Though there’s a big push for transparency in healthcare, most consumers remain in the dark about their own health information.
Recent research from HealthMine, a clinical engagement platform vendor, finds significant confusion among consumers, with 53% reporting that it’s not easy to understand their health information or what they need to do to maintain or improve their health. By contrast, 74% of consumers surveyed by HealthMine want easy access to health data, saying it would improve their knowledge of their health and improve communication with their physicians.
Having access is especially vital now, as higher deductibles and rising healthcare costs are driving more consumer responsibility for both the cost and control of healthcare, explains HealthMine president and CEO Bryce Williams.
Also see: “Wellness ROI comes under fire.”
While the blame for the access problem can be put on a number of things, there’s one surprising culprit: Wellness programs.
Transparency is still lacking in the popular programs, which too often focus on lifestyle changes, including smoking cessation and diet changes, instead of determining and emphasizing important health metrics, Williams explains.
“Our view is that a majority of wellness programs today aren’t lifting their own weight,” Williams says. “People don’t even have info about their wellness programs or their health information or where they stand. And they need to.”
Specifically, HealthMine data finds, workers enrolled in wellness programs lack access to their biometric data, with less than one-third of consumers knowing key health metrics — including their blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI and blood sugar. Even more, HealthMine data show, the majority of consumers lack access to their lab records, their insurance information and their prescription histories.
This is not acceptable, Williams says. “If that’s how good our wellness programs are today, we are in vast need of improvement.
“Once you know where you stand, you can better know what to do,” he says. “What if [wellness programs] were vastly more clinical? If consumers knew they are on the cusp of diabetes, and could prevent it, instead of having it? We think most of the wellness programs are too lifestyle-based. If they had clinical data about health actions — about what they need to do — they would participate more; they would take control of their healthcare.”
One problem, Williams says, is that there used to be a “don’t know, don’t care” mentality surrounding health information, similar to the case in personal finances. But that’s beginning to change.
Also see: “10 reasons employees hate wellness programs.”
With more people shopping for their own insurance via exchanges and seeing the cost and options firsthand, “people are starting to care more” about their metrics as well as other health data, Williams says.
Nationwide initiatives also are gaining steam. For example, in mid-December, the OpenNotes project — a national initiative that urges doctors and other clinicians to offer patients ready access to their visit notes — received $10 million in grant funding to expand the initiative to impact nearly 50 million patients.
The initiative is supported by experts who say ensuring access to notes written by doctors, nurses and other clinicians can prompt patients to be more active in their own health and healthcare, and that greater patient engagement can contribute to better outcomes and reduced cost throughout the system.
“Our research shows increasingly that patients can benefit greatly from reading the notes taken during a medical visit,” says OpenNotes co-founder Jan Walker, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “They tell us they feel more in control of their care and are more likely to follow up on recommendations.”
Also see: “8 benefit trends to watch for in 2016.”
Williams says consumers and benefits professionals alike can expect the call for easy access to personal health information —tied to wellness programs — to be a big trend for 2016.
“What we see is happening is the current one-size-fits-all lifestyle wellness program won’t cut it. It will have to become more personalized, more customizable, more digital — because people want to know what their data is. They want to know what’s in it for them.”
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