Tag Archives: U.S. Department of Education

3 Tips for Improving Healthcare Literacy

Today, innovative cost-containment solutions are helping employers “curb” the increasing cost of healthcare.  However, these solutions are only as good as the education tied to them.  A solution without effective education is useless and can even be costly.

Employee education has been a sticking point in the employee benefits world.  Many employers haven’t done a good job educating employees and have thus missed the boat on containing costs. According to a 2003 assessment (I know, old!) by the U.S. Department of Education, only 12% of U.S. adults have a proficient level of healthcare literacy. That is scary.

The days of educating the workforce about what they have, how much it costs and how to sign up are long gone. Stop repeating the same message year after year. The focus of your education has to be around improving the healthcare literacy of your workforce.

The good news is that there are consultants around the country creating some amazing messages. Folks like Jim Millaway, Gary Becker and Al Lewis are innovating the way benefit education is provided, helping employers reduce the cost of health insurance.

With that, let’s look at three employee education tips that can help you contain costs.

See Also: On Air Traffic Control and Health Costs

  1. Effective Education Is a Year-long Process

If your education strategy consists of nothing more than the annual open enrollment meeting, we need to talk and please keep reading! By the time your employees walk out of the meeting, they will forget 90% of what they heard; especially how to use a new cost-containment tool effectively. To ensure the new solution is a success, you have to keep the message in front of your employees all year long.

  1. Make Sure Your Message Helps You Accomplish Your Goal

Remember, your goal is to “curb” or even reduce the cost of your health insurance, so strategic education has to be a part of your long-term plan. Do not rely on the communication provided by carriers and vendors, as they are often too vague and provide information most of your employees already know (e.g. your smokers already know they should quit as their doctor has been telling them for years). To achieve your goal, you need to make sure your education aligns with the objective, improving health literacy. Focus on the kind of education that will help your employees help your medical plan save money. Strategic education is the wave of the future. Innovative solutions like Quizzify are giving employees the opportunity to become stewards of their own healthcare journey, helping both their checkbook and the bottom line of their employer.

  1. Your Message Has to Be Clear and To-the-Point

Trying to find the right avenue for educating the workforce is not easy. However, using newsletters and brochures to communicate your new cost-containment solution will not work because your employees will not read them. One way to get your message across effectively is through video. Videos only require employees to hit “play” and are short and to-the-point, and can be customized to convey the message you want.

Employees like the videos because little time and effort is wasted in watching and the employer is able to craft the message (with help) to best meet its objective. A video campaign can be a very effective way of improving the health literacy of your workforce through short, focused messages.

Crafting the right educational message is hard work and requires time and effort. But if it is done well, you will not only be happy about your new cost-containment solution, you will create a highly educated and empowered workforce that will have a positive impact on your bottom line.

Active Shooter Scenarios

Campus safety and security is a topic of increasing concern on both a personal and institutional level. On-campus shootings can no longer be viewed as singular, isolated events. The good news is that the chance of an active shooter incident taking place on campus is pretty small. However, because of the random nature of such events, all institutions need to be prepared. Planning for an active shooter threat has become an unfortunately necessary part of the framework of institutional safety and risk management best practices.

Active Shooter Defined

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, an active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms(s), and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Typically, the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims. Because active shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes, before law enforcement arrives on the scene, individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation.

Colleges and universities understand the need for emergency response plans for many different types of disasters and typically already have processes and procedures in place to address multiple types of disasters. Planning for an active shooter threat can and should be integrated into an institution’s overall emergency and disaster preparedness plans. While many of the components are similar for most natural and man-made disasters, the inclusion of an active shooter plan generates an even greater immediacy for response. There are several considerations when it comes to the development and implementation of an emergency response plan to address any threat. These include the three Ps: Prevention, Preparedness and Post-Event Management and Recovery, each of which will be discussed in greater detail below.

See Also: “Boss, Can I Carry While I’m Working?”

  • PREVENTION

Engage in Threat Assessment

Probing how threats develop can mitigate, diffuse or even eliminate a situation before it occurs. Active shooters do not develop in a vacuum. A joint study by the U.S. Department of Education, the Secret Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation concluded that individual attackers do not simply “snap” before engaging in violence; rather, they often exhibit behaviors that signal an attack is going to occur. The study recommends the use of threat assessment teams to identify and respond to students and employees.

As part of the threat identification and assessment process, an institution may elect to conduct pre-employment background checks to identify past patterns of violent behavior. While the background check process may not be a perfect indicator of future behavior, it does provide a useful mechanism for vetting a prospective employee. If triggering behavior is found, the threat assessment team can be used to evaluate the information and determine whether further action or intervention is needed. 

