#39: Is The Health Of Your Employee Team Costing Your Business Too Much Money?
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Our guests, Dr. Gregory Howard & Daniel Orrego have spent years researching health & wellness. Dr. Howard is a pharmacist with a degree from the University of Texas & is an Associate Professor at McGovern Medical School.  Daniel Orrego spent 10 years researching the intersection of metabolism & disease, with an emphasis on how functional nutrition can be used to mediate disease progression. Today, they will be discussing the health of your employees & how it could be costing your business too much money.

 

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Host: Brian Webb

Guests: Dr. Gregory Howard & Daniel Orrego

Episode 39: Is The Health Of Your Employee Team Costing Your Business Too Much Money?

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TRANSCRIPT 

Brian Webb:

Dr. Greg and Daniel, it's so great to have you guys on the show today. How are you guys doing today?

Daniel Orrego:

Good morning. Doing well.

Dr. Gregory Howard:

Indeed. Great to be here, man.

Brian Webb:

Today I know we're going to talk about health. So I told the audience earlier, Daniel, that we all know that our health is our number one asset, but I know that you agree with that. But tell our audience or expound upon just how big of a deal that is, that our health is our number one asset.

Daniel Orrego:

Sure. In fact, this is a great way, a great question for reflecting on just what is business about, right? And at the end of the day, business is about people. It doesn't matter if you're in the computer chips business. It doesn't matter if you're in the brownie and cookie business. At the end of the day, what you do, how you do it is ultimately about people, the people that you work with, and the customers that you interact with. Health is such an intrinsic and essential component for ensuring that the work that you do is not only sustainable but it can be done at optimal levels of performance. And the degree to which our mental, emotional and physical health suffers is reflected in the health of our enterprise. That's a point of departure for exploring this question, which is frankly is pretty deep once you get into it.

Brian Webb:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That totally makes sense. Dr. Howard or Daniel, either one of you, what would you say is the most innovative way to improve the health for the employees of an organization of the people that might be hearing this? Entrepreneurs, business leaders, what's the most innovative way for people to improve their health?

Dr. Gregory Howard:

In the last year, we started using continuous glucose monitors. We've known about continuous glucose monitors. A continuous glucose monitor is a wearable device that we've maybe seen on TV that diabetics wear. In the past, they've been very expensive and weren't available to a lot of people. They are a prescription product, but now that's down to about $75 a month to use one of these devices. You put it on the back of the arm. It's a wearable device. You put it on the back of the arm and it will give instant feedback to the person, the employee, whoever it is, they can see the effect of what they eat and we've even simplified it. We just give them a goal to keep their blood glucose under about a hundred, 110 continuously, even after they eat. Most people, when they eat, will spike a blood sugar to about 150 or even greater if they're eating sweets and dessert. 

Dr. Gregory Howard:

But we found that with a little bit of coaching, they can eat whatever they want or like to eat, but the goal is to eat a quantity of that. Obviously, if it's something with carbohydrates in it, they're not going to be able to eat much of it. But when they eat good, they can eat really as much as they want to satiate themselves and have a lot of energy. And then their blood glucose remains very flat and stable. And over a period of time, they become fat-burners as opposed to carb burners. What that means is some people that they rely on their energy stores for carbohydrates, as soon as their blood sugar falls a little bit low, they're hungry and they want to eat again. People that are fat burners, they rely on their own body fat as an energy supply, which is very constant. And so they're never hungry and they feel energetic throughout the day and don't have any crashes in their energy.

Brian Webb:

That's really good to know. I would imagine there's going to be a lot of people in the audience that's going to find that really insightful. I know that the more awareness that we have, the more we can modify our behaviors. Let me ask you this. Entrepreneurs, business leaders have employees. They're dealing with burnout. They're dealing with fatigue. How much of that is being impacted specifically by their health?

Daniel Orrego:

That's a good question. It's 100% on their health and it's something that a good doctor, they can actually measure what burnout and fatigue is with laboratory tests. Typically, if you want to know if someone is really fatigued, you can measure something called VO2 max testing. You may have seen that on TV, where athletes are wearing a mask and they're walking on a treadmill. That will measure two things, how much in shape they are or not in shape, and will also tell if they're burning fat or carbohydrates. And burning fat is much more efficient than burning carbohydrates. So if there's fatigue, they can go to a health and wellness doctor and they could have that test done. And so they can see if they're a fat burner or a carb burner. Then the other things, there's laboratory tests that go along with burnout and fatigue.

Daniel Orrego:

Usually burnout, the person's been under stress too long. And so when you're under stress, you release a lot of cortisol and cortisol can be measured in the blood or more specifically and accurately with a saliva test. Your cortisol should be high in the morning and then slowly decrease throughout the day. And people that are under too much stress, their cortisol builds up and it's really, really high in the evening and that's why a lot of people they want to eat excessively in the evening. The cortisol makes people want to eat.

