More employees are counting on their employers for health information

April 19, 2011

Benefits administrators reviewing benefits

Here's encouraging news for employers who are working hard to provide health information to employees: They're listening!

The number of U.S. employees who turn to their employer and health plan for health information is growing. This is according to an October 2010 survey by the National Business Group on Health, a non-profit group of more than 300 large employers. The survey involved a total of 1,538 employees.

The survey found that 75 percent of workers used their employer as a source of medical and health information in 2010. That's a big increase from just 54 percent in 2007. The percentage of employers who relied on their health plan for information also rose. In 2007, it was 67 percent; in 2010, it was 76 percent.

"Employees face great challenges in navigating a complex, fragmented and hard-to-access healthcare delivery system," said Helen Darling, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health. "The amount of healthcare information that consumers need to sift through just to know what they should be doing seems endless and daunting."

The survey shows that workers want employers to help them get information about their health. They also want employers to help them make good treatment decisions based on information from sources they trust, such as the American Heart Association.

The growing importance of Comparative Effectiveness Research

The survey also shows most employees know at least something about Comparative Effectiveness Research, or CER. CER is designed to help people make better health-related decisions.

As the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality explains, CER provides evidence on the effectiveness, benefits and harm of different treatment options. It is based on research studies that compare drugs, medical devices, tests, surgeries or ways to deliver healthcare. The survey shows that 53 percent of employees said they heard about CER a few times. Twenty-eight percent said they heard about it more than a few times. In addition, 57 percent of those who know about it believe this type of research is very important.

Here is what employees said when asked how much they trust various groups to conduct CER:

  • 74 percent found non-profit groups that focus on a specific illness to be trustworthy
  • 70 percent cited an independent panel of doctors or other health professionals
  • 61 percent said they trusted a college, university or other educational institution

This can help you decide what kind of information your employees are likely to listen to.

Employers now pay more than $10,000 per active employee each year for healthcare. But they're not sure that it is improving employee health.

They are looking for ways to make sure that employees are getting safe and appropriate quality healthcare. That includes care based on CER. According to Darling, these are two questions are important for employers to address. How do employees make healthcare decisions? How do they evaluate which treatments are best for them?

Among the survey's other key findings:

  • 84 percent of those surveyed looked for healthcare information about symptoms before visiting a doctor
  • 71 percent brought a list of questions to ask the doctor during a visit
  • 41 percent weren't sure how to talk about their concerns with the doctor
  • 47 percent felt their doctors were rushed during the visit

The bottom line is that employees are listening more than you think so be sure to turn into their needs to help guide them to better health and well-being.