Lack of employee engagement and education can lead to uncontrollable costs in health plans and unsustainable increases that get passed on to employees through premium increases. This brief will exam the long-term impact that education and engagement can of on employer’s bottom line.

    According to Mike Wolf, associate vice chair for research in the department of Medicine and Geriatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, 1in 5 adults lack the skills to actively engage in their own care. Further, Wolf believes that the healthcare industry needs to be more transparent and reduce the complexity of its operations to all individuals to take a deeper role and have a better understanding of how to address their medical needs.

    How can we get more of our healthcare system and become better consumers while staying engaged at the necessary level to manage our medical conditions completely and effectively? In July 2016, NEJM Catalyst conducted an online survey, which included U.S. healthcare executives, clinical leaders, and clinicians at organizations directly involved in healthcare delivery, more than 69% of respondents report that their organizations use patient engagement initiatives to increase patient’s meaningful participation in care. Also, the survey highlighted the necessity to engage patients beyond the exam room with frequent, creative interactions that do not always include physicians.

    So why does employee education and engagement matter? Money!

    There are many correlations between cost and patient engagement can be made. For example, patients with heart conditions, benign uterine conditions, benign prostatic hyperplasia, hip pain, knee pain, or back pain who received enhanced decision-making support by trained health coaches over the phone, by mail, and via the internet had overall expenses 5.3% lower compared to those receiving the normal support. Further, a study published in Health Affairs patients that were engaged with this multi-channel approach had 12.5% fewer hospital admissions.

    Next, poor engagement can lead to treatment nonadherence. Prescriptions are not filled; medications are taken properly; lifestyle changes are not made. According to Jeffrey Gonzalez, PHD Professor of Medicine and epidemiology & population health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NY, about half of patients with chronic diseases do not take medications as prescribed.

    Further, medication nonadherence also has societal costs. Upwards of $300 Billion of avoidable healthcare costs have been attributed to medication nonadherence annually in the U.S., comprising up to 10% of total healthcare costs.

    If employers focus on educating employees and find a multi-channel engagement strategy long term results can be achieved. Not all employees have a strong understanding of our healthcare system or have the ‘know how’ to navigate it. Taking advantage of patient advocacy services and care coordination services that are included in health plans from carriers can help employees make more informed decisions, manage their care better, and help contain costs over the long-term.

    For more information and to help education and engage with your workforce, please reach out to a FosterThomas advisor for more information.