According to the American Cancer Society, approximately one-third of all women and one-half of men in the United States will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetimes.
For many of these individuals, a cancer diagnosis will take place during their working years. This forces them to confront a difficult disease at the same time they continue working to support their families.
No doubt, a cancer diagnosis is most difficult on the individual, but that doesn’t mean others aren’t affected, including the employer.
Business Cancer Resources to Deal With Diagnosis
Businesses rely on employees to get work done, and having a key staff member sidelined by cancer creates challenges even the most collaborative teams find difficult to overcome. These pressures are often exacerbated by the fact that it’s difficult to know where to begin or what’s appropriate to discuss in the workplace.
How is sick leave handled? What rights and responsibilities does the employee have? How do both parties make the transition back to work as smooth as possible?
To address these common questions and concerns, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s parent company collaborated with Cancer and Careers, Pfizer, SEDL — an affiliate of American Institutes for Research — and the U.S. Business Leadership Network to create a free online resource called Workplace Transitions for People Touched by Cancer.
Workplace Transitions provides companies of all sizes with an innovative, tested and free resource to support a healthy and productive experience when an employee is facing cancer.
Packed with easy-to-understand information, the web-enabled toolkit provides managers and human resources staff with actionable guidance that complements existing company policies and procedures. The e-toolkit also provides employers with further awareness on the law regarding employees with disabilities. Oftentimes, employers don’t realize that an employee diagnosed with cancer is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
To this end, Workplace Transitions provides managers with important information and resources on topics such as privacy, disability, medical leave and insurance. They also offer practical ideas for workplace adjustments and accommodations, such as moving the printer closer to the person’s desk, offering to provide a mini-fridge to store medicines or allowing them to work from home.
For coworkers, the toolkit contains real-world advice they can use to constructively offer help, as well as suggestions for what’s truly comforting and what not to say to someone working through a cancer diagnosis.
Workplace Transitions launched in 2015 after a pilot with Anthem, Ernst Young LLP, Merck, North American Mission Board, Northrop Grumman and Verizon. Reactions to the program were positive, with the majority of managers who accessed the e-toolkit reporting that it’s easy to use and helpful, especially when providing their employees with needed emotional support and the guidance to create a positive environment for their employees.
Additional Resources for Patients, Caregivers and Health Professionals
Outside of the workplace, a cancer diagnosis prompts a different set of challenges and questions, few of which are broadly considered prior to diagnosis. It’s easy for appointment dates and treatment plan details to get lost among questions, worries and an overwhelming influx of medical information.
To help patients, caregivers and medical professionals collect their thoughts and guide conversations, several free tools are available at www.freecancerresources.com, including:
- Let’s Talk Treatment Options – Developed with the Cancer Support Community and Genentech, the Let’s Talk Treatment Options website helps individuals make sense of their feelings and identify what topics and questions they should discuss with their doctor to find the cancer treatment that’s right for their personal situation.
- Mobile Apps – Self-Care During Cancer Treatment helps patients assess their symptoms and prompts them when it may be time to contact their doctor. My Care Plan helps cancer survivors summarize their past treatments, plan for future care and provide an overview of what they can expect moving forward. Both apps are available for Apple and Android devices.
- Help for Cancer Caregivers Those who take care of others often do so by putting the needs of their friends and loved ones ahead of their own, even to the detriment of their own personal health. To remedy this, Help for Cancer Caregivers walks caregivers through a brief survey and provides personalized information to help monitor, track and manage the personal health challenges a person may face as result of their caregiver role.
- Journey Forward – Designed for doctors and nurses, Journey Forward is an online suite of tools used to help cancer survivors and their care teams communicate to share data and develop ongoing care plans.
It’s true that mobile apps and web tools will not cure cancer or even eliminate the stress and confusion that goes along with treatment. That said, these resources are a great place to start, providing valuable information and question prompts that may help patients feel more confident and engaged in their treatment.
All the cancer resources discussed above, including Workplace Transitions, can be found at www.freecancerresources.com. The information is entirely free and not specific to any individual type of insurance plan or cancer scenario. Please share this website broadly and consider incorporating it into your workplace wellness planning so your business can be ready for that unfortunate-but-likely day when cancer touches the workplace.
As President and General Manager of Anthem BCBS in the Wisconsin market, Paul Nobile is dedicated to working with providers, employers and brokers to bring health care solutions to the local market. He is a 20-year veteran of the insurance industry with much of that time spent in Sales and Account Management leadership roles.