Daniel Orrego:

Then when you're really, really burnt out, your cortisol, your body just quits producing cortisol, and then you can measure with a saliva test and your cortisol levels are flat throughout the day. And so naturally they should be high in the morning and decrease throughout the day to a low in the evening. As you progress into burnout, you'll flip that and it's low in the morning and increases throughout the day. And at the end, when you're really at the end of burnout and when you're looking to go to the doctor and you know there's really something wrong, then you're just not producing cortisol in an adequate amount throughout the day. And a doctor should be able to evaluate all that and help you fix that. That can be with prescription and non-prescription medications and supplements.

Brian Webb:

Some companies, there are companies out there who will partially insure the health care expenditures for their employees. What are your thoughts on that?

Dr. Gregory Howard:

I think it's a good idea if everyone has skin in the game and everyone's goals are aligned. So the employer, he needs healthy, energetic employees, and he should be willing to put his own money into that. Conversely, the employee, they want to lower the cost of their healthcare and so they want it to be as healthy as possible. So I think that's a real healthy relationship to when the employers and employees both have skin in the game and they all want to work in the same direction.

Brian Webb:

That makes sense. That absolutely makes sense. Talk about why a business owner or leader might hire their own doctor, their own physician as a medical advocate for them in their team. Talk about that for a minute.

Daniel Orrego:

Most companies, especially if they self-insure, they don't even audit their claims. And so they need someone that would be able to look at claims and see if the claims are appropriate and sell for a nominal fee, which would be small in relation to how much they're spending on healthcare. A physician could quickly look at the claims and see number one, are the expenses too high for a certain test or certain procedure or facility fee? And then they could also see if the patients were getting the appropriate care and if they were getting recurring care. And so a physician could do that inexpensively.

Daniel Orrego:

The self-insured company, they could be spending millions and millions of dollars on their employees' healthcare, and then that money has gone. It's just poof. Every year there's... and you start again next year. It's billions of more dollars. For a hundred thousand dollars or less, you could have a medical doctor look over these expenditures and see what's really driving the cost for your healthcare for your employees. And also probably have pretty good idea of how to set up programs that no one else has thought of. Usually, the businesses are using third-party administrators, which are businessmen, selling insurance and products, which is all good, but the employees probably don't know how to use those services adequately and a physician could help direct the employees on how to use those services.

Brian Webb:

Interesting. Do you see more and more businesses moving in that direction? It seems like a wise path to go down, but do you see this happening more and more often?

Dr. Gregory Howard:

The bigger companies have been doing this for some time. They do hire their own doctors and they have them on full-time staff. They put clinics in there. If it's a big corporation and they have a central location for many employees, they do put doctors right there as like an urgent care. And if the employees are traveling abroad, they help them with the vaccination process. It's being done in bigger businesses, but I think that in the future, it would be wise if companies would hire medical advocates, which would probably be a doctor or a nurse. Even smaller companies, the expenditure could be $50,000, $100,000, and you have a physician to ask for a year or whatever period of time to ask your questions and get answers to your questions. So I think it'd be money well spent.

Brian Webb:

Yeah, it seems clear to me. Thank you for everything you've shared today. Here's my last question for today. I know the two of you obviously we get to be working on the launch of the Hippocrates Research Foundation. And I know that a lot of what you've spoken about today is what that foundation is about. Share with the world your vision of what's being launched right now and why they should care about it.

Daniel Orrego:

So a couple of things to know about the Hippocrates Research Foundation. Firstly, our aims philanthropically are really about playing a role in helping institutions manage the intersection of employee wellness and enterprise performance. Of course, the net payoff is at a very human level in so far that when somebody is healthy, whether they're the owner of the business, whether they're a stakeholder or a shareholder in the business, whether an employee in the business, their life is improved. That improvement has a very direct correlation to the bottom line of the business. So that's where we want to help educate, advocate and facilitate business owners being able to make that connection, obviously gain an economic efficiency when it comes to health expenditure, and ultimately improve the lives of their employees.

Brian Webb:

Talk about that for a second. Educate, advocate, facilitate. Share with our audience. What does that look like for them for the world? What does that mean?

Dr. Gregory Howard:

Maybe a great anecdote for this and for those in the audience who are fans of football, specifically American football-

Brian Webb:

I'm sure we have a few.

Dr. Gregory Howard:

One of the ways I like to frame this is to look at how football teams treat their players. And I'm talking about the entire staff of players, even those on the practice squad that might not see action on a Sunday. The level of investment in their health, it can't be too high. Why? Because if a player can't play, which is the worst-case scenario, or if a player can't play to their potential, that directly affects the economic wellbeing of that football team. And so you see the investment from the owner, from the head coach, from the special team's coach, from the team doctors, they are maximally attentive of every facet of that player's health.

Dr. Gregory Howard:

Now, one might say, "Well, hold on a second. I own a company that manufactures shoelaces. Why would I treat my employees like that?" Well, the answer is you would, because it doesn't really matter what level of performance you need from your employees. If you have employees on a manufacturing line, whether it's in a hard goods processing, consumables, food processing, or you're in a high-tech business. The degree to which a person who is working can perform maximally means that that business is gaining the most important efficiencies that they can, which is the highest performance available to them.

