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Pulling back the curtain on health care

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Helping your employees become better health care consumers

A recent survey conducted by HealthMine* shows that 64% of health care consumers rarely (or never) compare prices before getting a procedure. And 57% say they have trouble understanding their health status and what they can do to improve it.

Health care can be intimidating, but there are some simple ways you can turn your employees into more savvy health care consumers. It’s not only good for them—it’s also good for your bottom line.

Encourage comparison shopping.

When it comes to a simple procedure like an MRI, it’s smart to shop around for the best price. Make sure your employees are aware of the consumer tools your plan provides so they can compare what providers near them charge. The quality of the MRI should be consistent across the board, so they can let the best price guide them. If they need something more complicated like surgery, cost isn’t the only differentiator. Your employees should also check provider ratings and reviews to find the highest quality care at the best price.

Help them understand what’s truly an emergency—and what isn’t.

Going to the emergency room is a lot more expensive than a regular trip to the doctor. Consider an information campaign that explains to your employees the difference between a true emergency and something that just feels like one. Let them know that if they’re having an issue at night or on the weekend, walk-in clinics and urgent care centers are a less expensive option. They’re usually faster, too, since ERs focus on the most severe cases first.

Tell them to write it down.

Many of us have a hard time remembering what our doctor tells us during a visit. Maybe it’s because we’re sitting on a cold exam table in a thin paper gown, or maybe we’re surprised by a diagnosis or recommended treatment. Suggest your employees take notes while their doctor speaks, on their smartphone or a piece of paper. This will help them process the information they’re being told, and it may also prompt them to ask important questions: Do I really need this test? Does my insurance cover it? Are there other options? When can I expect to feel better?

genericsSell the benefits of going generic.

Generic drugs have the same active ingredient(s) as their brand-name counterparts, in the same dosage form and concentration. Generics may look different—round instead of oval, blue instead of white—but they’re otherwise basically the same. Encourage your employees to ask if there’s a generic option when they get a prescription. There’s little reason to pay for a brand name when a generic is available.

Urge them to look it up and stay involved.

A lot of people only think about their health when it’s time to go to the doctor, even if they’re dealing with an ongoing health issue. But there are a lot of helpful resources to keep your employees engaged and on track between doctor visits, including expansive health information sites like Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, FamilyDoctor and your health plan’s website.

informationShare coverage information in a way that’s easy to understand.

Health insurance jargon doesn’t provide the most user-friendly reading and comprehension experience. Break down the important stuff—what your plan covers, how to find an in-network provider, copay and deductible levels—into easy-to-understand pieces so your employees can take full advantage of their benefits and feel confident they understand the basics of their coverage.

Offer on-site screenings.

The earlier your employees identify a health condition like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, the sooner they can go about treating it—and hopefully keep it from snowballing into a bigger issue. On-site screenings are a great way to get your employees up to speed on the overall condition of their health.

Helping your employees become better health care consumers today can pay off in better health and higher productivity down the road. Do it for them, and for your business.

*The HealthMine Wellness Preferences Survey was fielded by Survey Sampling International (SSI) on March 1-2, 2015. Data were collected via an opt-in panel. The margin of error is 4%.

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