- March 3, 2022
- Posted by: adam
- Category: Employee Benefits, HR Strategy
As mentioned in the previous week’s blog—only 4 to 14% of adults in the United States have a basic understanding of health insurance.
What does this mean? It means out of the current US population of 329.5 million, only 13.2 to 46.1 million people have the knowledge to understand their health insurance fully!
Instead of leaving your employees out in the cold and leaving their decisions about health insurance and healthcare to chance, help your employees understand why healthcare literacy is so important, so it can empower them to make good decisions.
The first step? Understanding what healthcare literacy is.
What is healthcare literacy?
It is how people interpret or act on health information and services. For example, receiving medication from a doctor and knowing how to read the label to decipher how much medicine to take or understanding and interpreting a medical invoice is considered a form of healthcare literacy.
There are two different types:
- Personal healthcare literacy, or how well someone can find and understand health information/services needed.
- Organizational healthcare literacy, or how well businesses/organizations help their employees find health information/services required.
Both types are about using health information and services to make the best health decisions possible.
What can affect healthcare literacy?
Many factors can affect someone’s healthcare literacy. For instance, if someone does not understand medical terms, they may not be able to understand or interpret a doctor’s diagnosis. Other factors that could potentially affect healthcare literacy are lacking an understanding of the healthcare system and how it works and other personal factors such as age, income, education, culture, language abilities, reading skills, writing skills, and math skills.
What happens if someone has poor healthcare literacy?
A person with poor healthcare literacy will often delay or avoid care, will not understand the costs associated with out-of-network care, will not ask their employer questions about their health insurance plan, and will be less likely to use preventive services and care, such as getting a flu shot.
Why is employee healthcare literacy important?
At some point, your employees will need to use their health insurance to access and understand health information and services like prescription services.
Their level of healthcare literacy affects:
- The ability to navigate their health insurance plan and the healthcare system to find needed doctors and services.
- Knowing when to share personal information with healthcare providers.
- Practicing self-care and at-home procedures, as well as using preventative health services.
- Understanding concepts such as cost-benefit ratios (weighing the risks and benefits of receiving medical treatment).
Having strong healthcare literacy lets your employees find the information and services they need, effectively communicate with their healthcare providers about needs/preferences, and understand their health condition and choices they have about treatments and doctors so they can decide what services and options are the best for them.
How can you, as an employer, help improve healthcare literacy?
A good step on the path to improving literacy is to ask your employees about their understanding of health insurance terms and concepts. You can use their answers and thoughts to specifically address areas where knowledge might be lacking.
Also, be sure to lean on and use your broker or advisor as a resource. Look at what they offer in terms of support to members in understanding their benefits and being healthcare literate. This can include resources, online portals, and mobile apps.
Understanding is one of many steps
Understanding healthcare literacy and what it is will help your employees understand what it is as well. Increasing healthcare literacy in your organization will, in turn, create well-informed and knowledgeable employees who feel confident and take charge of their healthcare decisions. And, as they say, knowledge is power.
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