employees

By engaging with organizations like Accolade, employers can provide a “one-stop shop” for employee healthcare needs where they can access guidance, support, advocacy, and care from a holistic perspective. Especially when navigating a diagnosis as daunting as cancer, such consistent and personalized care from an employer-provided service can make a life-saving difference in the lives of employees and their families.

Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Accolade, for sponsoring this webinar. 

Katie Chambers is a freelance writer and award-winning communications executive with a lifelong commitment to supporting artists and advocating for inclusion. Her work has been seen in HuffPost, Honeysuckle Magazine, and several printed essay collections, among others, and she has appeared on Cheddar News, iWomanTV, and CBS New York.


Retention is the New Recruiting: Strategies to Build and Keep a High-performing Workforce

The hiring environment is on the cusp of change, with rates of decline beginning to slow down, according to monitoring done by Workday. “We might be at a kind of inflection point where hiring starts to stabilize,” said Greg Anderson, Workday’s principal product marketing manager. Anderson spoke at a From Day One webinar titled, “Retention Is the New Recruiting: Strategies to Build and Keep a High Performing Workforce.”Voluntary turnover decreased dramatically in 2023, with employees staying longer in their given roles, says Anderson. “This is driving a lot of value to their position and to the organization. But also resulting in a lot of pent-up demand, particularly from your high performers who are being asked to do more,” he said.Decreased internal mobility means companies and employees “haven’t seen some of the internal growth that they’ve been looking for,” Anderson said. This could lead employees to leave a company for another employer, but it could also be “a really great opportunity for your organization, depending on how you choose to navigate some of these challenges,” he added.“There is a lot of bottled-up employee energy, knowledge and experience in your workforce, and that’s a huge asset,” Anderson said. “This is a real opportunity to take advantage of this window and really invest in talent.”How to Make Retention the New RecruitingGreg Anderson, pictured, led the webinar with colleague Phil Willburn (company photo)The Workday platform allows employers to solve the challenge of quickly finding and matching talent to potential opportunities. Around 70-75% of job openings can be filled with internal talent, Anderson says.Phil Willburn, VP of people analytics at Workday, says tuning up your internal mobility engine is a key to turning retention into the new recruiting. “If you haven’t put any love or attention on this, especially when it comes to using automated tools, and streamlining the match, matching with skills, there’s a lot of opportunities there to make it much easier for your employees to find great opportunities and retain the best employees,” he said.Listening is also crucial, says Willburn. During the pandemic, “we were concerned about our employees’ needs, we were reaching out, we were caring for them, we were trying to see what they need to be productive,” he said. “And then after the pandemic, companies stopped listening as intently.”Employees respond well when employers listen deeply to their needs and take action to improve their on-the-job experience, says Willburn.How Workday Boosted Internal MobilityWorkday employers were looking for growth during the Great Resignation several years ago, but “they did feel like they were stuck a little bit,” Willburn said. Company leaders decided to make it easier to advance within the organization. Still, they had to address some pain points along the way.Some team members felt lost trying to navigate the promotion process and wanted more transparency and the company achieved this by posting every available role on a Workday Talent Marketplace and Career Hub that all employees could access.Some Workday employees “wanted opportunities to stretch themselves and get exposed to new things without necessarily taking a new role internally,” Willburn said. And so, in 2019 the company introduced gigs for workers to learn new skills. This was a massive pipeline for internal mobility because team members were 42% more likely to get a new role if they did a gig first.Workday's efforts to boost internal mobility resulted in a significant increase in the number of employees applying for new roles inside the company. “We’ve seen about 30% of all our roles filled by internal candidates, which is good because we did the research and found that internal hires consistently performed and ramped up faster than external hires,” Willburn said.When employees move up within the company, "that gives them that sense of growth," Willburn said. We saw a 26% increase in overall retention. If we’re making internal moves, we are keeping employees longer.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Workday, for sponsoring this webinar.Mary Pieper is a freelance writer based in Mason City, Iowa.

Mary Pieper | July 12, 2024

High-Performance Culture: Creating a Workplace Where People and Productivity Thrive