Encourage Training and Education

An essential component of prevention is training the campus community on how to identify both trigger behaviors and events that may trigger a potential incident.

Supervisor and Faculty Training: Train faculty on how to recognize early warning signs of individuals in distress. Supervisors/faculty should be aware of major personal events in the lives of their employees, as many incidents of violence occur in close proximity to such events.

Student/Community Training: Educate the campus community on how to recognize warning signs of individuals in distress and provide a mechanism for sharing that information.

Develop and Communicate Reporting Procedures

All employees and students should know how and where to report violent acts or threats of violence. Information regarding the function of the threat assessment team or other similar programs should be provided to the entire campus community. The institution should also have an internal tracking system of all threats and incidents of violence.

Continuing Staff and Student Evaluations

When appropriate, obtain psychological evaluations for students or employees exhibiting seriously dysfunctional behaviors.

  • PREPAREDNESS

Leverage Community Relationships

There are many programs and resources in communities that can assist with the development of active shooter response plans.

Include local law enforcement agencies, SWAT teams and fire and emergency responders in early stages of the plan development to promote good relations and to help the agencies become more familiar with the campus environment and facilities. The police can explain what actions they typically take during incidents involving threats and active violence situations that can be included in the institution’s plan. Provide police with floor plans and the ability to access locked and secured areas.

Invite law enforcement agencies, SWAT teams and security experts to educate employees on how to recognize and respond to violence on campus. Such experts can provide crime prevention information, conduct building security inspections and teach individuals how to react and avoid becoming a victim.

Review Resources and Security

Periodic review of security policies and procedures will help minimize the institution’s vulnerability to violence and other forms of crime.

  • Routinely inspect and test appropriate physical security measures such as electronic access control systems, silent alarms and closed-circuit cameras in a manner consistent with applicable state and federal laws.
  • Conduct risk assessments to determine mitigation strategies at points of entry.
  • Develop, maintain and review systems for automatic lockdown. Conduct lockdown training routinely.
  • Place active shooter trauma kits in various locations on the campus. Train employees on how to control hemorrhaging, including the use of tourniquets.
  • Provide panic or silent alarms in high-risk areas such as main reception locations and the human resources department.
  • Implement an emergency reverse 911 system to alert individuals both on and off campus. Periodically test the system to serve as training and verification that the equipment is functioning properly.
  • Equip all doors so that they lock from the inside.
  • Install a telephone or other type of emergency call system in every room.
  • Install an external communication system to alert individuals outside the facility.

Develop and Communicate Lockdown Procedures

Lockdown is a procedure used when there is an immediate threat to the building occupants. Institutions should have at least two levels of lockdown – sometimes called “hard lockdown” and “soft lockdown.”

Hard Lockdown: This is the usual response when there is an intruder inside the building or if there is another serious, immediate threat. In the event of a hard lockdown, students, faculty and staff are instructed to secure themselves in the room they are in and not to leave until the situation has been curtailed. This allows emergency responders to secure the students and staff in place, address the immediate threat and remove any innocent bystanders to an area of safety.

Soft Lockdown: This is used when there is a threat outside the building but there is no immediate threat to individuals inside the building. During a soft lockdown, the building perimeter is secured and staff members are stationed at the doors to be sure no one goes in or out of the facility. Depending on the situation, activities may take place as usual. A soft lockdown might be appropriate if the police are looking for a felon in the area or if there is a toxic spill or other threat where individuals are safer and better managed inside.

Evacuation Procedures Communication/Training

Evacuation of the facility can follow the same routes used for fire evacuation if the incident is confined to a specific location. Otherwise, other exits may need to be considered. Designate a floor or location monitor to assist with the evacuation and inventory of evacuees for accountability to authorities. Establish a meeting point away from the facility.

Develop a Communication System

Perhaps the most crucial component of an active shooter response plan is the network of communication systems. Immediate activation of systems is critical to saving lives because many mass shootings are over and bystanders are injured or dead before police can respond.

Create a Crisis Response Box

A crisis response box has one primary purpose: provide immediate information to designated campus staff for effective management of a major critical incident.

If a crisis is in progress, this is not the time to collect information. It is the time to act upon information.

Knowing what information to collect, how to organize it and how to use it during a crisis can mean faster response time.

Create an Incident Command Center Plan

The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is a nationally recognized emergency operations plan that is adapted for large critical incidents where multi-agency response is required. NIMS facilitates priority-setting, interagency cooperation and the efficient flow of resources and information.

The location of an incident command center should be in a secure area within sight and sound of potential incidents with staging areas located nearby.

See Also: Thought Leader in Action: At U. of C.

