How to Empower Your Employees to Make Better Healthcare Decisions
posted by The Live Better Team | January 22, 2019
A 2018 study by Accenture found more than half of healthcare consumers in the United States have low health literacy, which means they lack the ability to make appropriate healthcare decisions, such as knowing what medical concerns are suitable for emergency rooms (and what concerns aren’t) or understanding how lifestyle choices negatively affect their health. Low health literacy increases a person’s risk of ER visits and hospitalization, poor health outcomes, higher healthcare costs and treatment noncompliance.
So why does this matter to business owners? Low health literacy costs insurers and employers in the U.S. approximately $4.8 billion each year, compared to only $1.4 billion in administrative costs for people with high health literacy. These data suggest the potential for billions in savings with an improvement in health literacy.
The following five strategies can help empower employees to approach their healthcare with more confidence and ultimately reduce healthcare spending.
The first step to an effective employee health literacy campaign is to identify what your employees don’t know about healthcare. Ask questions such as:
How often do you need help reading a medical bill?
You may also want to assess what your employees would do in hypothetical health situations. This sample assessment from Boston University’s Health Literacy Tool Shed is a good example. The Kaiser Family Health Foundation also offers an online quiz to measure health literacy in regards to insurance.
A once-per-year presentation during open enrollment is not enough to help employees confidently navigate the healthcare system. Holding regular “fireside chats”, workshops, or lunch and learns to provide an avenue for employees to ask questions and make smarter healthcare decisions. Consider inviting a benefits representative from your company’s insurance provider to discuss policy components or ways to save on out-of-pocket costs.
Remember that people learn in different ways, so it’s essential to use multiple methods to disseminate information (e.g., diagrams, written materials, Q&A sessions, video recordings, etc.)
Your employee may not be the primary health decision-maker for their family. If that is the case, the primary decision-maker may not be getting all the information they need. Methods to distribute information to the entire household include:
Although your HR team might spearhead your employee health literacy efforts, don’t be afraid to involve other departments. For example, the marketing department can help create materials to educate employees. Supervisors and managers may be able to identify individual needs within their departments (e.g., notifying HR when an employee announces a pregnancy so that they can send relevant health and benefits information to the family).
Unfortunately, most clinics (except ERs and urgent care facilities) keep regular business hours, which makes it difficult for employees to get to their primary care provider to get the care they need. Consider allowing employees to be flexible with their hours so they can attend their appointments and make up lost time later in the week. You may also choose to hold free screenings at your business on a designated day to encourage employees to prioritize preventive health.
Learn more about smart healthcare decision making at reverehealth.com/vbc.
“Health Literacy.” National Network of Libraries of Medicine.
“Improving Health Literacy to Boost Employee Wellness.” The Benefits Guide.
“Promote employee health literacy to improve wellness, productivity and your bottom line.” Associated Benefits and Risk Consulting.
“Do Your Employees Understand Their Health Insurance?” The Benefits Guide.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.