From the April 2006 issue of Entrepreneur

You've got a great benefits package, including health insurance, a wellness program, and an employee assistance program, or EAP. You can improve it by integrating these benefits to keep your employees healthier and more productive--and save you money.

The idea, says Sean Fogarty, vice president of sales and marketing for VMC Behavioral Healthcare Services in Chicago, is to break the cycle of co-morbidity, which is when a person has one or more ailments on top of a primary disease or disorder, particularly when the additional conditions develop from the first. An example is when obesity leads to diabetes and heart disease: Deal with the obesity early, and the diabetes, heart disease and any resulting complications may be prevented.

According to John Maynard, CEO of the International EAP Association, there is a clear trend among EAPs to provide integrated benefits. Says Maynard, "We are trying to educate the EAP community and the purchasers of EAPs about the value of this kind of integration."

Ask your EAP provider if it offers an integrated suite of EAP, wellness and disease-management benefits, and how that integration is handled. Counselors should be cross-trained to make effective referrals. The result will be increased productivity, reduced time off due to illness, and fewer health insurance claims.

Jacquelyn Lynn is a freelance business writer in Orlando, Florida.