Healthcare Literacy – What Most People Don’t Understand

Health Literacy is defined as “the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions”. However, over 88% of Americans are not actually “health literate”. That means that nearly 9 out of 10 adults lack the skills needed to manage their healthcare. Further, the average patient reads at about a 5th grade level when it comes to healthcare. And unfortunately, the medical field and health insurance is only growing more complex.

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How to Explain Health Literacy to Employees and Co-Workers

Every year during open enrollment meetings, you have the “pleasure” of standing up in front of your employees and delivering the news that their health insurance premiums are rising again, so in effect, they are getting a salary decrease. They are going to hurl questions at you, (if you’re lucky) or throw things at you, (if you aren’t) and both you and they feel helpless to do much about it. What if we could write a different narrative – one where your employees understood why their healthcare premiums keep rising and actions they could take to help control that upward spiral? The reward to you is lower healthcare costs and appreciative employees, the reward to them is simply, better health.

Here are 5 ways to improve your employees’ healthcare literacy that will help them to control costs.

  1. Use the appropriate level of care. Since your employees are the only ones who can decide when to enter the healthcare system, it is important for them to understand what type of care is available, so that they can make the best decision for their situation. When making this decision, they should consider both cost as well as the level of care required to adequately treat their condition. It is the only way to ensure that they are getting the right kind of care so that they receive the best care for the best price.
  2. Use an in-network provider and facility whenever possible (which is most of the time). In network refers to providers or health care facilities that are part of a health plan’s network of providers with which it has negotiated a discount. Your employees should be encouraged to create an online account with their insurance carrier. Once they are logged in, they can use their carrier’s provider search tool to find an in-network provider.
  3. Use price comparison tools for both medical and pharmaceuticals. Costs for office visits, procedures and tests can vary greatly from one doctor to the next as can prescriptions vary from one pharmacy to the next. Your employees should learn how to shop for affordable care and they can save hundreds or thousands of dollars while making informed decisions about their healthcare.
  4. Get a second opinion when a diagnosis is made and a treatment plan is suggested. Your employees should learn how and when to get a second opinion to avoid unnecessary care. A second opinion can help your employees:
  • Ensure their diagnosis is correct
  • Select a treatment plan that is best for them
  • Learn about clinical trials
  • Understand their condition better
  • Get answers to their questions
  • Become an informed, active partner in their healthcare
  • Find peace of mind
  1. Use a bill review and negotiation service. There can be a large disparity in the cost of services, so your employees should learn how to review their bills for accuracy and how to negotiate a lower rate. One way to negotiate rates is to ask for the cash price.

Getting your employees to take these actions requires a shift in behavior. The most important factor to achieve behavior change success is that leadership must be completely onboard. Help your C-suite realize the impact on the organization of their employees learning how to get the best care possible for the best price. How much does it cost the organization if the top sales performer is out for an unnecessary surgery? You may also need to help your employees realize how becoming a savvy healthcare consumer impacts not only their family’s pocketbook, but more importantly, their health. When your employee finds out that their child’s surgery didn’t happen because they got a second opinion, that “avoided surgery story” will permeate throughout the company and sway others to do the same.

If you wish to learn more about health literacy options that will not only save your organization money but save you time, check out our healthcare literacy guide. This 10-minute read will give you many tips to avoid overpayment for medical services and improper care. Bringing these solutions to your management team will make you a Human Resource’s Superstar in their eyes.

Overcoming Language Barriers in Workplace Healthcare (and improve employee engagement)

One of the most common issues that we encounter in workplace benefits is the language barrier. When it comes to healthcare, the simple truth is that benefits must be communicated successfully. Between your health plan itself, to new cost-savings benefits that you’ve added (tele-health anyone?), you must be prepared to educate your employees about them or face abysmal utilization.

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Getting a Fair Price Shouldn’t Be a Struggle

I’m a 50 year old woman (or at least somewhere near 50) who needs to get a routine bone density scan.  My doctor suggested it as part of my preventive care routine, and I heard it was painless and easy so I consented.  No big deal to schedule, my doctor told me, her office would make the appointment.

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