Employers Don’t See HDHPs As Best to Make Employees Health Care Consumers

The majority of respondents to a survey cited other approaches for converting passive patients into active health care consumers.

Aside from reducing their own health care costs, one impetus for employers to adopt high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) was to put the onus on employees to pay for more costs of medical procedures in order to encourage them to shop for best value at the lowest prices—but that is not what employers are seeing happen.

Only 3.4% of respondents to a survey from Change Healthcare identified HDHPs as the best approach for converting passive patients into active health care consumers. In fact, they seem to be having the opposite effect—spurring more care avoidance than shopping.

All of the following tactics were higher on the list:

  • Offer incentives for health behaviors – 25.4%;
  • Establish provider and patient partnering programs – 23.7%;
  • Promote health care literacy – 14.1%;
  • Leverage health risk assessments/health management programs – 12.4%;
  • Gamification to motivate and change behaviors – 8.5%; and
  • Offer price transparency tools – 7.9%.

The survey asked respondents how they are using marketing to enhance member engagement. “Few would argue that listening to health care consumers is not a cornerstone to a successful engagement strategy. Equally important, however, is persuading consumers to become active participants in their own health care,” the survey report says.

Asked how they are pursuing these complementary goals, the most common method mentioned, by 83% of survey participants, was creating and distributing educational materials. A majority of participants also said they are using social media (62.5%) to promote and socialize their consumer engagement materials. What are they promoting? Most are developing and promoting health care literacy materials (58.8%), and translating that engagement content into other languages (55.6%) to maximize relevance.

The majority are identifying and responding to members’ communications preferences (53.2%) to help give consumers what they want when they want it. Techniques in the minority include the use of wellness coaches (48%), telehealth (36%), navigators (26.9%), and instant messaging (11.9%).

Change Healthcare says the tools for engaging patients and incentivizing them, and helping them understand health care, are often not very good. Consumers need quick, convenient access to accurate price and quality information they can understand—which is rarely the case.

The research draws from more than 2,000 healthcare leaders, 52% VP and above, including Change Healthcare customers, HealthCare Executive Group (HCEG) members, and Health Plan Alliance members. The researchers targeted the leaders of these organizations, 27% of whom are at the president or C-suite level. The complete Industry Pulse survey results can be accessed here.