How to Help Employees Handle a Cancer Diagnosis

By the end of this year, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S., with 609,640 people expected to die from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. In addition, it stands to reason that cancer in the workplace is among the toughest healthcare challenges affected employees face. According to the Northeast Business Group on Health, in fact, a cancer diagnosis ranks among the most complex workplace health issues.

“Fear is the single word we hear most often to describe people’s experience with cancer, and benefits leaders often face helping employees navigate this terrain,” says Candice Sherman, CEO of the New York City-based employer-led coalition. Sherman adds that employers equipped with a better understanding of the cancer experience can facilitate early intervention to achieve the best possible health outcomes and provide a caring experience for employees.

To that end, NEBGH now offers a free guide, Improving the Cancer Patient Experience: Putting Employees at the Center of Your Cancer Benefits Strategy, designed to help HR and benefits leaders “organize, coordinate and provide the best possible experience” for employees and family members with cancer.

“We believe this guide will help employers create a more coordinated approach to providing benefits that revolves around the employee,” Sherman explains.

Among other strategies, the NEBGH guide provides employers with ideas about how to create what it calls a “huddle”–a command-center model that coordinates employee and family medical benefits, cost-effective and high-quality care, and social and emotional support. Following its football analogy, the huddle includes multiple industry stakeholders including health plans, second opinion and care navigation services, wellness coaches, and disability managers who can provide services and support for a cancer-stricken employee or family member.

The main huddle concept is creating a collaborative approach with a high amount of communication and coordination among key “players,” reducing or eliminating confusion for employees and their families. The strategy is to determine what benefits may or may not be available. The guide also outlines how to avoid potential frustration when facing multiple contacts asking for the same data.

According to Sherman, the guide also offers a description of the clinical care aspect of a person’s cancer journey, as well as the benefits navigation and psychosocial and life-management complexities that accompany it. The guide provides sample milestones a huddle can use to determine the effectiveness of processes put in place to help ensure that optimal clinical care is received, benefits are offered and understood, and support is provided for emotional, social and life issues.

“Regardless of an employer’s size or their resources, HR and benefits leaders can take steps to reduce the amount of stress and confusion an employee dealing with cancer experiences,” Sherman says.

Avatar photo
Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at [email protected]