Solving the Absentee Problem

Oncidium Health Group

Oncidium Health Group is helping to strengthen businesses – and support employees – throughout Canada. “We believe that healthy and productive employees are the foundation of successful organizations,” the company explains.

By providing effective and comprehensive absence management programs, Oncidium Health Group is working to keep employees healthy and productive – and contributing to the success of numerous organizations.

The company was formed in 2003 with the merger of Assure Health Management and National Income Protection Plan. The move was a common sense response to market needs, says Derrick Hamilton, Oncidium’s Vice President of Business Development. “Really it was the increase in the rates of absenteeism and disability in corporate clients,” he explains. “They were seeing a steady increase in those numbers over the last twenty years.”

The company’s clients are diverse and operate within a wide range of industries, including the pharmaceutical sector, the call centre sector, the food manufacturing sector, the distribution sector, and the financial sector. A substantial portion of these clients are well known market leaders. “We keep our client list confidential, but 11 of the top 100 employers in Canada in 2013 are currently using our services,” Mr. Hamilton shares. Typical clients, he adds, are “progressive type companies that see the benefit of [forward thinking programs].”

The team provides a complete absence management solution from its suite of offices in Vaughan, Ontario and branch offices in Quebec and British Columbia. Services are broken down into three main areas. One, the company provides clinical occupational health services. Nurses work with employees onsite to promote healthy lifestyles and provide preventative care, medical management services, and training. Specific services include immunization clinics, CPR and first aid classes, health screenings, customized health and wellness programs, disability management and early return to work programs.

Oncidium Health Group also maintains a claims management division. This team supports employees with any number of non-occupational health problems causing a temporary absence, from injuries and illness to mental health concerns. “We have a team of physicians and nurses who work with them through that period of absence,” Mr. Hamilton reports.

The third area that the team covers is workers’ compensation. “In Canada, all provinces have mandatory workers’ compensation,” Mr. Hamilton points out, and clients benefit from the support of a company that understands the ever changing rules and regulations around this issue. Certified paralegals can assist with claims submissions, accident investigation, and due diligence training, and provide best in class representation at Board / Tribunal appeals and ongoing claim consulting.

“We are a one stop shop,” Mr. Hamilton says of the company’s comprehensive services. “We [provide] the full circle of prevention, accommodation, and claims management. It is really unique to have a company that can do all three of those.” Regardless of the specific service, Oncidium Health Group’s solutions all share the same core focus. “It is really all about employee absenteeism and human resources risk management,” Mr. Hamilton explains. “We are trying to find solutions for our clients and their employees to issues that they have been having in these areas.”

Unlike most of the competition, Oncidium takes a “purely medical approach. We are not like an HMO or a life insurance company that provides short term workers’ compensation,” Mr. Hamilton points out. “We are actually a medical company that provides medical assistance to employees that are off on disability and manages their claims through that period. This is referred to as a medical evidence approach to disability management.”

Furthermore, Oncidium Health Group boasts a complete, standardized solution for every issue. “We have standard policies for all different illnesses,” Mr. Hamilton explains. From bipolar disorder to heart disease, the company can offer a set strategy backed by experts. “We have a fixed strategy to help these individuals through this time in their life. That is another advantage that is really unique about us – the ability to handle multiple cases from all over the country in the same manner.”

The team constantly revaluates and updates its strategies and services in order to provide clients with the best possible solutions. IT is one area that the company is particularly focused on at the moment. “As your claim volume goes up, there are always significant IT concerns,” Mr. Hamilton explains. “You have to manage a large number of claims individually.” He cites the current debacle playing out in the U.S. as an excellent illustration of why a strong IT system is crucial in his industry. “Down in the States, with Obamacare, you can see some of the issues with the IT systems associated with healthcare; they can be very significant. Most of our emphasis right now is on management and making sure that every individual gets adequate individual attention – and that is really a software driven issue. So we put a lot into the development and maintenance of our software systems.”

Oncidium Health Group is also working to develop a “more comprehensive, job matching approach – looking at what restrictions an individual has and what ability the organization has to accommodate those restrictions.” This means that the company is focused on obtaining – and responding to – key information from employers and physicians. “The more detailed information we have from the companies on what their job demands analysis are, and the better information we are getting from the family doctors with respect to restrictions and limitations they have in place, the more effective we are in getting people back to reasonable work in an accelerated manner.”

The team is also focused on improving clients’ current programs by carefully analyzing their current solutions. It comes down to several key questions – “Where are the deficiencies? Where are the gaps? What is the desired state, and how do we get from the current state to the desired state?” The underlying goal is always to help clients best support their employees and increase their overall performance.

As a general rule, Oncidium’s programs put a heavy emphasis on prevention. “It is always best for a company to invest in prevention,” Mr. Hamilton says. Unfortunately, most companies are more likely to react to problems once they appear, rather than work to prevent them in the first place. “So we are really trying to encourage our clients [to invest in] the early intervention and prevention of these problems through education, better management, clinical services on site, etc.”

Indeed, Oncindium’s emphasis on prevention is in keeping with the latest federal recommendations. “The government in Canada has produced an outline of what a full blown absence management program should look like,” Mr. Hamilton reports. “It should have equal parts prevention, accommodation, and claims management.” Perhaps most importantly, “you need to make sure that people are taking the best care of themselves in the first place.”

Having an effective absence management program is more crucial now than ever, Mr. Hamilton points out. “It is something that is coming to the front burner with companies,” he says. “They are seeing the cost of the bottom line more and more with absenteeism and with health issues – particularly with the increase in mental health issues in the last 20 years.” Understanding the impact of both direct and indirect costs is key, he adds. Companies suffer profit loss on multiple levels when an employee is absent, most notably in replacement and training costs. “There is the cost of lost knowledge,” Mr. Hamilton explains. “The cost of retraining another person, the cost of actually replacing that person who is lost. So you are effectively paying a double salary for someone who might not even be as knowledgeable as your original employee. It costs you an awful lot. If you are paying an additional employee, that is right off your bottom line.”

The Oncidium team is ready to offer its support as more and more companies realize the importance of absence management. “We are expanding at a steady rate and bringing on new clients,” Mr. Hamilton reports. These new clients want to experience a minimal amount of absenteeism and turnover, he explains, because they rely on their employees for success. “And we think we are part of that success. We are part of that by taking care of your employees and helping them stay in touch with the company even when they are away from work.”

August 24, 2017, 12:56 AM EDT

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