PROWESS Problem Definition

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Ergonomic and health concerns in the workplace create significant costs for employers. The addition of onsite health centers in many workplaces has helped to mitigate some of these issues. However, many employees do not proactively reach out to onsite health centers about health concerns. In order to empower both employees and health centers, an effortless means of collecting and accessing key health information is needed. Some of the major workplace health issues this system should address are ergonomics, contagious diseases, and chronic condition management.

Ergonomic Concerns in the Workplace With steadily rising healthcare costs and a high prevalence of chronic health conditions among Americans, it is critical that a paradigm shift occur among healthcare consumers. Most chronic conditions can be attenuated by identifying risk factors early on. Through lifestyle changes and effective preventive care, many healthcare consumers have been able to circumvent high healthcare costs. However, this is only possible if the patient has timely information that is pertinent to his or her background, lifestyle, and current health status.

One example of a potentially costly chronic condition that can, in some cases, be prevented by lifestyle changes is chronic back pain. It is estimated that 80 – 90% of Americans experience some sort of serious back pain. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a division of the National Institutes of Health, many instances of back pain can be prevented by reducing behavior that causes back fatigue and discomfort.

Contagion in the Workplace Throughout the average workday, each employee within a company comes in contact with several other workers. This frequent contact, along with shared equipment and meeting spaces, creates an environment in which contagious diseases can spread rather quickly in the workplace.

Although all infectious diseases pose health concerns, influenza is often a major concern to public health officials in the United States, and occasionally, strains of this disease develop which have the potential to cause a pandemic. H1N1 is one such strain. Since studies have found that the average amount of work missed for cases of influenza is 3.5 – 5.9 days. This loss in productivity can have serious effects on an employer and necessitates an effective way to identify employees who may be in the contagious-stage of an infectious disease such as influenza and encourage these employees to seek medical advice and help in the onsite health center.

Chronic Conditions among the Workforce

Several public health, behavioral, and genetic factors have led to a shift from acute to chronic conditions as the major health concerns in developing countries. Although very few cures for chronic diseases are available, these conditions can be contained through a continuum of care in which the patient is at the center. The employee base of companies who have onsite health centers is no exception to this concept. In order to minimize insurance costs associated with chronic conditions, it is necessary that effective monitoring mechanisms be instituted to provide employees with information about their health while they work. An efficient method for creating a partnership between the onsite health center and the employees is also critical.