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March 11, 2013

Care Transparency – What Employers Are Missing!

Summary:

Employers can help create care transparency by offering Treatment Selection and Shared Decision Support tools. Employers can significantly improve the quality of care consumed by their employees and reduce health care costs by focusing on creating care transparency.

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Employers are trying hard to reduce health care costs and create a healthier, more-productive workforce. They have tried to optimize employee usage of services offered by their health plans and invested in wellness programs. They are now beginning to consider (or have implemented) cost transparency tools and second opinion and telemedicine services.

All these approaches are right!

What employers are missing is an understanding of how employees are making health care decisions and how that impacts their health care costs.

A large population of health care consumers are starting with a search engine to find health care information online. In the past year, 72% of U.S internet users have gone online specifically for health related information, and 77% of them begin their research at a search engine.1

And age has nothing to do with it!

Of those who seek health information online, 73% are 50 years of age or older.

At the same time, many doctors are urging patients to not rely so much on Google for health research. Doctors lament that they often have to correct misinformation or incorrect conclusions after patients do health research online.2

Even when employees go to a reputable site such as WebMD or a health plan’s member portal, they end up with a laundry list of treatment options. Try running a search for back pain — you will end up with more than two dozen treatment options. Health care consumers don’t know what is effective, appropriate or necessary, so most follow recommendations from friends or family or go through trial and error based on what they read online. Here are a few treatment decisions for back pain:

  • Buy a heating pad
  • Buy a muscle relaxant
  • Buy over-the-counter drugs
  • Go to the chiropractor (the one Uncle Bob recommended)
  • Go get massage therapy
  • Do yoga
  • Go to a doctor
  • Go to an orthopedic specialist (because your friend swears by it)

You get the point.

Each wrong treatment decision costs employers money — $235 per treatment decision, to be specific.3

Multiply that by the number of employees in your organization (and their dependents) and number of treatment decisions they make.

This is a huge avoidable cost.

Phone consultation services such as care/disease management or health advocacy are not going to stop employees from going online for help. It doesn’t make sense for employees to be calling someone every time they have a question regarding their health issues.

Employers also need to meet employees where they are — online. Employers need to provide them with tools that can help their research and decision making process with robust, accurate, unbiased and evidence-based information.

Employers can help create care transparency by offering Treatment Selection and Shared Decision Support tools. Employers can significantly improve the quality of care consumed by their employees and reduce health care costs by focusing on creating care transparency.

In my next article, I will write about the types of tools that will be effective in supporting employee decisions and the type of tools that employees will really use in making care/treatment decisions.

Sources:

1 77 Percent Of Online Health Seekers Start At Search Engines [Pew Study]

2 Doctors Warn Against Relying Too Much On Google

3 WiserTogether, Inc research

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