Employers Flock to Web Health Care Education

March 31, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - US companies are hitting hard on worker education about being a prudent health-care consumer - including that delivered via the Web - as part of their drive towards adopting consumer driven health plans (CDHP), according to new survey.

A Watson Wyatt Worldwide news release said that a recent survey of more than 550 large employers shows a sharp increase in the number of companies providing detailed information to help employees become better health care consumers.

According to the announcement, the number of employers providing such education on specific health issues nearly doubled from 38% in 2003 to 71% this year while the number of companies offering education about provider and/or hospital quality jumped from 16% in 2003 to 35% this year. One in five companies distributed education about health care service unit prices this year, up from 4% two years ago, the announcement said.

“Not only are companies providing more health care information to workers, they are changing how they provide that information,” said Cathy Tripp, Watson Wyatt’s national practice leader for health and welfare technology consulting, in the news release . “While traditional print communication is still important, company portals have become the health care information hub for workers at many large employers. And these portals, especially when supported by useful tools, can be very effective. Workers who access health plan information from their employers’ intranets have a better understanding of health care costs and available services.”

With the advent of health savings accounts (HSAs), employees also have a far greater need for sophisticated financial analyses of their health plan choices. In the survey, 28% of employers now say they offer tax-impact modeling via the Web and 18% offer utilization-based modeling to help employees compare plan choices given their likely health care needs.

But even as employers go down the path toward consumer-directed health care, they realize the amount of effort that will be required. For example, employers cited several challenges relating to HSAs. Eighty percent of companies expressed concern about the need for increased health education and 54% expressed concern with the technology requirements, according to the survey.

“The shift to consumer-directed health care won’t be easy, but is a process that can be managed,” said Tripp. “In the end, consumer-directed health care is all about personalization of information, and the Web can deliver that efficiently, affordably and successfully.”