The best occupational health care in the world is a €24 billion issue for Finland
Finnish occupational health care has been built up over the years by employers and employees, who also finance it almost entirely (employers about 80%, employees 20%). Occupational health care covers more than 1.9 million Finns of working age, whose health and fitness for work are crucial to the success of Finland as a whole, to its competitiveness and to the maintenance of a welfare society. Occupational health is an absolutely central part of our health care system; in addition to its specific role in balancing the growing burden of public health care, it does so in an internationally unique way and with excellent results.
Maintaining work ability is one of the core tasks of occupational health. On average, a worker's sick day costs society €370 and this amount is rising as the dependency ratio deteriorates and the burden of maintaining the welfare state falls on a dwindling number of working-age people. Today, the total cost of lost labour is around €24 billion a year.
Work capacity = prevention + health care together
Occupational health combines preventive measures to support workers and organisations with effective disease management processes. Occupational health generates a wealth of information, both medical and organisational, which can be processed to identify, anticipate and intervene in work-related risks on the basis of risk. Occupational health professionals literally create health from knowledge. Alongside prevention, effective disease management processes ensure that patients have rapid access to treatment, efficient and consistent care pathways and return to work as quickly as possible. At Terveystalo, more than 10,000 professionals from different medical specialties work alongside occupational health specialists, which means that multidisciplinary cooperation shines and customers do not get bounced around.
Examples of a seamless chain of preventive work and disease management are the models built around mental health support or musculoskeletal disorders. Our analysis based on extensive data shows that sickness absence due to mental health issues was reduced by more than 40% when employees received low-threshold support and access to brief psychotherapy as part of their occupational health. Rapid rehabilitation after musculoskeletal accidents and operations is achieved through a seamless chain of care from first appointment to rehabilitation, and return to work is supported by applied work models implemented in partnership between occupational health professionals and the organisation. The worker is supported at every stage and the circle that started with a challenge is closed. Even in simpler sickness appointments, occupational health has been a pioneer in bringing more streamlined practices to its clients: last year, a third of occupational health appointments were conducted through remote channels, saving everyone time.
Occupational health responds to the changing world of work and needs more effort
One of the clearest indicators of health is the ability to work. The importance of work for health is also increasingly recognised. The world of work is changing and occupational health is changing with it: hybrid work, digitalisation, social and economic uncertainty, ageing and the diversity of work communities are just some examples. At the same time, the role and responsibility of occupational health at the interface between work communities and health is growing. Businesses, employees, occupational health providers and, for example, occupational pension providers have a converging interest in improving work capacity.
Occupational health is already an excellent part of health care and should be given even more attention in the coming years. At Terveystalo, we are constantly investing in better ways to support the health of Finns and are ready to take on increasing responsibility, especially for the working-age population, alongside public health care. The 24 billion cost of lost working days every year can be reduced by investing more in occupational health in a way that benefits employees, employers and society. These investments matter when we consider Finland's and Finns' competitiveness, well-being and ability to create new things. Prosperity will continue to need its creators.
Ville Iho is the CEO of Terveystalo, a company that is driven by ambitious goals and extremely tough professionals around him. In his spare time, his goal is to be the best grandfather in the world in time.
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