3 Tips to Help Empower Employees to be Health-wise Consumers

With many businesses overhauling their health programs as the Affordable Care Act rolls out, it’s more important than ever for employers to help employees navigate an increasingly complex healthcare landscape. According to the Altarum Institute, Americans spend more time researching car purchases and new appliances than they do choosing doctors and health plans. Employers can help change this by encouraging employees to take an assertive and educated approach when it comes to their own health. Promoting a healthy work environment can help alleviate costs for everyone involved, so consider the following three tips to empower your employees to be educated healthcare consumers.

Encourage sharing experiences. Consumers are interested in hearing other people’s experiences when it comes to healthcare. HSC Research found that over half of all consumers relied on word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and relatives when selecting new primary care physicians. There isn’t a one-size-fits all approach when it comes to healthcare. So by sharing success stories, employees can use that feedback to make choices that are right for them. If you want to keep your experiences private, consider sharing reviews on sites that allow you to leave feedback anonymously like HealthGrades.com or RateMD.com.

Educate, emphasize and evaluate. With more than half of Americans not confident that shopping around would reduce the cost of healthcare and 72 percent worried about its rising costs, employers should help their staff understand their options. Additionally, according to the American Institute of Preventitive Medicine, the average cost of a visit to the doctor is estimated at nearly $199. Meanwhile, a visit to the ER costs about $922, and about 25 percent of those visits may be unnecessary, so emphasizing the value of routine check-ups is essential. Handy pocket-size medical info cards to record medical history, test results, dates of doctor’s visits, immunizations, etc., can help consumers stay up-to-date with routine check-ups. Proactively shopping around for providers can help people identify high-quality preventative healthcare and ultimately save you money. When all is said and done, employees should evaluate their care on a regular basis to make sure their needs are met. Those who find their care is not hitting the mark should consider finding a new doctor or provider.

Provide helpful resources. According to a 2012 Health Affairs study, many patients hesitate to ask questions of their doctors for fear of being labeled “difficult.” Consider sharing tools and resources that will help your employees advocate for themselves while at the doctor. This will help improve their experience and create transparent conversations with their healthcare providers about the cost of care. Additionally, encourage employees to make a list of questions or concerns to address prior to their appointment. Physically writing questions down can help retain memory but also ensure that everything is addressed all at once, during the appointment. Employers can also consider providing medical self-care publications and workshops, a nurse advice line, and other online resources. A study in the 2011 issue of American Journal of Health Promotion found that a workplace program designed to teach employees to act more like consumers when they make healthcare decisions also improved exercise, diet and other health habits.

While there are many new approaches and tools to encourage heath-wise choices, education plays a central role in its effectiveness. Simple cost-effective solutions like those above can not only educate employees on their healthcare options but also improve wellness across the office.