Healthcare literacy is all about being able to properly communicate with your doctor, understand what your doctor is telling you, and make an informed decision. But before you can communicate with your doctor, you need to find a good one in the first place. And to do that you need to know where to find who is covered under your medical plan. Then after you find a good doctor, you should know what questions to ask them and how to shop for medications to get the best price. Not to mention having the ability to follow treatment plans and dealing with medical bills.
I was talking to a family member recently, and she revealed that she had no idea how to go about doing price shopping and quality comparisons when it came to her medical care. I asked her if she even cared? “Of course,” she said. “I feel totally taken advantage of”. This surprised me. Being in the industry, we see pushback from people saying that their employees won’t take the time to become empowered healthcare consumers. Are they right? Do people even want to help themselves and deal with skyrocketing costs or do they see it as a no-win situation?
Your boss is asking you to help control the cost of your health plan, which is most likely your second biggest expense after payroll. Healthcare literacy is the key to improving your employees’ healthcare outcomes, ensuring quality of care and controlling costs. Now, if only your boss understood that. We will help you make the case for convincing your employer that healthcare literacy is the way of the future and a necessary component to your benefit package. Healthcare literacy will do the following 10 things for your employees:
Health Literacy is defined as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic healthcare information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions”.
Currently, only 12% of Americans are considered health literate. Consequently, many companies are recognizing the need to provide easy to use tools with comprehensible language to improve literacy. This results in healthier, lower cost outcomes.
THE IMPACT OF ILLITERACY
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, people who are considered “Healthcare Illiterate”:
Are more likely to have chronic conditions and lack the understanding to manage them
Do not use preventive care services
Experience longer hospital stays, many of which many could have been prevented altogether
Are using medications inappropriately or ineffectively
Don’t ask for help because they are feel intimidated and are self-conscious
Are less compliant in their treatment due to misunderstanding
For employers, this means higher medical claims, lower productivity, more disability claims and a higher rate of absenteeism.
HOW TO IMPROVE HEALTH LITERACY IN THE WORKPLACE
Luckily, there are ways to improve employee’s health literacy and avoid negative outcomes:
Be consistent – Use the same language when describing your health plan, costs and services
Simplify your language – Try to write the way you speak. Use short, less complex sentences
Make your communication easy to read – Use larger font, headings and bullets. Leave plenty of white space in the margins
Use pictures – Some people are more visual learners than others
Give specific instructions – Clearly tell your audience what actions you want them to take
Get rid of the jargon – Don’t assume people understand things like deductibles, co-pays or FSA’s
Treat everyone the same – Remember that most people don’t understand the healthcare system
Use peer groups – Encourage your employees to help each other with questions and concerns
Use a variety of communication methods – Some people are more technologically inclined than others, so don’t leave employees behind because they are not as computer savvy
Remember the families – Many times the healthcare decision maker is not the employee, it may be a spouse or dependent so make sure to communicate with them as often as possible
Use mobile apps – Some employees, especially the younger generation will be exclusively using their smartphone, so make it easy for them
Use their language – Make communications available in the languages that are most prevalent in your company’s culture
Establishing behavior change in your company’s workplace can be a daunting task. Remember that you’re not alone. Health Literacy is a problem for everyone, but that can be changed. If you are interested in getting more acquainted with the topic, take a look at Trig’s Health Literacy Guide. Get your employees on the path to better care and lower costs through engagement and education.
It’s no secret that misdiagnosis in the medical industry is extremely common. So common, in fact, that if you’re a member of a group health plan, someone on your plan has probably recently been wrongly diagnosed. About 12 million people are misdiagnosed each year. And this makes life much more expensive. Think about it – if you’ve gotten care for the wrong illness, your initial ailment would have gotten worse during that time, because it’s gone untreated.