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Missing Variables: How Exclusion of Human Resources Policy Information Confounds Research Connecting Health and Business Outcomes

Lynch, Wendy D. PhD; Sherman, Bruce W. MD

Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: January 2014 - Volume 56 - Issue 1 - p 28–34
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000068
Original Articles
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When corporate health researchers examine the effects of health on business outcomes or the effect of health interventions on health and business outcomes, results will necessarily be confounded by the corporate environment(s) in which they are studied. In this research setting, most studies control for factors traditionally identified in public health, such as demographics and health status. Nevertheless, often overlooked is the extent to which company policies can also independently impact health care cost, work attendance, and productivity outcomes. With changes in employment and benefits practices resulting from health care reform, including incentives and plan design options, consideration of these largely neglected variables in research design has become increasingly important. This commentary summarizes existing knowledge regarding the implications of policy variations in research outcomes and provides a framework for incorporating them into future employer-based research.

From Lynch Consulting, Ltd (Dr Lynch), Steamboat Springs, Colo; Altarum Institute (Dr Lynch), Ann Arbor, Mich; Employers Health Coalition, Inc (Dr Sherman), Canton, Ohio; and Department of Medicine (Dr Sherman), Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio.

Address correspondence to: Wendy D. Lynch, PhD, 3175 Belvoir Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44122 (bws@case.edu).

Employers Health Coalition, Inc (EHCI) received funding from Johnson & Johnson, Inc, for research and manuscript preparation. Wendy Lynch (Lynch Consulting, Ltd) received payment from EHCI as an independent contractor for literature review and manuscript preparation. Bruce Sherman (Sherman Consulting Services) received payment from EHCI as an independent contractor for manuscript preparation while also serving as the EHCI medical director.

Dr Lynch has received speaking honoraria from multiple pharmaceutical firms, employer coalitions, and health insurance companies in the past. She is currently receiving consulting fees from Teladoc and Eliza corporations. Dr Sherman is currently a member of the speaker bureaus for Abbott, Merck, and Pfizer. He has recently participated in advisory board meetings on behalf of Novo Nordisk, Merck, Eisai, Genentech, Bayer, and Allergan. He serves on the scientific advisory board for Humana and has received research funding from Sanofi and Pfizer.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2014 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine