Outsourced occupational health – does it really mean lower quality occupational health services for employees?

I’m delighted to feature in the latest edition of the Occupational Health at Work journal; with a new article discussing the challenges around the outsourcing of occupational health services.

Based on my personal experience of managing one of the largest outsourcing programmes of an occupational health service in the UK, this article reflects on the pros and cons of outsourcing the occupational health of an organisation. In it I have shared some of the key learnings and direct observations I’ve made during my lengthy professional career.

The role of occupational health in business is still crucial.

That was clear back in the 90s and remains the same today.

Occupational health plays a significant part in business efficiency, as service disruption threatens business continuity; principally by loss of staff engagement and a failure to manage absence and staff retention.

It is not, and should never be regarded, as a ‘nice-to-have’ extra service, because it is a vital part of the essential duty of employee care held by any employer. However, occupational health is typically perceived as a costly resource and an area that can be addressed when cost control exercises are enforced.

Risk of cost-centric occupational health procurement

I can only emphasise that the driver to outsource should not focus on keeping costs down.

Throughout the article, I argue that the potential benefits of outsourcing can be lost if not properly thought through – especially if driven almost exclusively by price.

Increasingly, I’ve noticed that in many organisations, the procurement specification of occupational health services is typically left to knowledgeable and experienced buyers of general services – but these buyers usually have no actual understanding of occupational health. Can they, therefore, make the smartest decisions about such an essential procurement?

Purchasers of OH services think they have bought one thing – an apple – but instead receive the supplier’s proffered alternative: a pear, which may still be a fruit but doesn’t always satisfy the consumer.

Feedback reported in the recent Occupational Health at Work pay and benefits survey suggests many occupational health practitioners see outsourced occupational health services quite negatively. Yet I believe, from my experience, outsourcing CAN meet the breadth and diversity of organisational needs if purchased and managed properly.

Outsourced occupational health may even improve standards if carefully considered. Here at Empactis, we understand the challenges of outsourcing and managing third party health-related suppliers and have developed innovative software solutions to support and simplify this process to deliver a quality service to manage employee wellbeing.

To learn more about my findings and recommendations about how to successfully outsource robust occupational health services and reap clear benefits, subscribers and those who choose to pay a small sum should read the full article about outsourcing occupational health and quality of services on the Occupational Health at Work journal website.