Dr. Gregory Howard:

That can't happen. That cannot happen unless that person has a high degree of mental, emotional, and physical equilibrium and health. So that's really the point of departure for what we're doing and we want to make that... we want to broaden that conversation obviously and make it more inclusive and ultimately demonstrate how these economics really shake out in favor of all stakeholders and shareholders.

Brian Webb:

That's phenomenal. But let's still break that down a little bit more. Let's just talk about the education component. Tell me what Hippocrates, the research foundation, is going to be doing in the way of education.

Daniel Orrego:

Yeah. Dr. Howard touched on some of these things and we touched on some of the others. A good example that he brought up is the use of continuous glucose monitors. That is a phenomenal education. Why? Because that continuous glucose monitor is informing that individual literally at 10-minute intervals because that's the interval at which it samples blood sugar to assess what the glucose profile is looking at exactly how they respond to any given food or a grouping of food.

Daniel Orrego:

You're literally seeing what's happening inside your body on a moment to moment basis and gaining an understanding of what happens when you eat pizza and beer, or when you eat a lean cut of steak and some salad, or when you have a little bit of fish and some broccoli, or whether you have a piece of cheesecake. All of a sudden now, you have this understanding about how your body responds to those things, which totally changes your relationship with food and totally changes your relationship with self-accountability when it comes to having a long-term health and wellness program.

Daniel Orrego:

Just that, just that right there, that tiny slice of this whole very broad conversation is massive when it comes to education. That's not something you learn in school. It's typically not something that you learn when you go to your general practitioner and they do their once a year or twice a year physical. They're not really having that conversation with you. And the beauty of that is that you have that conversation with yourself every day. And then in partnership with your physician, now you're bringing intelligence and insight that is very informative for them. If you can pull up on your phone, "Hey, man. Here's my blood glucose data for the last 120 days." Man, the conversation there is rich, it's powerful and it's instructive.

Dr. Gregory Howard:

I'll just add. Just a simple education, so a lot of employers, they encourage and sometimes even reward their employees to go get a history and physical and lab work every year. And just with a little bit of knowledge, the patient, when they're talking to their doctor, they can ask for a few extra laboratory tests that the doctor may not have thought over. It might not be in their normal routine, but they should be there. And that would be the test, first one would be something called a hemoglobin A1C, and that checks for diabetes.

Dr. Gregory Howard:

A lot of times in a blood panel on your yearly physical, they'll just do a spot check of your glucose and that's just one point in time what your glucose was. The hemoglobin A1C that looks at an average of your blood glucose over about a four to six-week period. That's very, very indicative of health or the probability of pre-diabetes or diabetes. A lot of people were aware that diabetes is on the rise. Some people are now saying that a third of the population is pre-diabetic Type II diabetic or diabetic. That would be just a simple blood test that costs about $10 and that would tell if the person is prone to diabetes.

Dr. Gregory Howard:

The other figure that we've heard is if someone is diagnosed with diabetes, that they cost... their healthcare expenditures go up, not only for the medications to treat diabetes but the other things that go along with diabetes because diabetes can lead to other diseases like heart disease and all kinds of problems. And so the cost of a person, once they're diagnosed with diabetes, is several thousand dollars a month on the average, which is a huge number, but that's the statistic that people are giving.

Dr. Gregory Howard:

Hemoglobin A1C would be a simple blood test that may not be done. The other one would be an inflammation test. It's a non-specific inflammation test called high sensitivity CRP. Most cardiologists run that blood test. Again, it's about a $10 test and it's associated with heart disease. Pretty much I use it as a biomarker for health or there's a problem. It doesn't tell me what the problem is, but if normal people don't have much inflammation in their body and people that have any kind of disease are unhealthy, that inflammation goes up in their body.

Dr. Gregory Howard:

That's just a very simple test to see is "Am I healthy or not healthy?" It doesn't tell me what's wrong with me, but that's another simple blood test. So just a little bit of education like that when you go into your doctor. Two simple blood tests that could really mean the difference between getting the person, the employee, the healthcare they need in a timely manner or letting something go undiagnosed and then turn into a big healthcare problem and expenditure for both the employee and the employer down the road. So just that little bit of knowledge on two simple blood tests would really help a lot.

Brian Webb:

Well, thank you for sharing all of that. You dropped numerous value bombs today. I continue to learn from both of you every time I'm around you. The Hippocrates Research Foundation, tell the world, tell the audience, those that want to find you, learn more about you, or possibly get in touch, what's the best way to do that?

Daniel Orrego:

Anyone who's interested in learning more can reach Dr. Howard or myself at drhoward@hippocratesresearchfoundation.org or Daniel@hippocratesresearchfoundation.org.

Brian Webb:

And when you say Dr. Howard, is that D-R Howard or doctor spelled out Howard?

Daniel Orrego:

You got it. D-R Howard.

Brian Webb:

Perfect. Well, I'm so glad to be a small part of what you guys are doing. Thanks for being on the show today. I know that our audience is going to learn something and I just want to say thank you for the impact that you're having in the world.

Dr. Gregory Howard:

Thank you.

Daniel Orrego:

Outstanding. Thanks so much.

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