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Managing Cancer at Work: Johns Hopkins Launches New Service for All Employees - 05/12/2015

Managing Cancer at Work: Johns Hopkins Launches New Service for All Employees

Pilot program designed as a model for corporations and nonprofits nationwide
Release Date: May 12, 2015
Johns Hopkins Medicine has created and launched Managing Cancer at Work, a new and novel health benefit program offered free of charge for its more than 42,000 combined full-time equivalent employees. Developed by a team of Johns Hopkins Medicine staff members, several of whom are also cancer survivors, the program is designed to aid employees who are at risk for cancer, have cancer, or are caring for someone with the disease. It offers information and guidance as well to supervisors about supporting workers who are managing employees with the disease.
Currently being piloted at Johns Hopkins and at Pitney Bowes (Stamford, Connecticut), the major goal is cancer prevention, and the program is rich in educational and practical tools for all employees to reduce their risk of getting cancer, and to diagnose it early when it is more likely to be curable.  For those who get cancer, Managing Cancer at Work offers personalized nurse “navigation” of cancer services and care, with Web-based education and information for employees and supervisors. All employee interactions with the program are confidential, and designed to support the employee and employer during a cancer episode.
Johns Hopkins officials note that one in two men and one in three women will face cancer in their lifetimes; for millions, it disrupts not only their personal lives but also their work lives.
Frequently, employees are concerned about revealing cancer status or struggle with work and treatment schedules.
“People with cancer and cancer caregivers often use significant amounts of sick time and vacation time, which can be difficult for them and for supervisors to manage,” said Patricia M.C. Brown, Johns Hopkins senior vice president for managed care and population health. “This program helps both the employee and manager handle work needs as productively and efficiently as possible while compassionately reacting to personal and health needs of the employee,” she said.
All Johns Hopkins employees received the program free of charge in their 2015 benefits package, and Johns Hopkins also is marketing the program. Pitney Bowes joined the pilot program in October 2014 and currently has 10,000 employees with access to the program in sites across the United States. "My goal is to connect all employees and managers with these experts. Employees are accessing the web-based information as well as connecting with the nurse navigator. The praise and 'thank yous' we've already gotten from employees who have connected with the nurse navigator prove that this is a high-value program," says Mary Bradley, director of health-plan strategy at the Pitney Bowes offices in Shelton, Connecticut.
While cancer affects about 1-2 percent of the working population each year, it accounts for 10-15 percent of health care costs for employers annually. Later retirements make it more likely that employers will bear the cost of cancer treatment for their employees. This cost includes not only the direct health care costs, but the additional expense of lost time, presenteeism (when an employee is at work but spending time, for instance, searching the Internet for information) and disability expenses. Caring for a loved one with cancer is a tremendous burden on the workforce as well.
According to Terry Langbaum, chief administrative officer of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, and one of the program’s lead developers, “Managing Cancer at Work has been designed as a low-cost, high-impact employee benefit program that enables organizations to help their employees prevent cancer, recognize the early warning signs of the disease, and understand and manage cancer treatment. This approach keeps employees informed, engaged, and feeling supported during difficult times.”
Better cancer management for employees is good business
Langbaum and colleague Lillie Shockney pioneered the program’s development following personal and professional experiences with cancer in the workplace. Langbaum recognized that employees who could work during treatment often do not, due to a lack of workplace support. Issues range from understanding existing benefits and communicating with co-workers to finding alternate working arrangements that allow for more time at home while undergoing therapy or caring for someone in treatment. 
“We are changing the way people think about coping with cancer,” said Shockney, two-time cancer survivor, director of cancer survivorship programs at the Kimmel Cancer Center, and administrative director of the Johns Hopkins Breast Center. “Employers and employees don’t need to be at odds with each other, but it takes a thoughtful approach and new ways of approaching work. Successful work-life transitions happen when both sides cooperate and have new resources to draw upon,” she added. 
Managing Cancer at Work offers: 
• Web based portal for employees, with individualized tools on cancer screening, cancer prevention and early detection, managing work and a cancer diagnosis, and in-depth information to learn what to expect from treatment and survivorship
• Support and education for those caring for a loved one with cancer while working
• Johns Hopkins cancer nurse navigator to guide employees
• Supervisor’s and manager’s portal and toolkit for creating a supportive environment and to assure a workplace that is compliant with the law and human resources policies and procedures
• An online cancer educational program developed by the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center with links to community based support services for cancer patients
Johns Hopkins Managing Cancer at Work was developed in collaboration with Blue Rush, a digital solutions company based in Canada.