  • POST-EVENT MANAGEMENT AND RECOVERY

To ensure a smooth transition from response to recovery, plans that went into effect during the event should be de-escalated and integrated into the plan for moving forward. This will include aspects such as:

  • Media and information management
  • Impact assessment
  • Facility and environmental rebuilding
  • Restoring student, staff and community confidence

Conclusion

Though an active shooter situation is unlikely to occur at most colleges and universities, it is still essential to be prepared. Failure to do so can cause the loss of lives, severe financial repercussions and reputational damage that could take years to reverse.

Additional resources for university risk managers and administrators are available in the complete Encampus Active Shooter Resource Guide, which is available for download here.

What Is Right Balance for Regulators?

As Iowa’s insurance commissioner, I meet with many innovators whose work affects the insurance industry. A major topic we discuss is the continual debate of innovation vs. regulatory oversight. This debate will be front and center during the Global Insurance Symposium in Des Moines when federal regulators, state regulators, industry leaders and leading innovators come together for discussions on the “right” way to bring innovation into the insurance industry.

I see three schools of thought in the debate:

  • Those who want nothing changed because insurance regulation has worked for more than 150 years
  • Those who suggest oversight by insurance regulators isn’t needed because innovations and market forces don’t require the same type of scrutiny that regulators have performed in the past
  • Those who feel that regulations and oversight are needed but that regulators should move quickly to keep up with emerging technological developments

Innovation is happening, and regulators realize it. No one, including regulators, can stop technological advances. Luckily, I have found that my colleagues who regulate the insurance industry desire to see innovation succeed because it will, generally, enhance the consumer experience. The focus of regulators is to enforce the laws in our states and to protect our consumers. It is that constant focus that ensures a healthy and robust market. And it is that focus that allows the market to work during an insolvency of a carrier, as Iowa witnessed recently during the liquidation of CoOportunity Health.

But wanting to work with innovators doesn’t mean insurance regulators are going to turn a blind eye to how innovations and new technologies within the industry are affecting consumers. I do not believe the fundamentals of the insurance business need to be disrupted. Innovations within an industry that is highly regulated, complex and vital to our economy and nation need to occur within the confines of our regulatory structure. Innovators who are attempting to disrupt the insurance industry outside the bounds of our regulatory structure and who are not following state regulations will likely face significant problems.

So, just as Goldilocks finally found the perfect fit at the home of the three bears, insurance regulators are working diligently to find the perfect fit of the proper regulation to protect consumers for innovations and the technology affecting the insurance industry.   Regulators want the insurance business to continue to innovate and adapt to meet customer needs and expectations. Improving the customer experience through technology, quicker underwriting and increasing efficiency adds to the value of insurance for consumers. I know many smart people are working on creative projects to do these types of things and much more.

The insurance business is arguably becoming less complex because technology simplifies and evens out that complexity. Many existing insurance companies will face challenges as data continues to be harvested and as digital opportunities become more obvious. The continuous innovation in the industry is both positive and exciting.

However, insurance carriers face incredible issues, and, therefore, the regulators who supervise these firms must clearly understand the complexity of the industry and the external factors that weigh upon the industry.

A few issues industry participants must deal with:

  • Perpetual low interest rates that make it difficult for insurers’ investment yields to match up with liabilities;
  • Catastrophic storms that may wipe out an entire year’s underwriting profit in a matter of hours;
  • Increasing technological demands within numerous legacy systems;
  • International regulators working toward capital standards that may not align with the business of insurance in the U.S.

I believe regulators, insurance carriers and innovators can work together to harmonize and streamline regulations in an effort to keep up with market demands. However, the heart of insurance regulation beats to protect consumers. Compromising on financial oversight and strong consumer protections is not up for negotiation. Ensuring companies are properly licensed and producers are trained and licensed is critical, and ensuring companies maintain a strong financial position is equally critical.

Innovators who wish to bear risk for a fee or distribute products to consumers will need to comply with insurance law. Additionally, innovators looking to launch a vertical play into the industry through a creative service, model or underwriting tool need to make sure they do not run afoul of legal rules and provisions that deal with discriminatory pricing and use of data. It is a lot to absorb for an entrepreneur, but it is not impossible, and the upside may very well be worth it.

I absolutely encourage companies looking to innovate in the insurance industry to proceed, but I urge them to do so both with the understanding of insurance law and the role of the regulator and with strong internal compliance and controls. Innovators and entrepreneurs who proceed down the right path are the most likely to have regulators excited to see them succeed.

Insurance is still a complex industry. Can and should it be made simpler? Yes. I believe that, through innovation and continued digital evolution, it will. Should the industry focus on how to continue to enhance consumer experience and put the consumer in the center of everything? Yes, and I know that is occurring within many new ideas and businesses that are beginning and evolving.