Some years ago, when Cameron Cozzens, CRO of the Arbinger Institute, met with a group of leaders at NASA, one of them described the challenges of getting human spaceflight to Mars. “He said, ‘It’s not the science that’s getting in our way. It’s the people stuff,’” Cozzens said during a recent From Day One webinar.  The issues didn’t have anything to do with the ability of the NASA team, which was composed of the best astrophysicists and engineers in the world.“What it really comes down to, and what a lot of leaders don’t get, is it’s not a performance problem, or a no communication problem or a workload problem,” said Lisa Sharapata, chief marketing officer of the Arbinger Institute. “It’s typically a culture problem.” There are many different definitions of workplace culture, but the Arbinger Institute defines it as “how people work together every day,” Sharapata said. So, when we really start to look at how you would fix these problems, how you would make these kinds of changes, we want to change how employees are approaching their work in relation to each other.”Developing Leaders Who Empower OthersThe Arbinger Institute, which provides leadership and professional development solutions that transform business culture for better performance and lasting results, has found that employees in organizations that prioritize leadership development are 4.5 times more satisfied with their culture, says Sharapata.“On the flip side, they’re also experiencing fewer negative effects,” she said. “There’s fewer staff shortages and issues with morale or communication.”Leadership development also prevents turnover, says Cozzens. “People don’t quit their jobs,” he said. “They quit their leader, they quit their boss, they quit their first line supervisor. And conversely, the more mature that employees become in the workforce, the more they understand the importance of finding a place where they feel seen and heard, and where their opinions matter.”Developing self-awareness within the leadership team and fostering a culture of collaboration where people are open and receptive to each other’s ideas “will start to enhance productivity and create less friction and stress,” Sharapata said. “It’s a mindset that’s going to create more of that outwardness rather than inwardness.”The Importance of Team Performance TrainingCameron C. Cozzens of the Arbinger Institute led the webinar (company photo)Employees who are encouraged to participate in team performance training are twice as likely than others to work for companies that saw a significant revenue increase over the past year and three times more likely to describe their company as highly adaptable in times of change, says Cozzens.Bridging the performance perception gap is a key component of team performance training. The Arbinger Institute’s research shows a gap between how employees see their own performance and behaviors and how they would rank the performance and behaviors of those on their teams.“Everybody is waking up in the morning, thinking that the problem in their organization is not with them,” he said. “The challenge is how do you invite change in these people?”“Really being aware of others’ goals, objectives, challenges, what they're trying to accomplish every day starts to impact the ultimate objectives of the organization and what you're working towards,” she said.Fostering a Culture of InclusionAn inclusive culture with a strong sense of psychological safety sparks collaboration and creativity, says Cozzens. According to the Arbinger Institute's research, 97% of employees encouraged to participate in inclusion training feel more comfortable taking on new challenges.However, when inclusion training is “calling people out, focusing on their behavior and how they should modify their behavior and telling people what to do, or having them memorize definitions of things, it’s highly ineffective.”Instead, it should be about “inviting people to participate in dialogue and getting to these authentic, real, vulnerable stories where you can really start to unpack what you're bringing to the table and understand the person next to you.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, the Arbinger Institute, for sponsoring this webinar.Mary Pieper is a freelance writer based in Mason City, Iowa.

Mary Pieper | July 10, 2024

Boosting Financial Wellness by Helping Employees Meet Their Everyday Needs

An auto repair, sick schoolkid, sudden medical or vet bill, or a home maintenance headache can wreak havoc on many employees’ budgets and stress levels. It’s not that working adults can’t manage the money they earn, but sometimes they can’t access it fast enough. When surprise expenses strike, workers on tight budgets often pay high fees to banks, credit card companies, or “payday” lenders to access quick cash for ordinary emergencies.Employers have become increasingly cognizant of workers’ financial vulnerabilities, especially as inflation has hiked prices on necessities such as gas, food, rent, and utilities. Some research indicates that as many as 72% of employees don’t have $500 in savings, says Steve Davis, national sales manager at Global Payments.But when employers offer their teams a workplace payroll benefit known as earned wage access, employees can tap up to 50% of current net earnings ahead of payday without incurring high fees, raising debt levels, or harming credit scores to address emergency expenses. Global Payments has offered employers technology and training so they may extend earned wage access as an opt-in benefit for three years.Davis spoke during a From Day One webinar and offered insights on how employer-offered earned wage access can benefit both employees and workplaces. “Waiting two weeks or more for a paycheck can cause quite a bit of financial strain,” he said. “We’re all living in an on-demand world. So why don’t we have pay on demand as well? That’s our question.”While some employees may never tap into earned wage access, its presence can offer them peace of mind against financial precarity. According to Davis, in one workplace study 60% of employees shared that financial decision-making impacts their mental health. And employers that offer benefits to reduce financial strain can help employers hire faster.“We’ve seen about twice the number of applications come in for jobs at employers that offer this type of benefit. So, it helps that employer hire faster,” Davis said. “Most employees taking advantage of the benefit are staying about 22 or more days longer. And there’s about a 49% to 50% increase in retention for individuals using it. It can create a sense of loyalty to employers (when) employees perceive that their workplace is one that genuinely cares.”Employers offering earned wage access can typically roll out the benefit in 45 to 90 days, depending on the size of their enterprise and their priorities. Global Payments’ system integrates with timekeeping, payroll, or HCM (human capital management) systems, and earned wage access technology integrates with those systems. Employees need only provide their email address and contact information to activate access to pre-payday wages.Steve Davis of Global Payments was interviewed by journalist Jane Hodges during the From Day One webinar about "Boosting Financial Wellness by Helping Employees Meet Their Everyday Needs" (photo by From Day One)About 75% of the employers using Global Payments’ earned wage access benefit extend it specifically to their hourly workers, who are often employed in fast food or retail jobs, but increasingly also manufacturing or healthcare, as well. It’s less common, but possible, to offer it to salaried workers. Davis notes that employees working in hourly roles at companies can get paid instantly for “gig economy” shifts (such as driving and delivery services), so employers offering faster pay access for hourly work can compete better against gig jobs.To use earned wage access, employees can use an app to check what funds they have earned during the current pay period and how much they are eligible to withdraw — with funds transmitted via their employer-issued payment card (a card used by many unbanked hourly workers), ACH, or direct to a particular credit card or payee. The 50% limit on net earnings is designed on industry recommended maximums, and employers can elect to reduce the amount available — or how many times employees can use the benefit in a given year. In most cases, Davis notes, it will take an employer about six months to understand its workforce’s use patterns with the product.“It’s totally free to the employer, and there’s such a demand from the employee base. And there’s competition for great employees: You’re competing with the gig economy,” Davis said. “I think probably in the next 24 months, most of your mid-market to enterprise organizations will have implemented (some form of) earned wage access offering.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Global Payments, for sponsoring this webinar.Jane Hodges is an independent journalist based in Seattle, Washington. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and The Seattle Times.

Jane Hodges | July 10, 2024