Boosting health literacy in the workplace

When an employee is struggling with a new or sudden health condition, understanding the medical jargon, or their doctor’s advice, shouldn’t be at the top of their concerns. Unfortunately, recent findings reveal far too often, this may be the case.

The latest Consumer Sentiment survey shows only 36% of people said they confidently understand their doctor’s advice and 54% said their provider offers enough time to explain their health needs.

Not only does this point to a greater issue in navigating the health system, but it can also lead to a significant financial burden for employers. The lack of health literacy is estimated to cost the U.S. economy as much as $238 billion a year — with employers carrying $4.8 billion of that in administrative expenses.

So what can employers do to help promote health literacy — and help foster a more engaged and overall healthier workforce? Here are a few tips.

Educate your team on care options

Where employees seek out care can have a huge impact on cost. For example, an ER visit can be thousands more expensive than other care options. For certain health conditions, urgent care or a virtual visit may be a better, more affordable option. Helping employees understand the appropriate care setting for their needs may lead to cost savings for them and the organization as a whole. Encouraging regular preventive care and annual primary care visits can also help improve their overall well-being while identifying issues earlier.

Promote wellness programs

Employee wellness programs can help promote health literacy by empowering employees to earn incentives for healthier habits. Wellness programs can also give employees tips and tools to make better, more informed health decisions around exercise, sleep, nutrition and more.

Consider plans that offer more affordable, equitable care

Some innovative health plans are designed to offer a simpler, more affordable experience for both employees and employers. UnitedHealthcare’s Surest health plan is one example. With the Surest health plan there are no deductibles to chip away at, and it offers clear, upfront pricing that allows members to know the cost of care before receiving care.

Promote Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs, can help inform decisions around improving overall health and financial well-being. EAPs offer employees resources to help with tax planning, debt management and guidance for savings — in addition to behavioral health services. Members can call in to speak with a master’s level behavioral health clinician for in the moment support, day or night.

Making sure your employees have a good understanding of their health options is not only a matter of corporate responsibility, but also an investment in the overall well-being and engagement of your team.

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