WASHINGTON — Employees continue to take healthcare into their own hands.

According to a new Alight/National Business Group on Health Consumer Health Mindset study, the number of workers who believe they are doing “everything possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle” is up eight percentage points since 2014.

“As we look at the qualitative data around this, we’re continuing to see the mindset shift of the accountability toward personal health,” Ray Baumruk, vice president of consumer experience research and insights at Alight Solutions, said Thursday at the NBGH Business Health Agenda conference.

Not only are employees making strides when it comes to understanding how to get and pay for services, they are also increasingly participating, and seeing value, in workplace wellness programs as a way to stay healthy, the NBGH study notes.

However, Baumruk cautions, quality programs create higher expectations from employees. “The better you’re doing, the more it changes expectations,” he said.

Yet, he noted, employers ultimately want their employees to live healthier lives — and want to provide them with the tools to do so.

Evidence of that is that the percentage of consumers reporting having “never” engaged in a specific set of healthcare behaviors — like comparing costs for recommended medical services to find the best value — has dropped slightly on six out of seven behaviors, according to the report, meaning that workers are now more likely to advocate for their own health needs.

  • Brought information I found to a visit to discuss (60%, down from 62% in 2017)
  • Compared costs for any recommended medical services from different providers or facilities to find the best value (60%, down from 64% in 2017)
  • Brought along a friend or family member to a visit as my advocate or for support (53%, down from 54% in 2017)
  • Asked whether a type of treatment or prescription drug might be right for me (45%, down from 46% in 2017)
  • Asked a provider or insurance company about costs or looked up recommended costs for medical services (44%, down from 46% in 2017)
  • Brought a list of questions to a visit (36%, down from 38% in 2018)

Healthcare literacy

The study also found that although there was a slight bump in symptom research prior to a health checkup, knowledge of healthcare-related terms still is challenging workers.

A majority of consumers understand the definition of “health insurance premium” and that they need to pay that amount every month even if they don’t use health care services. However, many struggled with questions related to deductibles and out-of-network cost calculations.

To help tackle some of these challenges, Baumruk says employees are looking to health plan-comparison and cost-clarity tools to help make better informed decisions.

Arming workers with the right tools and the right questions to ask that helps them make the right decision is something we are all able to do, he added.

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