Insurance, at its core, is a business of promises. It is an industry that has passed the test of time, and I believe, through innovation and continual improvement, it will remain strong and vibrant for the next 100 years.

If you are an innovator or entrepreneur and are looking for a program to learn about how to address insurance regulatory issues within your business as well as the role of a state insurance regulator, I would again encourage you to attend our 3rd Global Insurance Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa. This is the first conference where innovation and regulatory issues truly converge. This is your opportunity to learn from state insurance regulators, the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Department of Commerce, seasoned insurance executives, start-up entrepreneurs (the second class of the Global Insurance Accelerator will have a demo day for the 2016 class), venture capital investors and leading innovative thought leaders. No other meeting has assembled a group like this.

Everyone will benefit from the unique learning experiences, and, more importantly, relationships will emerge. Register here today!

Preventing Violent Crime on Campuses

Violent crime, a major and growing problem in this country, is exacerbated by the fact that many crimes go unreported. But there’s a simple fix to the lack of reporting: Make it easier for people to tip off authorities anonymously.

Developments in communications technology and in social media can play a decisive role in increasing reporting, especially among young people. Once authorities have more information, they can not only track down more criminals but can develop a fuller picture of where and under what conditions violent crimes occur, and can develop better prevention programs.

In California, the Visalia campus of the College of the Sequoias has a program  allowing individuals to report suspicious behavior on campus to local police anonymously via text, voice mail or email.

“Our best resource, by far, is the students and faculty right here on campus,” Chief of the Police department Bob Masterson told the student newspaper . “Even if you’re not the victim, you could be a great witness.”

Many students said the program, TipNow, keeps them safer; they also consider it a good idea for all campuses.

Such programs are essential because violent crime remains an unfortunate truth in the U.S. According to the FBI’s national crime statistics, 1.2 million violent crimes were committed in the U.S. in 2012, and  even seemingly safe, self-contained campus environments like schools, colleges, hotels, hospitals and corporations are not immune.

At U.S. hospitals, the violent crime rate per 100 hospital beds rose 25%, from 2.0 incidents in 2012 to 2.5 incidents last year, according to research released by the IHSS Foundation at the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS). The rate of disorderly conduct incidents experienced the biggest jump, from 28 per 100 hospital beds in 2012 to 39.2 last year (a rise of 40%). A separate IHSS Foundation study found that 89% of the hospitals surveyed had at least one event of workplace violence in the previous 12 months.

The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey reported the following statistics for workplace violence between 1993 and 1999:

  • While working or on duty, U.S. residents experienced 1.7 million violent victimizations annually, including 1.3 million simple assaults, 325,000 aggravated assaults, 36,500 rapes and sexual assaults, 70,000 robberies and 900 homicides.
  • Workplace violence accounted for 18% of all violent crime.

From  1997 through 2009, 335 murders occurred on college campuses, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education (2010).  Three-fifths of campus attacks in a 108-year span occurred in the past two decades.

Yet many crimes go unreported to campus authorities. A 1997 study about campus violence by Sloan, Fisher and Cullen found that only 35% of violent crimes on college campuses were reported to authorities.

There are various reasons for not reporting crimes. For example, many may regard a crime as too minor a matter to report or may consider it a private matter. Many studies have shown a reluctance to report crimes or other suspicious activities out of fear of the authorities or of criminal retribution.

For instance, in February 2009 in San Gabriel, Calif., two gunmen opened fire inside a coffee shop, killing one and wounding six others, but police had trouble finding witnesses to what appeared to be a gang-related attack even though the shop was crowded with at least 40 people. Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore was quoted as saying,  “We know people saw something, and we need them to come forward and help us solve this crime.”

Too many Americans are inculcated with the belief that “the authorities will attend to it” – without considering that, in many cases, the appropriate law enforcement agency is unaware of a danger. Although many domestic terrorist events and campus shootings are committed by those whose previous actions were seen by those around them as odd, or even threatening, too often these observations go unreported.

This is why the concept of anonymous reporting is important: to get more information from the campus community. This anonymity is now possible.

TipNow receives tips via SMS/text, email, voice and mobile-app. When the tips hit the TipNow server, the sender’s information is encrypted. The tip is then disseminated to a pre-defined set of administrators on the system via email and SMS/text. The administrators can ask for more information from the tipster, still anonymously. For extra security, the server will delete all identifying information in 24 to 72 hours.

The system looks like this:

TipNow

In a recent interview, an anti-terrorism official (name withheld at his request) expressed his view on prevention: “The ability to gather information, sift through it to find what is useful intelligence – and then rapidly get that information to the right people – can and has made the difference between tragedy and that tragedy being averted.”