Workers Looking for More Education on Health-Care Costs, Options

October 7, 2003 ( - Employers are increasingly trying to get some help from employees in holding down soaring health-care costs - and a new survey suggests that most workers are interested in being better consumers.

More than two-thirds of respondents to a new online survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting say they would like more information on the actual cost of their health care. Unlike any other service, health care’s costs are frequently not apparent to many people when they receive care, according to Mercer.

The survey, which now includes data from more than 14,000 employees from a number of large and medium-sized employers, also found that the vast majority (83%) believes that the quality of their care is totally in the hands of their doctor. Most employee respondents say they choose a doctor based on a friend’s or co-worker’s advice, but 60% said they would like more objective help in choosing a doctor. Just 24% are using information about health-care quality.

Preparation Rates

When it comes to preparation for their doctor office visits, consumers have a mixed record. A surprisingly robust 37% say they always bring a list of current medicines, while 29% say they always ask about less costly treatment (50% claim they make such requests sometimes).

They appear to be relying on their memories – 51% say they never take notes during the visit, while 37% never write down a list of symptoms and questions prior to the visit.

Most respondents reported using general health and disease-specific web sites as a source of health information, and these web sites had a positive effect on their knowledge, confidence, and decision-making regarding treatment. However, 69% of the respondents said they want to know the best ways to gather information on the Internet.

Site Support

Looking at their current options, a whopping 86% said that disease-specific websites educated them on the condition, while 37% said such sites impacted the treatment decision, and 43% said they increased their confidence.

Employer-sponsored sites were less impactful, with just 24% of respondents saying they provided education, just 14% impacted the treatment decision, and just 9% cited an increase in confidence as a result. Nearly two-thirds (63%) said those employer websites had no impact at all.

Health-plan sponsored-sites fared little better. Nearly half (44%) said those sites had no impact, while less than one in five said they increased their confidence in discussing the subject with their doctor. However, 37% said those types of sites did serve to educate them on the condition.