health literacy

Consumer engagement depends on health literacy

By Regence | October 16, 2015

About 80 percent of our employees have a high-deductible/HSA health plan. These are designed around a high degree of consumer engagement. 

We’ve encouraged employees – ours and yours – to shop around and compare costs and quality. We have prompted them to ask questions like, “Is this procedure really necessary?” and “How does this test change my treatment?” We also created resources and tools to help them, like a treatment cost estimator that shows both quality and savings opportunities.

For these engagement strategies and tools to work, employees must have a certain amount of health literacy. That’s defined as the ability to get and use information to make treatment choices. Yet, our own member research shows people have trouble understanding their health plan, which is the gateway to getting care.

And, according to the American Health Insurance Plans, nearly 9 out of 10 people have difficulty using health information to make informed decisions about their health. This cuts across all education levels.

Keep it simple

Health care is complicated, but explanations don’t have to be. Whether talking about health care or health insurance, we translate complex issues every day for our employees and members. We help them get and understand the information they need to make choices.

We strive for simple, clear language when we are talking to members about flu shots, vaccinations or offering new care options. Simplicity is even more important when people are worried about health care. Small words and short sentences help get the information across during a crisis.  

Our Member Services team has a great approach. We explain care and coverage issues to callers as if we are talking to a family member. It’s a tremendous moment when a member says, “Why didn’t anyone ever explain it like that before? Now I get it.”

Engage consumers

More and more, our employees are exposed to shared decision-making. Dr. Google will see you 24/7, but it takes health literacy to weigh risks and benefits of a treatment. Go for aggressive treatment of a slow-growing cancer, or watchful waiting? Spinal surgery for back pain, or physical therapy? These are real choices people face, and the answer is not the same for everyone.

Plain language and clear explanations promote consumer engagement and better health outcomes. When your employees are engaged in their wellness and care choices, they are healthier and more likely to stick to a treatment plan.

That’s why it’s important that your health care and wellness partners offer engagement tools, as well as foster health literacy.

Employer site: understanding health insurance

Member site: understanding health insurance


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