MedCity Influencers, Employee Benefits Consumer / Employer,

A new kind of CMO: Why your company needs a chief medical officer

Companies in every industry are now hiring a chief medical officer—an executive once found only in healthcare organizations—to implement and oversee programs that optimize employee well-being.

health insurance, payers, group insurance

Prior to March 2020, any discussion of “employee healthcare” was almost exclusively limited to health insurance benefits, with the minor exception of sick days and how to minimize their abuse. The pandemic changed all that virtually overnight.

Even with their best efforts to mitigate the health risks of infections in the workplace through distancing, and mask and vaccine mandates, employers still bore an enormous impact. During a two-week period alone in late December to early January, 9 million people missed work due to a surge in Omicron cases, and the United Nations’ International Labour Organization projects the total work time lost due to the pandemic in 2022 will be the equivalent of losing 52 million full-time jobs.

As a result of this traumatic experience, company leaders are now keenly aware of how employee health and well-being directly impact their organization’s ability to produce, compete and even survive. Simply offering health insurance benefits is no longer enough. Health is very likely top of mind among employees in the new normal as the pandemic fades.

That’s why many companies are hiring a new kind of CMO—a chief medical officer—to implement and oversee programs that optimize employee well-being. A title once found only in healthcare organizations, now companies in every industry are recognizing the importance of taking a more proactive role in supporting and managing employee health. In fact, the number of job postings for CMO positions jumped nearly 20% in the first year of the pandemic as companies scrambled to implement Covid-related workplace initiatives.

But even with crush of Covid-19 mostly over, the role of the CMO is as important as ever. Here are five reasons why your organization needs to add a CMO to your leadership ranks:

  1. Employees need care. In the last two years, over 40% of adults have delayed or avoided medical care and millions more have suffered new or increased mental health issues. In short, employees need easily accessible healthcare now more than ever. By hiring CMOs to develop and deliver programs that promote and protect health and prevent diseases, companies could reach more than 157 million full-time workers in the U.S. with immediate access to care.
  2. For “systems” management. Much like a CIO looks inwardly to manage and optimize the data and information systems your company depends on, a CMO looks inwardly at the health of the human systems your company depends on. Your people are your most critical resource, your most valuable asset and also your highest cost line item. It makes sense to fortify and optimize their performance just like you would your IT systems. Keeping them in good working order is essential for business continuity and success.
  3. To set strategy. Environmental, sustainability and governance (ESG) initiatives are becoming a high priority in every organization and ensuring the health and welfare of your people plays a huge role in achieving ESG metrics. A CMO can be a valuable part of ESG strategy by helping to anticipate and plan for adverse events (like a pandemic), proactively forecast needs (like mental healthcare) and deliver appropriate services to safeguard employees on the jobsite and beyond.
  4. To meet privacy requirements. Protecting the privacy of personal health information (PHI) is essential in any situation. But if providing workplace  healthcare becomes part of the CMO’s mandate, it’s even more critical.  Meeting PHI privacy requirements such as HIPAA compliance requires good data practices and hiring trained medical administrators and/or contractors. These steps are essential to ensure employees’ PHI is protected.
  5. It’s a competitive differentiator. The hiring market is tougher than ever right now, and employees are seeking employers who care about their overall well-being. In fact, 3 out of 5 employees believe their employer has a responsibility to ensure they’re mentally well and healthy. Hiring a CMO and making wellness and prevention a top priority can be a key differentiator when it comes to meeting employees’ and prospects’ expectations, which can reduce turnover and help you attract the best talent.

In today’s global business environment where employees are under more stress than ever, ensuring their overall health and well-being is an essential business function. It’s well-known healthy employees who know their employer values them as human beings, not just as cogs in the wheel, are happier and more productive, motivated and engaged.

Hiring a CMO whose primary objective is to look after employee health is one of the best investments you can make in your most valuable business assets: your employees.

Photo: AndreyPopov, Getty Images

Andrew Morton, CEO of Bloom Health Partners, is a seasoned global technology executive with a track record of successfully building and running innovative companies. Morton was SVP Global Sales for Zodiac Interactive, a private equity held software company focused on advanced software for Tier 1 Cable and Telecom providers. He headed up Broadband TV for Entone where he launched successful operations on multiple continents. Entone was acquired by Amino Communications (LON: AMO) where he served for several years post transaction on the senior executive team, Morton co-launched global operations for Comtrend Corporation, a leader in telecom hardware and software. Earlier in his career, he held growth roles at 3Com and at IBM spinoff company Lexmark.

This post appears through the MedCity Influencers program. Anyone can publish their perspective on business and innovation in healthcare on MedCity News through MedCity Influencers. Click here to find out how.